No matter how loose or strict of a healthy eating and exercise regimen you follow, it’s easy to fall off the wagon when you’re trapped in a car for extended periods of time. But even on vacation, maintaining the structure you set for yourself will help you stay on track and ensure that you feel good once you reach your final destination. Here, health and wellness professionals share their best-kept secrets for maintaining healthy habits while on the road.
Just like meal prepping to begin a week of healthy eating, you should do the same when gearing up for a road trip. “Days before you leave, plan out what meals you will have, and write out a menu for each meal plus the snacks,” says Miriam Amselem, holistic nutritionist, fitness trainer, and yoga instructor. “Now that there’s a menu, list the time of day that meals and snacks will be eaten. This helps avoid eating throughout the car trip!” Pack easy finger foods that are loaded with nutrients to give you energy and keep your digestive tract moving. Think fiber- and protein-packed bites such as apples and pears with peanut butter, beef or turkey jerky, and nuts and seeds.
Avoid pit stops for unhealthy meals or snacks.
Depending on the length of your road trip, you’ll have to take at least a few gas and bathroom breaks—but when you’re at a rest stop, try to avoid the tempting food and drink options. “While many convenience stores and fast food restaurants have healthier options now, many are loaded with more salt and preservatives than you realize,” says Roger Adams, Ph.D., Houston-based dietitian, and nutritionist, and founder of eatrightfitness.com. If you’re starving, then registered dietitian and family nutrition food blogger Jodi Danen suggests looking for lighter options. Order things like grilled meats, broth-based soups, and marinara-based sauces instead of alfredo. Consider adding a side salad, and don’t be afraid to ask for sauce or dressing on the side.
Incorporate some movement.
There’s a special kind of discomfort that comes from sitting for hours. Avoid this by moving around as much as you can while you’re sitting stable. “Move your feet and legs around for several minutes each hour to maintain blood flow, stimulate the metabolism, and maintain a sense of movement that you would normally get during your non-driving routine,” Dr. Adams says. “Ankle and leg circles, shoulder shrugs, and even doing isometric contractions of each muscle group as you drive help tremendously.” Even squeezing a body part such as your glutes, holding it for ten to 15 seconds, releasing, and repeating helps energize you and prevents restless leg or cramping.
Most of us associate the need for added hydration with an increased activity level like during a workout. But even when we’re stagnant, as we are during a road trip, it’s important to load up on H2O. “Most people get dehydrated from travel because they’re less likely to remember to drink their same usual amount,” says Isabel Smith, RD, New York City-based celebrity dietitian and fitness expert. Bring a reusable water bottle and refilling it at every pit stop. Aim to drink at least 64-80 ounces each day.
Stop and do mini workouts.
Stop for a breath of fresh air and some movement outside of your usual pit stops. This can help you feel significantly better upon arriving at your destination. “Park the car at the roadside park, and do some traveling lunges, bodyweight squats, marching in place, or even a light jog around the area,” Dr. Adams suggests. “Any way you can incorporate movement will pay off by keeping you more refreshed while traveling.” Don’t forget to stretch. Even five minutes can loosen up your body from being in a seated position for a long time, Amselem adds.
Limit caffeinated beverages to one per day.
Road trips usually mean more caffeine and coffee to make sure we’re wide awake, especially if we’re on driving duty. Skip it, Smith says. “It’s a vat for added sweeteners, calories, and extra junk. Skip it and instead go for water.” Extra caffeine can dehydrate you, too. This may make you more likely to dive into unhealthy snacks, she adds.