Whether driving one hour or 12 hours, bringing along the right food is crucial to a healthy, clean, and safe journey. There’s nothing more frustrating than exiting a car with a big stain on your shirt. You shouldn’t have to balance a container and steering wheel in one hand and a fork in the other. And you shouldn’t have to dive for a fallen pickle. According to New York Daily News, “a staggering 80% of all car accidents and 65% of near misses are caused by distracted drivers more focused on their burgers than the road.”
It is of course safer and cleaner to drive without eating. However, if you, like me, do not adhere to that opinion, here are my 6 tips on how to eat and drive at the same time:
Bring small and bite-sized foods. Pack foods that are small in size, but not so small they slip through your fingers easily. If you are baking bread, scones, or biscuits, try making them bite-size.
Bring foods pre-sliced. This is important because fruits, when bit into, leak juice. This can create both a stain on your clothes and a sticky drive.
Bring foods that will not stain. If your food does slip your fingers, you want food that will not leave big stains. Avoid foods with chocolate pieces, frosting, and lots of oil or butter.
Do not bring foods that drip. Avoid fruits that are really juicy like mangoes and melons. Also avoid sandwiches with jelly, pickles, tomatoes, mayo, mustard, and ketchup.
Do not bring foods that require utensils. Eating with a fork or spoon will require you to focus on the location of your food. Also, make sure to cut all large foods before leaving home.
Search during red light stops. If you need that second bag of fruits or want a napkin, wait until you stop at a red light. You can’t search and drive at the same time, at least not safely.
Follow these tips and you should be able to pick up food from a bag or container on your lap without your eyes ever leaving the road. Now, here are 20 healthy foods that are easy to eat while driving:
Strawberries, not sliced – pop-in-mouth size
Grapes, seedless unless you eat the seeds
Popcorn, pre-popped and butter-free
Granola bars, sugar-free or lightly sweetened
Cookies, sugar-free or lightly sweetened
Raw chips aka dehydrated/dry fruits and vegetables
Salad leaves mixed with fresh herb leaves, pre-washed
In the previous post, I wrote about how to eat healthy on a road trip. And as you all know, I write articles on living naturally. But I have to admit I am not a health food perfectionist. I like being spontaneous and it’s hard to be spontaneous if you are 100% anything, especially when on a road trip. So, today I’m going to post my first and probably only article on the benefits of eating at fast food restaurants on a road trip.
First, I want to say stopping at fast food restaurants isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you are healthy, do not have any dietary restrictions, and it is not something you do often, then you should do so. Some wonderful memories can be gathered at a fast food restaurant. You never know who you’ll meet, what you’ll see, what you’ll eat, and what will make you smile.
Fast food restaurants cater to all sorts of people. So, if you like to people watch, these restaurants are good places to do this. But for me, the best part about being open to fast food restaurants is that different regions around America offer region specific foods. For example, Florida has a fast food restaurant called Pollo Tropical. Pollo Tropical serves Caribbean and Latin dishes like black beans, fried yucca, and sweet plantains. Outside of Florida, the only other place you’ll find this restaurant is Georgia. In North Carolina and Virginia, there is a fast food restaurant called Biscuitville that serves southern-style breakfast foods. There, you can find southern breakfast favorites like biscuits, grits, hash browns and country fries. So, eating at fast food restaurants can be a cultural experience too.
When you’ve been sitting in a car for 4 hours and your stomach starts to growl, the first solution that usually comes to mind is to stop at a fast food restaurant. It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s affordable. And you already know what tastes good. The only question is: will it be healthy?
Here are 4 ways to eat healthy on your next road trip…
Eat at healthy restaurants. Once you’ve planned your route, research the various healthy, vegetarian, vegan, and/or raw restaurants located along your route. If you have plenty of time, turn your road trip into a purpose. For example, Kristin from Will Travel for Vegan Food turned a year-long US road trip into an attempt to eat at all of the 100% vegan restaurants in the country.
Shop at local grocery stores. Again once you’ve mapped out your route, you can begin looking for stores that sell fresh vegetables and fruits. If you sleep the night within a few miles of the grocery store, you can shop for fresh foods each morning to last the day. Three organic grocery store chains to look for around the US are Whole Foods Market, Hannaford, and Trader Joe’s. Other grocery stores that stock organic and non-organic produce are: Harris Teeter, Safeway, Kroger, Walmart, Publix, Food Lion, Pathmark, and SuperTarget.
Shop at farmer stands and markets. On any long distance road trip, you’re bound to come across a farmer’s roadside stand. They are usually on the side of the road or next to a gas station. You can also find small farmer markets by following directions on interstate billboards. North Florida has a bunch selling nuts and oranges. The only problem with going this route is you never know what will be up for sell that day and when you’ll see a billboard. Another option is to research outdoor farmer markets along your route especially if you’re driving spring to fall months. If you are a picky eater or have dietary needs, this may not be the best option for you. At the same time, this option will force you to visit towns and meet people you normally wouldn’t on a road trip. This kind of spontaneity is an adventure within itself.
Pack you own food. This is probably the easiest option. It’s a great way to save money. It offers a bigger option of foods you like. And you have better control on how you spend your money. The two downsides are packing food for more than one person to last several days will take up space. Also, food lose their freshness fast in a car. So, you have to be careful with what you pack, how you pack, and in what order you eat what you pack. For example, if you are going to carry fragile fruits like bananas, place them in a spot where they won’t be jostled. Otherwise, you’ll have bananas with a ton of bruises. If you are packing fresh leaves, cold meats, dairy products, and cooked dishes eat them before you eat your dried food and hard veggies. Dried food and hard vegetables will stand up to heat longer. If you use a cooler, put all open bags in small, airtight containers or bags. Otherwise, you will have soaked food from the ice melting in your cooler.
There are many ways to travel on a budget. One such way is to drive to your destination. Driving is especially cost-effective if you are traveling with 2 or more people. One, you can share expenses… something you wouldn’t do if you were flying. And two, if you’re vacationing with your partner and/or children, driving will save you from having to buy 2 or more airplane tickets. The best part about driving is the sense of freedom and adventure you get as one scene after another passes by.
If you are planning a road trip, here are few tips on how to keep costs down…
Use interstate highways. Interstate highways in America are great for two reasons. One: they are faster than local streets and will therefor save you tons of gas money when driving long distances. Two: they provide drivers rest-areas that have clean restrooms, picnic tables, and vending machines. Some rest areas also offer nature trails, BBQ grills, gazebos, mini-museums, and automated windshield rinses. If you use smaller highways or local roads, you will be forced to stop at convenience stores and restaurants for restroom breaks. Some establishments require or encourage a purchase in exchange for the use of their restrooms.
Visit state welcome centers and town visitor information centers. These stops are a fun way to grab a car break. The centers are usually big, clean, and air-conditioned with a lot more amenities than regular rest-areas. Depending on the center, you can find free maps, tourist brochures, coupon booklets, staffed information desks, WiFi service, microwaves, indoor sitting areas, media rooms, and exhibits. You’ll also find restrooms and a larger choice of vending machines. If you plan to travel throughout that state, I recommend picking up a free map of the state and of various cities within that state as well as hotel/motel coupon books and tourist brochures.
Pack food. Bring whole meals that can be eaten along the way. This will keep you from spending unnecessary money at a convenience store or restaurant. Stopping 3 times a day to buy food will add up. I recommend packing food in a cooler and stopping at various locations throughout the day to picnic. This way you can relax, digest your food, cool down your vehicle, diminish the chance of food-related mishaps, and spend time enjoying your road trip. Breathe in country air, take a short stroll, find something to laugh about… Why not begin your vacation on the road.
Pack snacks. Resisting a bag of chips or sweets can be very difficult even for health food nuts on a long road trip. So, just in case you have a weak moment, stock up on snacks and sodas ahead of time at your local grocery store or warehouse club. Vending machines are notorious for overpricing their goods. If you don’t eat them on your way up, don’t forgot your return trip.
Plan your route. To save yourself time, gas, and aggravation, plan your route ahead of time carefully. Even if you have a GPS, bring a map and detailed directions. Compare your directions to a map before leaving. Sometimes, directions on internet sites differ from what you’ll see on map. And sometimes, GPS systems breakdown. Jotting down key intersections and businesses also helps. For example, writing: “Turn right on Flanger Road. Pass King Street. Pass KFC on right. Go 5 streets. Pass Walmart on left. Two streets after Tucker Ave, make a left onto Toledo Lane” is much more useful than: “Right on Flanger Road. Left on Toledo Lane.”
Choose public highways over private, and free highways over toll. When planning out your route, pay attention to toll highways. Private highways usually come at a cost. However, over the past few years, states around the US have either implemented toll systems or increased toll fees on public highways to build state revenue. In some cases, you are better off paying the requested amount. But if you find that you can get to your destination in the same amount of time and with a similar amount of mileage without taking a pricey toll highway, go for it. If you go this route, make sure to plan this carefully. And if paying tolls is not an issue, I still recommend you research toll prices, so that you won’t be hit by surprised with $12.00 toll fees. Toll fees can quickly add up.
Purchase inexpensive gas. You can save yourself a bit of money, if you stay on the look-out for cheaper gas. Gas prices can change from one highway exit to the next and from one state to the next. But remember to be reasonable. Don’t wait until the last minute to compare prices. While driving in the country, you’ll find that several exits don’t have gas stations or open gas stations at night. In trying to get a better price, you may run out of gas.
Rest when you feel tired or drowsy. Resting when your body tells you will save your life, the life of others, and your vehicle.
Fix your vehicle before leaving. Get your vehicle checked by a reputable mechanic no more than a month before you leave. If you are going on a long road trip, get your tires and brakes checked, have an oil change and top-off all fluids. Replace whatever needs to be replaced. Having your vehicle breakdown in an unfamiliar area will be stressful, may require a tow-truck, and will cost you more money to fix.
Rest your vehicle often when driving in high temperatures. Driving in hot weather can accelerate tire rubber deterioration which can lead to a tire burst. When a tire burst occurs at a high driving speed, it can cause a roll-over, collision and other accidents.
Plan free sleep-overs. A long road trip can cost 2 to 4 times more if nightly hotel stays are added. Fortunately, if you want to travel on a budget, the US does offer several options…
Use interstate highway rest-areas for sleeping. If you are doing a long road trip, stopping at different rest-areas along the way to sleep can save you hundreds of dollars in hotel costs. Most interstate highway rest-areas allow drivers to sleep up to one night. But make sure this is permitted before doing so. Also, make sure you are in a safe area. Many rest-areas have patrolling security. But if you are uncomfortable or suspect dangerous activity, leave immediately. If you are driving an RV, sleeping over in rest-areas will save you RV resort and campground costs until you reach your destination. Please remember to show rest-area courtesy when sleeping in your RV.
Sleep-over in a free camp site. If you already own a tent and/or sleeping bag, stop at a free campsite and sleep under the stars. Not only will this save you money, it will also be a memorable experience. Waking up to the sounds of nature and view of trees can be a wondrous thing. Check out Freecampsites.net for a list of free campsites in the US and Canada. When going this route, please remember to verify that camping at your chosen site is permitted. Use good judgement. If the campsite does not look or feel safe, leave immediately. If you are driving an RV, check out this site for a list of free campgrounds in the US: FreeCampgrounds.com. Also, if you drive an RV, many Walmarts outside large cities allow free overnight docking.
Couch surf. Couch surfing is very interesting in that it offers travelers from around the world couches to sleep on free, around the world. It’s a way to unite travelers and make it possible for anyone to travel and meet diverse people. This a great option not only for your road trip, but also for when you reach your destination. If you want more information on this program, please check out this site: CouchSurfing.org.
Make reservations. If camping out in your vehicle or on the ground is not your thing, you can also save money by making hotel reservations a few weeks ahead of time. All you need to do is look at a map and calculate how long it will take you to get from one city to another. You can plan your nightly stops this way.