Written by: Julie Tang, MS, RD, CNSC on September 9, 2020
With the fall season fast approaching and temperatures expected to soon change, the few remaining weeks left of summer might just be the perfect time to take a road trip. More than ever, driving has become the preferred way to travel for its freedom, ability to socially distance, and provides greater peace of mind during a pandemic.
Traveling often comes with its own unique set of challenges. Particularly when traveling is in the form of road trips, there could be long stretches of driving, more chances of feeling fatigued, and not many options for food. In addition, your usual routines including established healthy habits may become interrupted. Naturally, it happens. Try not to stress if this happens, just get right back on track when you can. However, with some planning before hitting the road, your healthy lifestyle does not have to be compromised away from home. During your adventure, you can still incorporate healthy habits such as eating healthy, getting adequate rest, and staying active. If you can keep up with healthy habits the majority of the time and still enjoy unique travel experiences at the same time, that would be ideal.
Mental and physical exhaustion
Unfortunately, when not enough time is spent on planning before hitting the road, the trip can become mentally and physically draining. Take, for example, passing by areas that may be food deserts which are locations that lack access to healthy foods. Without proper preparation, this can cause you to resort to choosing unhealthier, convenient food options such as processed foods at gas stations, convenience stores, and fast-food restaurants. Not surprisingly, the quality and quantity of food you eat play essential roles in determining energy levels during the day. Naturally, many people already feel tired or rundown at some point during the day. Now, combine that with unhealthy meals and sitting in the car for extended amounts of time, it can definitely take a toll on your energy levels. Subsequently, several other potential effects can follow, including compromised alertness and focus on safe driving, risk of digestive issues, and more cravings for high fat, sugar, and salt processed foods to compensate for the low blood sugar crashes.
Here are 10 tips to help you keep up with healthy habits on a road trip.
- Pack healthy snacks – Bring along insulated bags and containers or a cooler and load it up with nutrient-dense, convenient snacks. Instead of fighting off the afternoon slump with a high sugar energy drink or drinking yet another cup of coffee, pack snacks with whole grains, fiber, protein, and healthy fats to help keep your energy levels up. Choose unsalted or low salt snacks to prevent excessive thirst and reduce swelling, which can happen from long stretches of sitting.
- Schedule regular breaks on the drive for stretches and movement – Make reasonably, frequent stops to stretch your legs and get the blood flowing. If there are unique attractions along your route, you can build those into your itinerary so you can get some movement while checking things out.
- When mapping out the driving route, plan your restaurant stops – Map out restaurants, rest stops, and grocery stores along your route to get an idea of what your road trip food options are. Check to see if they have menus online for you to review ahead of time. You could even check to see if there are local farms and farmer’s markets for some local flavor.
- Stay hydrated – Pack a few reusable BPA-free bottles to help you drink plenty of water. While the majority of your fluids should come from water, you can also incorporate some unsweetened tea or 100% coconut water if you want variety without the loaded sugar. Try to avoid or limit sugary drinks such as juice, soda, and energy drinks that can leave you with blood sugar crashes.
- Limit caffeine – Since caffeine has a diuretic effect, too much of it can make you want to pee every 15 minutes and dehydrate you. Dehydration can sometimes be mistaken for hunger and lead you to snack more.
- Get plenty of rest – Schedule adequate hours for rest. Pack all the necessities that allow you to have a good night’s sleep which might include earbuds, an eye mask, and comfortable pajamas.
- Maintain a regular eating schedule -Try to eat meals around similar times you normally would, but do remain flexible as life on the road can be unexpected.
- Don’t forget the SPF – Sitting in the car during daylight hours can expose you to UV rays through the windows and sunroof. Protect your skin with sunscreen and your eyes by wearing sunscreen and sunglasses. Be sure to read the instructions on your sunscreen to know when you will need to reapply it for optimal effectiveness.
- Incorporate physical activity – Pack some activewear, a pair of comfortable sneakers, and even consider bringing along a few lightweight small exercise equipment such as a yoga mat or resistance band to fit in exercise on your trip. You can incorporate some workouts even without a gym. Once you are at your destination(s), there is also the option to take a jog or walk around the neighborhood. It’ll be one of the best ways to explore the town.
- Mind your posture – Practice good ergonomics while sitting in the car. Long hours of poor posture can cause discomfort and pain, which can affect the rest of your trip. Before you start the drive, be sure to adjust the seat appropriately and bring pillows and seat cushions if you need extra support in making it comfortable. Don’t forget to take frequent breaks to stretch out and realign posture.