Dining at Rest Stops

I’m currently on a road trip. I’m not actually a huge fan of road trips, in general. I hate being crammed into a car for hours at a time. I hate stumbling out into rest stop parking lots on unsteady legs and having a crick in your neck from sleeping in strange positions for too long. I hate eating at those rest stops and then getting back into the car and feeling sick for the next three hours.

While you don’t need a cool bag like this one to eat on the road, it certainly helps! (Image Credit: Google Images)

Don’t get me wrong–I like the idea (and yes, okay, sometimes the taste) of fast food. It’s convenient. It’s reasonably priced. It’s available. And while some rest stops only offer one fast food restaurant, many more offer multiple options, whether it’s Popeye’s or McDonald’s or Burger King. However, if you’re like me and you don’t enjoy the way this kind of food makes you feel in the long run, eating on road trips gets a little more complicated.

Well, complicated may not be the best word. Eating healthfully on the road requires more planning than stopping at rest stops, but is not that hard to actually do. My family packed up a cooler with a bag of ice and two freezer packs along with the remnants of our freshly cleaned-out fridge, and took to the road. So far, it’s worked out great. Here are some tips to help your family enjoy healthy food while making headway across the state, country, or continent!

Keep It Cool

While you can pack things that don’t need to be refrigerated (peanut butter sandwiches anyone?), you don’t have to restrict yourself to just eating non-refrigerated foods. Packing a small cooler isn’t all that difficult. We popped two freezer packs into our cooler along with a bag of ice. If you don’t have ice packs, or want to limit the amount of stuff you have to bring back with you, try freezing a few plastic water bottles instead. Although my family’s using a hard cooler, you can bring a soft cooler as well.

Keep it Simple

Simplicity is key when it comes to healthy eating. Instead of bringing a loaf of bread that takes up quite a bit of room, try bringing wraps. If lunch meat isn’t your style, go for hummus and veggies. A great (and healthy) side can be some baby carrots and dip (our dip of choice is currently the Wegmans Yogurt Greek Feta dressing). We also packed fruit, yogurts, cheese and some crackers to round out our meals.

Grab a Blanket

One of the problems with having rest stops full of fast food joints is that there aren’t always picnic tables available at each rest stop. Our first attempt to stop for lunch had picnic tables, but they were full of other families eating. The second stop had no picnic tables at all, so we ate on the curb. Bringing a blanket means you have flexibility in where you eat.

Don’t Forget the Accessories 

If you need a knife to cut things with, pack one. Napkins, utensils, and plates are all necessary for successful road dining. Don’t feel like you have to use disposable cutlery or cups. Bring plastic cups and silverware from home!



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Filed under My Experiences, Nutrition Education, Parenting

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