Holiday Travel: How to Eat Healthy on the Road

You've been making a conscious effort to eat healthier foods and create healthy diet plans for you and your family. But now that you're preparing to hit the road this holiday season, you're worried that the only people who will be jumping for joy at the restaurant choices you face are the little people in the back seat—the ones who gravitate toward golden arches, chubby panda bears and cowboys with onion rings tethered to their belts.

You might have to take a few detours, but you don't have to run your commitment to healthy eating off the road this holiday season. Follow a convoy of healthy eating advice from such leading experts as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic and the United States Department of Agriculture. They will steer you in the right direction.

Invest in planning time

Before the rubber hits the road, use these tips to set yourself up for even greater success:

  • Plan your route and target restaurants that offer menu items that complement your healthy diet plans. Most restaurants post their menus online—looking at them is great way to minimize disappointment by assuming too much from a restaurant name alone. If time doesn't allow you to prepare in this way before you depart, use your smartphone in the car to target restaurants that offer healthy food items.
  • Download a Food List or bookmark a website such as so that you can consult it in a pinch on the road.
  • Make room in your car for a cooler; even a small one will do. It will come in handy after you wrap up any leftovers from your travels.
  • Pack some healthy snacks to tide you over during the ride—or for when driving through a restaurant parking lot seems smarter than going through its drive-through. Choose fruits and vegetables, granola bars and unsalted nuts. And don't forget to pack some bottled water, too.

Face a tempting menu with confidence

Once you arrive at a restaurant, you're likely to find one of two scenarios: a full and tempting menu or a limited and challenging one. Approach the former with confidence by:

  • Choosing main menu items that are broiled, baked or grilled and skipping fried, stir-fried or sauteed items. It helps to think like the devil's advocate in unfamiliar places. In other words, don't take claims at face value. If a tempting fish filet is is billed as “broiled” but is dripping in grease, follow your better instincts and skip it.
  • Opting for the salad bar, where you're bound to find an array of leafy greens and other vegetables that suit healthy diet plans. Forgo rich dressings and add-ons such as bacon bits and croutons.
  • Watching your portion size; it's easy to work up an appetite on the road. Consider sharing a dish or halve an abundant meal and place one portion in that handy cooler for later.
  • Remaining judicious about carbs—an easy way for many restaurants to fill up their customers. You don't really need two slices of bread to eat a sandwich (just like when you're closer to home). While wraps often appear to be a safe choice, they can conceal fattening meats and sauces. So unroll your wrap before consuming it and remove any unhealthy ingredients first.

Confront a challenging menu with confidence

  • Cobble together a lunch or dinner with healthy side dishes rather than feeling constrained by the menu items before you. You can get filled up fast with a soup, salad and an order of fresh fruit.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for substitutes, especially at a sit-down restaurant and especially if you see a healthy choice paired with another dish on the menu. For example, a broiled chicken dish that the restaurant serves with a loaded baked potato might easily be served to you with rice pilaf instead.
  • Ask about nutrition information if you don't see it provided on the menu. At the very least, your server ought to be able to tell you the calorie and sodium content of any menu item.

Return home to Meal Plan Magic

Before you jump in the car to resume your trip, take a few minutes to walk around and stretch. Sitting in the car after consuming a meal is as healthy as sitting in front of the TV when you're home. Get your blood flowing and help your digestion, too, by taking at least 10 minutes for some light physical activity.

Once you return home from your holiday road trip, don't be surprised if you feel newfound enthusiasm for creating your own healthy diet plans with Meal Plan Magic. Without the limitations of a restaurant menu—and with hundreds of ideas to choose from—this fresh meal planning tool can help you choose ingredients at the store and then create a tantalizing array of mouth-watering meals and snacks. You won't even have to pay any tolls on the road to healthier eating.


Sources (in order of mention):

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
American Heart Association
Mayo Clinic
United States Department of Agriculture