Eating On The Road Driving To Better Health ~ YOUR HELTH with RICK BELLANTI

By: Rick Bellanti – Sept. 2020

With my work as a musician, I find myself driving a lot, to consultations with clients, meeting with venues and traveling to perform events (sometimes up to 2 or 3 hours one way). I also find myself traveling for vacations to places like Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC to name a few.

Unless you are prepared ahead of time, you may be faced with lots of challenges along the way, when it comes to eating meals (especially healthy meals). In this fast paced society, everyone wants quick, easy meals that won’t break our wallets. Although it may be more challenging to eat healthy when on the road, it’s far from impossible.

Typically, if you are on the road for any length of time, whether for work or vacation, you cannot forget about eating healthy. You need to remind yourself being healthy doesn’t take a vacation. Having a plan before you leave the house is a good start. First, you need to figure out the length of your trip; is it just a couple hours? Or are you road tripping for nine to ten hours driving? Preparation is definitely the key to your success. I’m going to give you some of my preparation ideas that I bring along with me on road trips to keep us on the right track to staying healthy.

First and foremost, you hear me say it all the time, over and over: WATER!

I never, ever leave the house without my 32oz. reusable cup filled with ice and water. Always sipping it when I drive to keep me hydrated and full, and I try to refill it as often as I can. (The only drawback is frequent bathroom breaks.)
I pack plastic resealable bags with some nuts or very dark chocolate to snack on, I bring rice cakes for that salty crunch factor, rather than picking up jumbo bags of unhealthy (sodium filled) chips, and other unhealthy sugary foods at the gas stations and convenience stores. If I bring a cooler with me, then I also pack some containers with sliced veggies like carrots or celery and fruits like grapes and assorted berries. It may not be as pretty as those donuts and muffins but if you stay full from what you packed, then you won’t be tempted as much.

If you have to stop at these roadside convenience stores and gas stations to use the facilities or need a “Road Snack”, you may notice that a lot of these places are starting to carry some healthy options for us and that are trying to ignore the Hostess cupcake aisle. For example, most now have a small refrigerated section, where you can find apples, oranges, bananas, and some places have cups of already cut up fruit, with grapes and berries. If you are really lucky, they have premade salads, individual cups of hummus and healthy prepackaged sliced turkey.

There are actually quite a few healthy options you can find on the road if you look hard enough. Even in the smallest of gas station stops you can find, cheese sticks, beef jerky (watch the sodium) or yogurt for protein, unsalted nuts, you might even find some of the healthier meal replacement bars (watch the sugar and sugar alcohols). The goal is to stay full while still remaining healthy by consuming less sugar and carbohydrates, because consuming those, as we already know, makes you crave them more.

If you find yourself short on time and need a full meal (not just a snack) and find yourself surrounded by all the fast food places (that always seem to pop up next to each other), remember there are plenty of choices you can make and still stay on the healthier side of things. People are always trying to make fast food the enemy of dieters, but you just need a little education on how or what to order. Yes, fast food is so much higher in carbohydrates and sodium than it should be and not very high in fiber. But, there are some healthier fast-food options out there.

Most, if not all, fast food places (including Dunkin Donuts) are pushing plant-based meat burgers as a healthy alternative to their meat counterparts. However, unless you are a vegetarian not eating meat, then they are really not much healthier for you. The sodium and fat content are pretty much the same, the issue was never the type of meat with dieters, the issue is the BREAD. Bread is one of the worst items on any fast food menu (and most of their meals are based around bread.)

Did you know that white bread (rolls) served at these establishments can affect your mood?

Since white bread is low in the fiber and protein which is needed to slow digestion, it instead is digested and absorbed rapidly which leads to your blood sugar rising very quickly and in no time, crashing, which leads to irritability and like mentioned before, make you crave more of it.

Stay away from bread at these places, grab a salad (use only half the dressing amount if you need to). Grab a chicken sandwich and eat just the chicken along with your salad (skip the bread and the mayo). Even get a burger, just skip the bread and fries (saturated fat and sodium). Stay away from condiments like ketchup and dipping sauces that are loaded with high fructose corn syrup. Skip the sugary drinks, grab a water, soda water (for that fizz), low fat milk or an unsweetened iced tea.

So, remember if you are heading out for any amount of time for a road trip, your healthy living doesn’t have to take a vacation. Don’t be tempted by all the gas stations and fast food stops along the highway. Keep a positive attitude, don’t be so strict that you are not having a good time with your family. Splurge a little but don’t go overboard and ruin everything you worked so hard for and gain “vacation weight” that lasts longer than you want. Good luck and happy driving.

Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 140lbs since the start of 2015. If you have any questions or comments, please post them to his Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti Facebook page and once a month he will address a few of the topics here. ◊