Traveling on the road might not seem like the most conducive lifestyle for a healthy diet, especially if you have firm dietary restrictions, but we’d argue that eating healthy in a fixed house isn’t a whole lot easier. Grocery stores are loaded with deep-fried, sugar-filled, preservative-packed options, and the slim selection of healthy alternatives can be discouraging, regardless of where you’re located. Being healthy and aware of your diet is far less about your traveling tendencies and far more about your nutritional choices. Choosing healthy foods and traveling full time don’t have to be mutually exclusive! To help you with the struggle of staying fed on the road and traveling with dietary restrictions, we’ve got some tips and tricks to keep both you and your appetite happy!
Hitting the road can throw off your entire schedule and your eating habits, especially if you aren’t a full-timer. Just the same as when you’re at home, convenience when traveling can often trump nutrition. Be aware of this inclination and do some research before you travel to plan ahead and best prepare for what to expect.
If you have preferences towards particular brands that aren’t commonly available at conventional grocery stores, do some investigating and find stores along your route that carry the brand or product that you need. When you’ve planned ahead, you’ll know the best times to swing by the store to restock. Keep a grocery list in a convenient place, so that once you get to the store, you aren't tempted to stray into the aisles lined with heavily-processed foods. Trader Joe’s, Super Target, and Whole Foods are some nationwide health food grocery stores that carry some of the more obscure, illusive, and nutritious brands.
As more and more people strive to eat organic and locally-grown foods, the number of farmers markets in the US has continued to grow. These community-based smorgasbords of fresh fruits, colorful vegetables, and other locally-made artisan goods are a great source for healthy ingredients. There are plenty of apps available to help you track farmers markets, so you know when and where to find them on the road. You can also utilize roadside stands that you pass along the way to stock up on succulent fruits and crisp veggies.
When you have rigid dietary restrictions, eating at restaurants can be daunting. Menu options aren’t exactly the most accommodating to those intolerant of gluten, lactose, or other sensitivities, so finding meals that work with your dietary needs can be a challenge. Specialty restaurants can be useful when finding meals that work around your restrictions. For example, meat-based kosher restaurants have a more enhanced menu for those with dairy intolerances, and vegetarian restaurants have an abundance of vegan-friendly options. While more progressive cities are very attune to these types of restrictions, restaurants in the midwest and southeast can be less receptive. You’ll want to be aware of this when traveling in those areas, and check menus before committing to a restaurant. When you order, don’t hesitate to request an adjustment or modification to your meal. Ask if they will hold the butter or put the dressing on the side. You can also order different components off their existing menu to create a meal that is both substantial and accommodating to your dietary needs.
Make Your Own Meals
When you’re constantly on the road, it might seem like you’d be tempted to frequent the drive-through windows of greasy fast-food chains, but this isn’t always the case, especially when you’re traveling in an RV! One of the most beneficial aspects of RVing is the ability to bring your own kitchen along with you on your travels. This empowers you to cook your own cuisine without having to resort to the set meals of standard restaurant menus. When you have the ability to make your own meals, you have the freedom to read labels and be selective about the ingredients. You can plan your meals ahead of time and adapt recipes to meet your restrictions and preferences. When you’re hitched to your kitchen, you also have the advantage of being able to bring along items like a blender to make nutritious shakes, and tupperware to store leftovers for later!
Start your day off with fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, which you can sweeten with dried fruits, nuts, or seeds. Consider substituting that sizzling pork bacon for leaner turkey bacon, if you’re willing. Yogurt is a good source of healthy bacteria that can be eaten on its own or blended into a healthy green smoothie. If you are cooking for picky little ones, serve them up some whole-wheat banana pancakes! You can also make a morning omelet using egg whites and turkey sausage.
Midday meals are perfect for refueling for the last half of the day! Make sandwiches and wraps using whole grain products and heart-healthy hummus! Quinoa is a great gluten-free food that can be incorporated into a variety of recipes to enhance both its nutritional value and its taste. For a quick and simple meal, toss a fresh salad made with crisp leafy greens and a healthy homemade dressing. Experiment with different salads, such as the fruit-based Waldorf salad.
Your last full meal of the day is typically the most substantial, so you’ll want to eat something that is both delicious and re-energizing! Pair an entree high in protein with a plant-based side dish for a well-balanced dinner. Whole grain pastas and rice have a long shelf life and they can be used for a number of different recipes. Grilled white meat and fish are also healthy options, although red meats can also be healthy in moderation (keep the portions smaller than the size of your palm). Compliment your main course with a side of protein-rich legumes, sweet potatoes, or grilled squash and zucchini. Try out a pita bread pizza for a mouthwatering meal the whole family will love!
Eating small amounts throughout the day can help curb your appetite until the next meal, and it can be a good reminder for your metabolism that food is plentiful. Have a readily-available supply of nutritional snacks so that when the munchies hit you don’t turn to processed foods. It can also be a smart idea to pre-bag your tastier treats into set portions to avoid ‘accidentally’ devouring your entire supply. Self-containing snacks, such as bananas, apples, and edamame, are perfect for grab-and-go situations. Trail mixes, granola bars, and dried fruits are also great energy-boosting foods to pack for a nice hike.
Staying fed on the road isn’t all that different from staying fed at home. You just need to stay aware of your nutritional choices and plan ahead a little more if you have dietary restrictions. While it’s understandable to break your dietary regiment for signature destination delights like cheesy Chicago deep-dish pizza or rich Mackinaw Island fudge, traveling doesn’t have to be a constant temptation to completely abandon your healthy lifestyle. It is completely possible to eat selectively and nutritiously on the open road!
Do you have any tips or tricks for dealing with dietary restrictions while traveling? Let us and our readers know in the comments below!