How to stay healthy on a road trip

Road trips!

I love road trips. Well, maybe not all the time. Depends on where I am going. When I was in high school, we took a road trip to one of the Carolinas. Between my mom’s questionable choices in hotel stays (Yelp wasn’t popular yet), and my dad’s constant frustration at the pile of maps, it was a less than desirable transportation option. The actual vacation was a great time (I fell in love with mountains on that trip!), but getting there was slightly stressful. I am sure my parents weren’t exactly thrilled to be trapped in a minivan with a 12-year-old boy and a hormonal 15-year-old teenage girl. All I remember from that trip was the gorgeous ocean and how mad I was that I lost service, so I couldn’t text my friends.

Groundbreaking memories.

But as I grew up, I realized that there is an art to road trips. A great playlist, comfy clothes, small detours for roadside discoveries, and plenty of good food. There is an allure to stopping at small cafes, or roadside stands for random treats. In the past, Jake and I would grab some quick Taco Bell, swipe bags of chips, chicken tenders from Culver’s (shout out to the Midwest) or wolf down a pancake platter at a late-night diner.

When you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and also have severe food allergies, life on the road is a bit more complicated! Our first large road trip this year was New Year’s 2017 to Arizona to see Jake’s family. Luckily, his mom and step-father moved to AZ two months after we moved to San Diego last year. I didn’t pack any food, and was starving half of the time because I was so unprepared. I promised myself this Christmas road trip would be different.

The first step I took was planning out what I was going to bring for the 6-hour drive. Everything needed to be car friendly, healthy, and easily transported. Bonus if you could eat them with one hand, because Jake would be driving the entire time. We decided to pack a cooler we received, like this one which was perfect, because it is a soft cooler like this one, great for packing for a small trip and not too heavy to lug around. Some other great soft cooler choices are:

This one that is cheaper, but still holds "30 cans" which is a great size.

This guy which is more expensive, but would be great for a long trip.

I packed 4 brown rice tortilla wraps which included: sliced turkey, avocado, sprouts, and mustard. I didn’t put any tomatoes in the wrap like I normally would because they wouldn’t hold up in a cooler. I also included the following snacks:

1.     Pretzels for Jake

2.     Grapes & Blueberries

3.     A few slices of mozzarella cheese (easy protein/calcium)

4.     Extra avocado

5.     Unsalted peanuts portioned into serving sizes

6.     Enjoy life granola bars (my favorite pre-packed granola bars, that I do not eat very often, but they are a special treat as they are allergen free which is heaven sent for us allergic to soy).

7.     Plenty of water

Jake ate dinner with his family but obviously, we had to stop and get dinner for me since everything is like a soy minefield. I found a prepackaged kale salad that was allergen free, and it was honestly delicious. Some of the food I was able to pick up were both soy-free and semi-healthy:

1.     The GFB Gluten Free, Non-GMO High Protein Bites, Dark Chocolate Coconut, 4 Ounce

2.     BOOMCHICKAPOP Popcorn (white cheddar or the sea salt are the ones we love)

3.     Kombucha (for a kick other than water as I do not drink coffee)

4.     Easy fruit (bananas, apples)

It doesn’t sound too exciting, but when you are watching what you eat, and have food allergies, it is a lot of work and extremely stressful to have to rely on packaged foods. I rarely eat packaged foods as it is, but on a road trip, I didn’t have the room, or the utensils to eat my normal favorite snacks. Thankfully, Jake eats the same way I do, but I can grab him a sandwich and not worry because he doesn’t have any special eating requirements.

I think the most important part of staying on track is to be prepared.

Much like meal-prep, spending 20 minutes preparing snacks, easy lunches to pack in the car can really cut out both stops and the worry of ruining your hard work. Try to avoid reaching for the “tempting” items, like candy, fattening chips, fast food, or anything from the hot case at a grocery store. It may seem easy, but you are consuming close to 1000 calories in one sitting. I know most delicatessens prepare sandwiches to go, and those can be a good choice if you are reasonable in what you choose. I picked out a whole wheat turkey, tomato, and veggie sandwich for Jake, which was both filling and easy for him to eat while driving (but still probably illegal lol). If you eat mainly gluten-free, your options are more limited, so you can pick up a salad, and wolf it down like I did. Or they have quick protein packs that are great as well, containing fruit, nuts, cheese chunks, and turkey. For all the vegans or vegetarians- dried fruit, granola bars, sliced veggies, dates, peanut butter are great in the car snacks (for anyone really).

Remember, your main objective running into a store on the road is to make sure you go in knowing what you are going to buy. The worst thing you can do is to walk into the store wandering around, because you will more than likely make a bad choice. Try to keep to the fresh sections and prepared foods in produce. There is usually a “health food” section right by produce in most grocery stores, and they contain less ingredients and preservatives than most processed foods.

I know it sounds sort of dull, but honestly, we were stuck in a car for over 14 hours total over two days, and when it was over, we didn’t feel like crap, we hadn’t gained any weight, and we knew we made great choices. Which, in turn, allowed us our cheat day of chimichangas!

Now that I have lectured everyone (I do it because I love you), we can get to the travel portion of the post!

ARIZONA! JOSHUA TREE! WHY AM I YELLING?

Because I am that excited.

The drive to Arizona this Christmas was world’s apart from earlier this year thanks to Jake’s new SUV. Frankie had the entire back end of the car, so he could lay out. Jake and I had plenty of leg room, great music (except for when we lost service), and didn’t have to stop as much because we were so well-prepared.

We didn’t do much on the way to Arizona, but the morning after family Christmas, we were able to hit up a great hike in Scottsdale! Another pro-tip for traveling: explore the area! Do something physical that you love! Go for a walk in a downtown area, go for a nice hike, hell - go walk around a big mall and do some out of state shopping! Staying active is essential during a road trip since you will be sitting in the car for so long, completely sedentary.

The hike was short, but we did get to see a Frank Lloyd Wright home on the drive after as well. Some of the highlights are below:

After saying goodbye to his family (which is always hard), we took a longer way back to stop at my first National Park! Jake and I have this pact that we are going to visit every single National Park together, and although Jake has already visited a few, I have been to zero.

UNTIL NOW.

Joshua Tree National Park in California!

I am not sure what I was expecting, but it was so extraordinarily beautiful in a high desert kind of way. The first thing I noticed was the immense mountain skyline. Before we entered the park, all I pictured were weirdo trees everywhere (weirdo, yes, they are odd looking trees), the mountains were a completely pleasant shock!

The mountains were so intense, I was completely entranced, I barely noticed all the rock formations, and strange vegetation. It was really striking to see the mountains, Joshua trees, grasses, desert, and the lush, green plants all co-mingling. There is a contrast to the park where it really isn’t sure what it wants to be- lush vegetation, mountain area, or pure desert. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any wildlife; but apparently, there are a bevy of animals that live in the park (big horn sheep, coyotes, lynx, snakes, and golden eagles are said to be spotted there often). Sort of heart broken about that, but we plan on going back soon, as we could only drive through the park due to the time constraints to get home (and not get stuck in the park overnight).

Some of my favorite pictures from the drive:

It was a perfect end to a great weekend in Arizona. I can honestly tell you, when we finally walked in the door Christmas eve, pajamas were immediately on, and a nice glass of red wine was poured. We just spent all weekend basically in a car, I didn’t cheat the entire trip, and red wine is good for you. I needed the antioxidants.

Doesn’t everyone after a road trip?