Do you have a family vacation or road trip coming up? If so, it’s possible — despite fast-food road signs luring you like a siren’s song — to stay on track with your health goals while still enjoying your favorite foods.
Sandy Younan, a registered dietitian nutritionist with Sharp Coronado Hospital, shares her top three tips for choosing healthy and filling snacks and meals while on the road.
1. Pack easy snacks for the car ride.
It takes very little time to pack a cooler or bag with smart snacks. Shop ahead at a grocery or big-box store to save money on snacks along the way.
Try these tasty treats:
- Peanut butter and jelly on a slice of whole-grain bread, and a banana
- Hummus with bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots and any other favorite veggies
- A handful of mixed nuts and an orange
- An apple and peanut butter
- Celery and peanut butter
- Edamame seasoned with spices of your choice
- String cheese and cherries
- Tuna (if you have access to a cooler or will eat this within two to four hours) and crackers
- Yogurt (if you have access to a cooler or will eat this within two to four hours) and berries
“When selecting snacks for your vacation or car ride, you can really pick anything you or your family enjoy eating,” says Younan. “The key when picking your snacks is making sure it is a combination of a protein and either a fruit, veggie or carb.”
According to Younan, the protein and fiber from fruits, veggies and carbohydrates will help keep people feeling full longer. Plus, fruits and veggies are also packed with nutrients. For something savory and crunchy, such as chips, she suggests buying small, single-serving bags and eating just one bag with a piece of fruit.
2. Follow the “MyPlate Plan.”
The MyPlate Plan encourages people to fill half of their plate in veggies, a quarter in protein and a quarter in carbs. When eating out at an Italian restaurant, for example, people can accomplish this by sharing one plate of pasta, asking for extra meatballs to reach their protein goals, and adding a salad.
When eating at a fast-food restaurant, meals typically come with a burger, fries and a soda. You can follow the MyPlate Plan, Younan says, by ordering a burger, sharing your fries and getting a diet soda. Or you can order a meat or plant-based burger wrapped in lettuce instead of bread, and enjoy all the fries and a fountain drink.
“There are so many ways to play around with MyPlate,” Younan says. “Overall, you can eat your favorite foods and still stay on track with your health goals by following this method when eating out.”
3. Select healthier options when eating out.
It can be a challenge eating a healthy diet while on vacation. Younan offers these additional suggestions for healthier alternatives — lower in fat and calories, and higher in fiber and nutrients:
- Pick a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger.
- Choose broth-based soups rather than cream-based soups.
- Select a dessert with fruit instead of high-sugar options — and ask for more fruit.
- Ask for skinless chicken instead of chicken with skin.
- Order grilled food instead of fried food.
- Order pasta with a red sauce instead of a white sauce.
- Add extra veggies to sandwiches and burgers.
- Ask for butter, sauce and dressing on the side.
- Order salad as an appetizer.
Younan also advises people to not feel pressured to eat all their food when dining out. Ask for a to-go box and take leftovers with you for when hunger pangs kick in later. Not only will you save yourself some calories, she says, but you will also get to enjoy your meal again.
“Remember, it’s all about moderation,” Younan says. “Focus on what’s important — the joy of being on vacation with your family and friends.”