How to Eat Healthy On the Road

February 17, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Trying to eat healthy on the road can be difficult because my family has a lot of food allergies and sensitivities between us. One can’t eat gluten, another can’t eat dairy, another has a peanut allergy, and the fourth can’t have a lot of processed meats. I’m the only one who escaped any kind of food issue.

This makes eating on the road very difficult. We can’t just buzz into a fast food restaurant for a quick lunch. We need to carefully plan and plot our trip, so everyone can get something they want without being shortchanged.

Plus, eating healthy is a good habit to be in, and every meal on the road shouldn’t be ordered at a drive-thru window anyway.

Here are a few ways to eat healthy on the road, whether you’re just trying to watch calories or if you have food allergies that limit what you can eat.

1. Pack your food

A nice salad helps you eat healthy on the road

Those are figs in the center. I never knew what a fig looked like.

If there are certain foods you can and should have, pack them in special airtight containers and tuck them in your suitcase. That way, even if everyone else wants fast food, you’re not watching them eat.

If you’re traveling by car, you have additional options. Take a small cooler with you, and be sure to pack plenty of cold packs. (It will also help keep everything cool if you can freeze some of the food you’ll need later on.)

If you’re flying, however, remember the TSA liquids rule. That means Grandma’s French onion soup has to stay at home, but things like gluten-free bread are okay to take. Also, don’t pack any fruit if you’re traveling overseas, and don’t bring any home with you.

Finally, your hotel may have a mini fridge available, but often times these are filled with mini bar items that you can’t even touch without getting charged. Ask the hotel if they can remove the items or provide you with another fridge. Just know there may be a charge for that.

2. Eat from a grocery store

This has always been a favorite trick of our family. We’ll swing through a grocery store while we’re on the road, and head to the deli and produce sections to get lunch. The deli food is usually freshly made, the meat is higher quality than the prepackaged meats, and you can even get certain pre-made foods like sandwiches or fried chicken. (The Publix stores here in Florida make an outstanding deli sandwich. Seriously, people go nuts for them!)

It’s usually a cheaper option than a restaurant as well. Get a pre-made salad for four people for a couple bucks, instead of a single restaurant salad for $10. A bag of apples only costs a few dollars. Get foods that are easy to eat while you’re sitting in the car, and either switch drivers so the driver can eat safely, or pull into a rest area for a quick picnic.

3. Eat local and organic

Thanks to changing food trends, there are usually more than a few organic, farm-to-table restaurants in any city. They’re very concerned about customers’ food issues, and have all sorts of alternatives.

They may cost a little more than typical chain restaurants (which also have a lot of gluten-free/dairy-free options), but you can be assured that your food won’t make you feel bad. Use an app like Yelp or Google Maps to find these places.

4. Eat international

Depending on your food issues, you can find some decent alternatives at international restaurants. For example, corn tortillas at a Mexican restaurant or fried rice at a Chinese restaurant for anyone who can’t have flour. People who have dairy issues can also have Chinese or even Thai food with its coconut milk. And Chinese/Thai/Indian food is always a good option for vegetarians.

Since most food allergies tend to focus on American-style foods, international restaurants can be a safe alternative, and they’ll still be able to work around any additional food issues you might have.

It’s possible to eat healthy on the road, and still meet the needs of everyone who has sensitivities, allergies, and preferences. It takes a little pre-planning and some flexibility on everyone’s part, but you can easily manage it and still have a good time.

How do you eat healthy on the road if you or your family members have food issues? Do you pack your food, or do you buy it on the road? Do you have certain restaurants you visit or avoid? Share your ideas with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: RitaE (, Creative Commons/Public Domain)


Erik Deckers is a travel writer, as well as a content marketer and book author. He is the co-author of Branding Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and has been a newspaper humor columnist for over 20 years

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