Nutrition Articles

Healthier Ways to Eat When Traveling

Smart Substitution: Foods for the Road


It’s hard to eat healthy on the road. You’re driving hours to your final destination and the last thing you’re worried about is what you’re eating. All too often people focus on arriving as quickly as possible and overlook taking care of their own bodies. And it leads to exhaustion before you even arrive.

There are many tactics at your disposal to ensure a refreshed and invigorated feeling when you arrive. Believe it or not, nutrition is pretty basic. Step No. 1 – drink plenty of water. Dehydration can cause fatigue and make you feel just plain lousy. Yes, this will mean more rest stops and bathroom breaks. Trust us, it will be worth it in the long run. As a special note, alcohol causes dehydration. Drinking alcohol on the plane (or even the night before your trip) is not the wisest course of action. If you do order a glass of wine or two, make sure to match every drink with an extra cup of water.

Try eating an extra-healthy meal the night before leaving. Your body will be better prepared to handle the rigors of traveling. Load up on foods you think you might be skimping on during the trip, such as fruits and vegetables. Don’t go overboard on the calories; just make sure you’re getting as much out of your meal as you can, nutrient-wise.

We all know that rest area food and airplane meals aren’t so great. Either they taste horrible, or are so loaded with the bad stuff (fat, grease, sodium) that you know you’ll be doing your body a disservice by consuming them. So what can you do? Bring some food with you! That doesn’t mean packing an oversized cooler (although you can if you have room in the car). It means bringing small, easy to pack, easy to eat, nourishing foods. Items such as nuts, fruit, energy bars, granola, or raw veggies are simple snack ideas. Individually wrapped items are especially useful when traveling. Pull one out, munch down, and at the next stop, pitch the wrapper (in a trash can of course).

It’s key to eat at regular intervals throughout the day. Don’t skip meals just because you’re "making good time." You’ll need the energy. When it comes down to it, use your head. Try to eat as healthy as you can, just as you would any other day.

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Member Comments

  • I need to keep this in mind when I'm traveling. Such great information.
  • Great ideas going to try some next week
  • Great ideas. Going to Ireland next week. Going to take empty water bottle.
  • Tanks. Great info for flying. Where I fly for two hours.
  • We travel mostly by motorcycle so rules are very different. Stopping to use the bathroom takes forever (lots of gear to unpeel in a small space) and no time for restaurants, just something at the gas station while passing through. Got to keep rolling!
  • RIGBY31
    For the first time, I bought a fruit/cheese/bagu
    ette "box" at the airport before boarding. Wonderfully fresh, and I felt terrific when I landed late at night. No fast food hunger pangs.
  • JQUINN10
    It's important to remember that if you're leaving the country, to check to make sure what's allowed and what's not. Fresh fruit and vegetables are not likely to be allowed to be brought in to an overseas country!
  • We have done a lot of traveling this summer (new grandbaby), and have had to think about this. A few people have already mentioned my favorite tips. I always get dehydrated on long road trips. We take Nalgene bottles with us and refill whenever we stop. The water mix-ins (Crystal Light, Lipton Green Tea, etc) are great, especially if the water isn't the best. We also pack lots of healthy snacks, pre-portioned (either packaged that way, or measured out in baggies). I have a tendency to mindlessly munch once I open a bag of something, so this helps me keep from overdoing it.
    I added a few new ideas this summer. I always take restaurant coupons with us to save on expense. This year, I looked up nutrition info ahead of time, so when we stopped, I knew what I wanted to order. Most restaurant portions are way too big, so I generally eat half and take the other half home for another meal, but not while traveling. This year, we took a cooler for leftovers so I could do that. The 2nd half of my meal could become dinner or a snack at the hotel.
  • This article is great, and the information in the comments is super helpful! Next time I fly I will be sure to bring an empty water bottle! :)
  • Whenever I fly, I bring AT LEAST one (usually two or three) empty water bottles through security and fill them up at the water fountains. 1) I hate buying bottled water, it's an environmental disaster and since I'm traveling by plane, I'm already putting a huge hole in my eco-footprint; 2) I got really dehydrated on a long flight once and was lethargic for days; 3) I drink a lot of water.

    Food is a little harder on flights, but fruit leather is a favorite of mine, as well as trail mix and fresh fruit.

    When driving, I drink A TON of coffee, so I drink lots of water to counteract the dehydration. When I inevitably have to make a bathroom stop, I buy some nuts, a V8 and fruit...and more coffee, heehee. V8 is great for road trips! Get your veggies while on the road! When I think far enough ahead (which is rare, let's be honest), I refill the small 12oz bottles with the low-sodium store brand to minimize packaging and keep sodium down.
  • This article is good not only for those on roadtrips, but also those of us who (a) commute a lot, and (b) drive at work! Thanks!
    If you are flying choose fresh fruit! My husband and I travel transatlantic several times a year and on the last trip I decided to order the fruit meal because I always crave fresh fruit on the flights and feel terribly dehydrated. I know you are supposed to drink lots of water but the water on the flight tastes disgusting to me and I won't buy more than one bottle of water inside security on principle - what a markup! Anyway my husband and I felt much better when we arrived at our destination, better hydrated, less bloating and gas, even the jet lag seemed to not be as bad and also did not last as long.
  • Want a good laugh? When DH and I are running errands and will be gone most of the day, we pack a little cooler with hard-boiled eggs, Fiber Bars, cheese sticks, grapes and other fruit, water bottles and celery or carrots. We prefer to munch as driving from place to place and then don't have that sodium laden food you get in restaurants. On longer trips we pack sandwiches and more foods.
    DH says eating smaller amounts as he drives keeps him more alert.

About The Author

Liz Noelcke Liz Noelcke
Liz is a journalist who often writes about health and fitness topics.