Whether weʼre searching for natural starlight or big city lights, bouncing around bayous or buttes, or headed home for a family reunion, a packed car and a full tank of gas can be the start of a great adventure.
If you try to live consciously and you care about a healthy gut and a healthy wallet, dining on the road can be a challenge. But eating healthy, affordable, plant-based foods on the road is possible! Today we're going to share some tips and tricks that experts have to enhance their road tripping. Hopefully, these ideas help you as you plan your trip or think about hitting the road.
Pack Your Mobile Pantry — A Checklist for Healthy Eating on the Road
Healthy travel starts at home. Before you set out, gathering supplies can help get you on the path to success. Depending on where you're going, take some or all the following items to reduce your road trip footprint and maintain a healthy eating lifestyle. Take a look at this list and see if you get any ideas for creating your own checklist.
Health Conscious and Trash-Reduced Travel Checklist:
Reusable water bottle (preferably glass or aluminum)
Storage containers with snap-on lids (Trust me, these can make a huge difference.)
Reusable food and sandwich wraps
Portable water filter
Can opener (I recommend “smooth edge” models that unseal rather than cut your cans.)
Small cutting board and folding knife
A small cooler and ice packs (not necessary but can be super useful)
Also, eating on the go often produces a lot of waste. So pack an extra bag or two to store your trash or recycling.
On the Road with a Healthy Gut and Active Brain
Traveling can be rough on the gut! When we disrupt our meal patterns and normal activity level, we need to pay more attention than usual to maintaining a healthy gut. Road tripping demands planning. So itʼs best not to rely entirely on what you can find on along the way. Your gut is happiest when you give it at least some familiar foods. Consider bringing the following from home, and think about what must-have items would be on your list:
Probiotics, the patron saint of travelers. Probiotics keep you and your car both moving in the right direction. Non-refrigerated versions are a travelerʼs trick.
Leftovers. Start your stomach out with what it already knows. Healthy leftovers keep well at room (or car) temperature for at least a meal or two. And they can make your first day of travel feel familiar. You can even use those glass jars to pack complete meals, like salads.
Flax seeds and/or chia seeds. Put the smooth in your smoothies (and put that blender to work). Flax and chia seeds are best and most nutritious when stored in airtight containers and refrigerated (or put in a cooler) after opened. (These organic flax packs are convenient and donʼt require refrigeration. And they have packs of chia seeds, too.)
Fruit and Vegetables. Oranges and apples travel well, as do snap peas and pre-cut carrots and celery sticks. Each of these snackables gives you gut-healthy fiber.
Ginger. Whether you prefer making ginger tea or adding it to meals, fresh ginger root is great for the travelerʼs tummy. (Tip: Peel and cut up some very thin ginger slices before you leave, but give them some air to breathe, possibly in paper bags, because if theyʼre in plastic, theyʼll get moldy unless refrigerated.)
Spices. Bring your favorites for both flavor and health-boosting properties.
Instant Mojo. Organic instant coffee, matcha powder, tea (herbal or high octane), cocoa powder, and mushroom powders in combination or alone are great for keeping you focused and limiting the trash you create. (Note: Coffee shops, convenience stores, and grocery stores often give away hot water for free or cheap if you bring your own cup. Donʼt forget to tip!)
Nuts and seeds. Packed with minerals, protein, and healthy fats to keep you full and feeling great, nuts and seeds are perfect snacks. Or you can use them to create meals on the go. You can also soak your nuts in water overnight in glass jars and then blend them with your blender as a healthy alternative to processed dairy and non-dairy milks that need refrigeration.
Create Your Road Map through Food Desert, USA
If youʼre traveling in the U.S., a desert is just a short drive away in just about any direction, from just about anywhere. A food desert, that is.
According to a report in US News and World Report, “food deserts are prevalent in the Mid-Atlantic and the South,” but “the USDA projects that large swathes of the Midwest and West Coast also struggle to meet Americansʼ food accessibility needs.”
Expect to traverse a food desert. And prepare. Do your homework. Strategize your route and find out where the oases are — and where they arenʼt. One thing you can do is research farmers markets in towns and cities. (Hereʼs a link to help you find options in the U.S.) If possible, aim to travel through those places during hours when the markets are open. (Be sure to look at seasonal hours and markets, so you donʼt find yourself out of luck).
Plus, visiting local vendors can be a great way to get to know towns and connect with the community, even if you are just passing through.
And talking to locals can help you find other options, like farm-to-table restaurants or places you wouldnʼt find online. And then, when in doubt, head for the nearest urban center. Youʼll be likely to encounter recognizable grocery chains, including specialty chains with familiar choices. Shopping for your own groceries and creating your own meals is typically better than stopping an easily available spot along the way.
Expect Surprises and Embrace Flexibility
The road sometimes demands compromise. The more prepared you are and the more you know about what resources you have, the better you can feel about the choices you make.
While these retailers may or may not be your cup of tea, they are an option and one to keep in mind on the road. Most big grocery chains now have their own organic labels and you can rely on finding these products at affiliate grocers nationwide. If you want to stop at restaurants along the way, the Happy Cow app (and website) can also be a useful resource on the road. Use this tool to find nearby vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Youʼll also see reviews, cost, and often a link to each menu and website all in one place.
When you plan ahead and map your gut-healthy, culinary, cross-country course, youʼll save time on the road. And youʼll have more chances to take that next exit off of the highway and find a scenic spot to picnic and refresh… See you on the road!