Life on the road

27 Jun

I just got back last night from yet another trip to SLC (what is that, 6 times in the past 2 months?) Megan (the intern traveling with me) and I have been lamenting the difficulty of eating healthy on the road. Not only do we have a packed car on each road trip (making the addition of a cooler with healthy snacks a total impossibility), you’re stuck with having to eat that food that first day because often, our hotel rooms don’t have refrigerators. At one of the early races, I tried to bring hummus with me – bad idea. Who knew hummus actually turns into liquid when it gets warm?

Lately, I’ve just been packing dried fruit (usually mango – my fave), 3-4 Luna bars, and some trail mix. On past trips, I have bought popcorn (a food that has low calories for the volume) but fruit is usually hard to find, unless you make a separate stop at a grocery store – which aren’t always available either, especially when you’re driving through the middle of Wyoming. And you can only eat snack foods for so many meals before you want a meal of something substantial.

It’s not being away from home that’s the problem. When we actually reach our destination, we usually go out for dinner at a sit-down restaurant. We have gone out for sushi more than once (one of my favorite things), which is fairly healthy but also fairly expensive. When we go to a different restaurant, I try to order something on the lighter side – like a salad with chicken or a personal pizza loaded with veggies.

After a race, we are ravenous and thirsty. It’s usually at least 12:00 noon and we have been up since 4 am. All we’ve had to eat and drink are usually a protein bar or 2 and a giant Red Bull. I would think about eating more at the races but honestly, sometimes we’re running around and so busy that it’s just not possible. So when we’re done packing up the car and are heading out of town for home, we stop at Arby’s, Chick-Fil-A, or Culver’s and get a burger and fries – for some reason, greasy food is SO appealing when we’re starving. Good for the tastebuds. Bad for the heart… and waistline (although I haven’t gained any weight yet, no doubt due to burning 2,500 calories per week through running and probably another 800 at each race).

Fast food isn’t a great way to start another long 7-13 hour drive home though, since greasy food is notorious for causing fatigue. But honestly, you can only eat at Subway so many times before the idea of another sub makes you want to gag.

So I’ve done a little research (and gathered some of my own ideas from personal experience). Here are some ways to eat healthy on the road:

1. Bring emergency snacks with you. Things like nuts, dried fruit, apples, oranges, and protein bars are easy to transport, don’t require refrigeration, and are healthy stand-ins when you’re hungry and can’t find anything better.

2. Drink plenty of water. Who cares if you have to stop every hour? If you’re traveling a lot, dehydrating yourself on a regular basis in the interest of saving time isn’t really helping you out at all. Try to avoid pop and flavored waters – caffeine is a diuretic and flavored waters can leave a film on your teeth that gets nasty after so many hours in the car.

3. If you must eat at a fast food restaurant, order off the kid’s or value menus. These sandwiches and sides are smaller than the regular versions, which means fewer calories.

4. Skip the french fries. These are fine as treats once in a while, but if you are frequenting fast food restaurants often, you might find yourself eating these “treats” too often. Marketing has so penetrated our minds that we think a burger must be accompanied by fries – or else the meal is not complete. (I find myself thinking this). Instead of ordering fries, get a side salad, baked potato (naked), or a bottle of milk.

5. A CNN article says that at convenience stores, food stamped with an expiration date (one that hasn’t passed!) is usually healthier than anything that can sit around for a decade or two, because shelf-stable foods are often loaded with preservatives and artery-clogging trans fats. Often, gas stations have string cheese, small bottles of milk, and sometimes even fruit.

Next Best: If the fridge section disappoints, head back to the shelves and grab some individual-size bags of snacks, but look for ones that your greatgrandmother would recognize as actual food, such as dried fruit, nuts, and whole-wheat crackers, advises Steven G. Aldana, Ph.D., author of “The Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide.”

If you’re craving pretzels, nuggets are better than skinny ones because they take longer to eat, says Bonci, who adds that animal crackers and Teddy Grahams are good bets to satisfy a sweet tooth since they’re lower in calories than other cookies.

And there you have it. Now only if I could find a way to keep my willpower in check…

One Response to “Life on the road”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Washboard abs, here I come! « Athlete in Training - June 29, 2010

    […] let myself slide, especially now that I’m on the road a lot. See my blog post about that here. I definitely don’t eat french fries just “once in a great while” these […]

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