5 Strategies for Healthy Summer Meals On the Go

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Are you having a fun-filled and busy summer so far? I don't know about fun (so far for me, at least), but mine has been filled with busyness! Between wedding planning, training my new dog, and putting the finishing touches on a kitchen remodel that's 6 months in the making, I've been running (ok, not literally) here and there and almost never have a moment's rest. Sound familiar?

Trouble is, all these to-dos make it harder to do other things—like eating healthy and exercising. If you have many other things going on, you don't have as much time to cook. If you're running errands at warp speed, you may feel like you have no choice but to rely on convenience foods or fast food.

We've all been there, and many of us have had to come up with creative ways to make our healthy habits fit into our hectic lives. Here are some of the strategies I use to eat healthy even when I'm on the go.
  1. Think ahead. It's not always feasible, but a little planning can go a long way. If you know you're going to be away from home for a long stretch, traveling by car or at the airport, or at an event that interferes with your normal eating routine, come up with a plan. Whether you're toting some carrot sticks, a simple PB&J on whole wheat, or a convenient energy bar, plan for hunger and bring a few options along. One of my staple snacks is nuts. I like roasted, salt free nuts (thanks to Trader Joe's, they're cheap and delicious!) because they pack healthy fats and protein in a convenient package that really keeps my hunger at bay. Because portion control is so important when snacking, be sure to measure, weigh and portion out your snacks into their own convenient containers (like these ones from the SparkPeople store). Stock a few options in the fridge, in your car (provided they're not perishable!), in your purse/briefcase, and at the office and hunger will never get the best of you. For more portable snacking tips, read this article.

  2. Pack a lunch. Even if you're too busy to cook a full meal, you can pack a quick and simple lunch that saves time, money and keeps the drive-thru from beckoning. A quick sandwich with a side of veggies and a piece of fruit isn't just child's play—it's healthy for us "big kids," too. OK, so it's not a gourmet meal, but it won't derail your diet like going too long without food can. Simple packed lunches can be ready in 10 minutes and kept cool and safe in a lunch cooler (like this one for $10). Make sure you have all the tools you need to get the job done. Sometimes a few new food products make it easy—and dare I say, fun?—to prepare your meals. I like this Smart Portion Lunch Kit ($18.99) because it helps with portion control and is easy to use. Another plus: Even if you're too stressed to think about your meals the rest of the day, at least you'll have eaten a healthful lunch!

  3. Look up nutrition facts. The easiest way to deal with restaurant foods is to know what you can order before you arrive. Check out SparkPeople's Dining Out Guide for healthy meal ideas for the nation's top chains—but don't wait until you're in the parking lot and then panic! Even before you find yourself staring at a menu, it's a great idea to look up and memorize just a couple menu items from national chains. That way, when you're unexpectedly faced with fast food, for example, you'll already have a few smart picks in mind that you can order. What are you waiting for? Find a few dishes now!

  4. Bring your bottle. I love my reusable water bottle and I take it with me just about everywhere I go. This helps me stay hydrated and cool during the summer and I never have to waste a buck on a bottled water from a convenience mart (hey, that saves time by not making another stop, too!). SparkPeople's stainless steel bottles ($13) come in three fun colors (I'm partial to the green myself) and can be refilled again and again. It's a great investment for your wallet, your busy schedule, and your health!

  5. Count on quick recipes. Sure, cooking meals at home is usually better for us, but you don't have to slave over the stove to make it happen. Who wants to spend more time in a hot kitchen during the summer anyway? I eat a lot of salads in the summer because they're fast and don't require me to turn on my stove. Check out SparkRecipes.com and start compiling a list of quick recipes and no-cook recipes that will help you eat healthy when you're short on time—or when it's literally too hot in the kitchen.
How do you eat healthy when you're on-the-go during the summer? Share your best tip below!

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints


Great suggestions! I've started to bring various snack foods to eat such as olives, yogurt, carrots, string cheese and other light snacks but filling to fill the void between meals - I'm finding I'm not as hungry when meal time comes! I put them in an insulated lunch tote with frozen pack at the bottom to keep them cold while traveling in the car, especially if I'll be out driving around town a while. I also pack several waters and another healthy beverage such as V-8 juice Report
I try to plan in advance too. I also have PRE-MEASURED snacks handy, because when I'm hungry and in a hurry I am sure my inner eye would judge an ounce of sunflower seeds differently than my scale, heh.

I also try to buy in advance, and have things that will be quick and easy on hand. I have healthy breakfast bars in my cupboards, lowfat yogurt in the fridge, and I try to hard-boil eggs at least once a week as they are a very quick and portable protien source.

I also keep in mind what I'd do if things DO go amok and have a back-up plan. Report
Any suggestions for hypoglycemics who are road warriors? Report
So glad I stopped by this site. I'll be travelling in the car for 7 hours and need to plan ahead. Just reading through here gave me such inspiration that I wrote down 7 specific food items to bring with me, everything from baby carrots to homemade turkey meatballs and applesauce-oatmeal muffins. I have my work cut out for me, but 2 weeks to get it done. I know it will be worth it. I will HAVE A PLAN SO I DON'T PLAN TO FAIL !!! Report
I carry an apple with me wherever I go. Report
When I know that I am going to be away from home most of the day I make sure I have a small cooler stocked with water, sugar free Lipton iced tea, fruit, reduced fat triscuits, and unsalted nuts for snacks. For meals I bring reduced fat peanut butter, sugar free jam, reduced calorie wheat bread and wheat crackers. Report
Remember not to take those water bottles in any place serving Alcohol some will make you through them out were I work they let you take them back to your car but that is a waste of almost 10 min. Report
Fullfiguregal- I too have Celiac Disease. I keep Lara Bars as my snack. The peanut butter and jelly are my favorite. Udi's bread is the best I have eaten for taste. Report
Excellent suggestions. One I have been using already is to study restaurant menus before we go out to eat. That way I know exactly what I want to order before we arrive. Report
I always enjoy your articles on fitness and health information.

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I have been married 33 years and it is a great experience.

All the best,
Catherine Report
Always have water bottles in the refrigerator to grab as I go out, as I NEVER buy water or soda. Report
to Fullfiguredgal - could you take the "sandwich" filling, or some sort of stuffing mix, in 1 container, and some lovely crisp leaves in another eg little gem lettuce outside leaves, the heart of a romaine lettuce, or chinese leaves. Other alternatives for putting your mix or stuffing into could be lengths of celery stick or pre-scooped chunks of cucumber. Report
I like Barbychicago pack a cooler and take plenty of water. Really helps on a road trip,when it empties we stop at a market and replenish or if we are lucky at a local fruit stand. I also carry a small insulated bag in the car for easy access.
Thank you for all the great ideas. Report
I like to pack my own snacks. It's a great way to be in control of what I am doing to maintain my healthy weight. There are just too many bad temptations, fast foods, vending machines, etc. Report
What if you can't make a quick sandwich to eat on the go? I have Celiac disease and any type of gluten product is off limits. In a nut shell, any type of bread or breadlike product (flatbreads, pita, english muffins, etc) are off limits to me. So I've been trying to find what could replace that quick sandwich on the go. (For those of you who are going to say try Gluten Free breads...I have...they are no good...they crumble and don't hold together at all...plus they taste nasty!) Report
I really liked the suggestion from BARBYCHICAGO to pack a cooler. I'm going to keep one in my trunk and work to remember to stock it whenever I'm in the car. If I'm on a trip, I'll move it to the inside of the car. Great ideas here! Report
I get derailed at work. I must have a healthy snack during the day, and it often isn't conducive for me to eat. I will try these ideas! Thanks so much. Report
Good article Report
None of this is really news to me, but it always bears repeating -- it's such simple, SOLID advice. I've definitely noticed myself having some MAJOR calorie creep this week. I'm still within my daily ranges, but I'm eating more and more of my calories earlier in the day in a non-healthy way. Reading this is a great reminder that even though I'm not trying to lose more weight, I still need to treat my body with care and stick with what I pack for myself!!! Report
Great suggestions...I need to start making more salads for meals because when i cook it gest to at least 100 degrees in the kitchen...sooo uncomfortable...I always need a shower before we actually eat... Report
Good ideas. I always pack a lunch for work, usually a turkey sandwich and a couple pieces of fruit , and some trail mix & a couple bottles of water. Report
Thanks for the terrific ideas!
I think I am going to break out my steel water bottle as well! Report
Great Ideas! I plan on using them for summer and when I get back to work. Report
Very good suggestions , I am always looking for better ways to eat better and save money. Report
Wedding Planning? Congrats! When are the celebrations happening? I know you will be wonderful. Are you fiance is getting a great person. I am very happy for you. Report
These are all great things to remember. One thing I've really tried to do lately is pack a lunch when we are on a road trip. It's kind of hectic, packing everything & then thinking about food to bring as well, but it makes such a difference. Having a nice picnic at a rest stop rather than another fast-food meal is not only better from a diet/health perspective, but so much more pleasant. Report
I am starting a new job soon and all these suggestions are great ideas for me to stay on track with my eating plan. Report
This article was helpful to me, as I am always on the go with my job and often find myself showing houses during meal times, I do take low cal, snack bars with me and bottles of water it helps alot. Report
Thanks for the ideas/reminders. I am off work durring the summer monthes and now only have one child (instead of three) playing summer sports etc. so summer has slowed for us somewhat. But, I was just thinking school will be here before we know it and I really need to start planning for that! I work at a school durring the day and am continuing my education at night, plus my daughter's activities, etc. That is when we get "crazy" busy! Your ideas will be very helpful! Report
My crockpot and grill are my best friends during the summer months. I am able to plan quick and healthy crock pot dinners for our on the go nights. And the grill always comes in handy for those hot summer days. I also always pack a healthy lunch so I never have to spend money or be tempted by unhealthy foods. Report
I work 2 jobs so I'm constantly on the go. I love carrying little things, like baby carrots, grapes, or reduced fat triscuts (that I portion out in little baggies as soon I get home with them!). That way it's convenient to carry and if I'm really running around it's enough to get me through till I can have an actual meal. I also never leave home without my water! Report
This has really been an on-the-go summer for me too! I've resorted to some of the quickest lunches I've ever packed in my life and also have to admit that these types of things have been dinner too! My return to staple... small salad and a pita with hummus. I know its pretty healthy but it feels like I'm cheating and doesn't really feel like I'm eating actual food. This summer more than most I haven't really wanted hot food either. Report
I've swam all my life and swimming makes you super hungry. I'd suggest a cooler (you can also leave it in the car if they won't let you bring it in) filled with fresh yummy fruit, baby carrots, sandwiches, pretzels, raisins, and juice or lemonade. My favorite swimming food was cold pasta (bows or the squiggly ones w/a little olive oil) and craisins. We would eat pretty much every hour. Also ensure your granddaughters get plenty of water, sometimes you don't realize how dehydrated you are while in the sun. Report
Hi thanks for the suggestions..I'll have my 2 granddaughters here for 2 weeks of swim lessons and I like to pack a lunch for most days..they get a cafe lunch once a week other wise it's too expensive!! We have quite a drive to the pool and on nice days..stay and swim in the after noon. Thanks again for the suggestions :) Report
Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a weekly summary of our diet and fitness advice We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.