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Healthy Eating on the Road

Low Fat Travels


Healthy Cooler

Healthy Cooler

Getty Images/Cheryl Zibisky
Healthy eating often goes out the window when you're on the road. If you're taking a relatively short trip, you might be able to pack a cooler with your favorite healthy foods, but if you're going on a longer vacation or business trip, it will likely become increasingly difficult to stick to your low-fat eating plan. After all, airports, garages, rest areas, and diners are hardly associated with healthy foods, and it's not always possible to lug around a big cooler full of your favorite low-fat, low-calorie treats, so you need to think ahead and figure out how to get the healthiest options wherever you go.

Pack Snacks and a Cooler

If you are on a day trip or a weekend road trip, it might make sense to pack your own food. This means you can have all your favorite go-to low-fat foods in one place, saving time and money. Perishables such as lean cold cuts, vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy products, and so on, should be packed in to a cooler, of course, and you can bring your favorite whole-grain breads, crackers, baked chips etc in a reusable grocery bag.


Avoid the candy, chips, pastries, and giant sodas. Go to the refrigerated section to see if there are fresh sandwiches, fruit, low-fat yogurts, string cheese, low fat milk, and cold water. If you have a craving for dry snacks, then baked chips and crackers are a better choice than the regular variety. Small packs of nuts are a good option, as they contain heart-healthy fats.

Coffee Chains and Fast Food Restaurants

A rest area close to the freeway might have only a coffee chain, and a fast-food restaurant or two to choose from, but there should be some healthier menu options other than the standard burgers, fried chicken, tacos, pizzas, or pastries. Most fast-food restaurants are making an effort at providing and highlighting these options, and nutrition information is either displayed or available if you ask.

If you're stopping for breakfast, consider the oatmeal option that both fast-food restaurants and coffee chains now promote. Fresh fruit cups are usually offered, too. Keep your drinks skinny and under 16 ounces. For me, a coffee-chain oatmeal topped with a little brown sugar, a small banana or fruit cup, and a 12 ounce non-fat latte keep me full until lunch.

For lunch or dinner, there are usually some fast-food salads available for 300 calories or less. Skip the soda and opt for either unsweetened tea, coffee, or a small juice or milk.

Don't assume all fast-food salads are healthy, however. There are instances where an order of a small hamburger and fries has fewer calories and less fat (McDonald's hamburger and small fries comes in at 350 calories and 14g fat) than a salad bowl (eg, a bacon ranch salad with crispy chicken, which has 390 calories and 22g of fat). At Wendy's, for instance, a jacket potato with reduced-fat sour cream on the side, and some broccoli is a good option, so long as you limit the amount of sour cream you use; and a chili cup can be a filling and delicious choice.

If chicken is your thing, consider a grilled chicken sandwich, which is offered by most fast-food places, and ask for it on a whole wheat bun if available. For example, the Chik-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich comes in at 290 calories, and contains 4 grams of fat and 1 gram of saturated fat. Or instead, opt for a grilled chicken salad with a vinaigrette dressing on the side, and pass on the croutons.

Sandwich chains such as Subway have plenty of healthier options. Stick with a six-inch turkey or veggie sub for the lowest calorie count.


What's not to love about diners, where you can eat breakfast all day or enjoy coffee with a slice of homemade pie? Well, the thing not to love, of course, is the potential for calorie overload. If you're stopping for breakfast, go the oatmeal route with some fresh fruit or berries on the side. Or if you're craving protein, order a veggie omelet with whole wheat toast.

For lunch, a cup of broth-based soup and a half turkey sandwich on whole-wheat (hold the mayo) topped with lettuce and tomato, makes a healthy option. Salad might be a good bet so long as dressings come on the side, and you steer clear of croutons, cheese and bacon.

For dinner, skip the chicken-fried steak and open-faced sandwiches. Ask for grilled chicken or fish and a plain baked potato and veggies.

Wherever You Eat ...

Wherever you eat while on the road, and whatever you choose to eat, keep in mind portion size. Some restaurants are notorious for their over-generous portions. Consider ordering a couple of appetizers instead or sharing an entree, and know how to spot high-fat foods on the menu. This way you will be more likely to keep the fat and calorie content down.

Happy travels!

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