How to Eat Healthy on a Road Trip

Yesterday, during me and Matt’s 8 hour drive from Bald Head Island to D.C., I was bemoaning the fact that America makes it so hard for people to eat healthy while on the road. On the way to the beach on Friday, I had packed us some food, but coming back yesterday, we had to rely solely on the road. Mile after mile went by with only the standards. McDonalds. Wendy’s. KFC. Burger King. Ugh, ugh, ugh! There’s always Subway, which is a travel staple of mine, but I’ve kind of OD’ed on it lately (too many road trips). Then, I had a brilliant idea. Let’s find a grocery store!

Using Matt’s phone (he has a “food locator” app), we found a Food Lion about 10 minutes away from the highway. Lunch was saved. :)

I grabbed a whole bunch of random stuff to snack on, both for lunch and throughout the rest of the car trip. First up — a bagged salad:


Spinach, dried cherries, almonds, and a balsamic dressing. Yum.

Next up — pita chips and hummus!


Those Kashi pita chips are new — very yummy!

Plus a Chobani yogurt (lemon… my love):


And some baby carrots and an orange to snack on later, too.  


Let’s see…

  • Protein: hummus + yogurt
  • Whole grains: pita chips
  • Veggies: spinach salad + baby carrots
  • Fruit: orange + dried cherries in salad

Total win! I was able to get a plastic spoon, fork, and some napkins from the grocery store deli. I ate the Greek yogurt and a good amount of the salad for lunch, and Matt and I ended up sharing the hummus, carrots, pita chips, and orange during the rest of the drive. Perfect! And there was a Subway a couple doors down so Matt could get a sandwich, too :)

How do you stay healthy on a car trip when you haven’t been able to pack your own food? Any other good tips?

I’m back in D.C. now and will be visiting with various friends and family this week. So excited! Stay tuned for adventures :)


  1. 1

    Great idea Anne. So much better than the drive through s. I’m afraid my crew would eat me if I fed them that menu. I would like it. I usually take a bag of trail mix and I love munching on little grape tomatoes while driving. I take a playmate of ice and two jars of unsweetened tea. Some of us like sweet tea and some don’t.

  2. 2

    That was a great idea! We drove to DC from Cleveland yesterday and really struggled with eating healthy for the same reasons! One tip about buying bagged “ready to eat” lettuce of any kind: wash it. I’ve tested bacteria levels on that lettuce before and the number of colony forming units (CFUs) on the lettuce is over 1000x worse than anything else we tested from the grocery store, including raw meat and cooking dough. Just rinsing it once reduces the amount of bacteria significantly!

  3. 4

    Smart! Geat idea, indeed.

  4. 5

    i must also put in a plug for wawa. that is all.

  5. 7

    I love this! It’s amazing to save money AND be healthy on the run :)

  6. 8

    Great post and tips!! I always try to pack my own foods that store well and are delish too :)

  7. 9

    Would you believe that 9 out of 10 people don’t know what hummus is? I swear!

  8. 11

    I always pack my own food! It’s a must!

  9. 12

    Hi Anne,

    A couple thoughts – the English teacher in me just has to point out that it is not “me & Matt’s 8 hour drive”, rather it is “Matt’s and my 8 hour drive.” You put yourself last and try the sentence with each of you individually to be sure…”my 8 hour drive….Matt’s 8 hour drive…”

    Also, I have to give a shout out to the healthy choice options at McDonald’s & Wendy’s. These companies hear what America is saying and are trying to change their menu by offering a variety of choices. The salads are pretty well balanced with protein, fat (you control the dressing), sodium and fiber. The yogurt parfaits are good and a reasonable portion size.

    I’m just saying don’t exclude everything on the Fast Food menu as “bad.” In a pinch, just about any restaurant has some good options. Except maybe KFC…or Long John Silvers…. :-D

    • 13

      Fair enough, I’m still just not a big fan of the massive processing all their stuff goes through, though. And most of their salads end up having more fat and calories than their burgers! You are right, though, that in a pinch you can find something better-ish at a fast food place if you need to. I just found the grocery store to be a much better option for me :) I prefer not to support fast food chains (except for Subway) because I don’t like what they stand for!

  10. 14

    Great idea! I usually bring Larabars/other kinds of bars, pb pretzels and some kind of crackers. I also splurge a bunch on vacation too. I try to keep it as balanced as possible but the splurges usually win out.

    • 15

      Splurges are definitely a must on vacation. For me it’s just about when it’s worth it! Homemade ice cream? Yes, please. Delicious burger at dinner on Saturday? Done. Fast food on the way home? Not worth it!

  11. 16

    Hey Anne,

    I live in New York but often take the bus up to see my family in Boston. A lot of the places the bus stops have convenient stores attached to them which often carry veggies and hummus. Its not always great quality, but combined with some pretzels or something, it usually gets me through.

    I’ve also been known to stop on my way at one of the fruit/veggie carts on the street corner and grab a bag of carrots and then running to catch the bus! My mom always laughs when I show up with a half a bag of baby carrots and insist that I’m not hungry for dinner.

  12. 17

    Mmmmm…hummus! I love it and it’s super easy to make at home too (canned or dried chickpeas + toasted sesame seeds + roasted garlic + olive oil + pinch of salt in a food processor…voila)! I’ve converted non-hummus eaters with the homemade stuff, added olives, sun dried tomatoes, herbs, or anything else that sounded tasty. Paired with my homemade whole wheat pita chips and it’s a great snack that all my friends love (cut pita into wedges, light spray of olive oil, sprinkle any herbs you like and bake at 350 for a few minutes, until crispy).

    I know some fast food restaurants are offering “healthier” fare these days but even the grilled chicken breasts taste insanely salty to me. I do stop at Subway when I’m not burned out on it as well, though I prefer Jersey Mike’s! I wish there was an option with Jersey Mike’s meats and Subway’s veggies/sauces! Of course some grocery stores (like Harris Teeter) will make a sub sandwich to your taste or there’s always Fresh Market or Whole Foods for easy to grab and go stuff. If I’m out running around town through lunch I’ll stop at Fresh Market for some fruit or a salad on the run. I am a fan of the grilled chicken salad at Chick fil A, the honey mustard dressing has a little spice that I like and their chicken doesn’t seem quite as salty to me.

    I’ve certainly done the grocery store stop on the way out of town before! I usually pack a basket and cooler of food for long trips (I keep a collapsible cooler in my trunk for “just in case” stops all the time). Water (usually I grab a case a few days in advance and freeze several bottles to use as ice packs), string cheese, fresh fruit (frozen grapes and blueberries are great), hummus (usually I have some homemade on hand), peanut butter, whole grain crackers, pretzels, popcorn (huge fan of Vic’s, a local company), pita bread, yogurt, sandwich meat (though this is usually from a turkey or chicken I’ve roasted), and for on the road sugar cravings (an issue I ALWAYS have)…tootsie pops!

    • 18

      I’ve never heard of Jersey Mike’s!

      • 19

        It’s very similar to Jimmy John’s. Fresh meats and cheeses sliced as you order! I LOVE their oven roasted turkey mini sub on wheat, just wish they had the veggie choices of Subway! I keep crossing my fingers that one day they’ll incorporate spinach and cucumbers!

  13. 20

    I love the idea of a bagged salad kit. Did you mix and eat right out of the bag? I’m about to embark on a 2-day trip and the first day is easier to pack for than the 2nd day. You got me excited about buying a salad kit — except the commenter above who mentioned the bacteria in bagged lettuce has me grossed out now…

    • 21

      Yeah I just ate it straight out of the bag! Yeah the bacteria comment freaked me out, too, but honestly… there’s bacteria everywhere. It’s kind of unavoidable.

  14. 22

    Awesome–these are good tips, Anne! I generally fall prey to gas station snackage, and then I feel so gross and lethargic afterward!

  15. 23
    Jen Robinson says

    I just got those kashi pita chips (they sent me a free sample box?) and they’re delish! Good post- it’s so hard to stay healthy on trips (i ate at dunkin donuts on the way to vegas… TWICE)

  16. 24

    Ugh, I feel the same way about traveling and fast food. I never thought of bagged salad – good idea!

    I too will always head out to a grocery store and I usually get:

    -Deli counter salads (whatever fresh veggie salad they have – like a cold broccoli asian style, mixed bean, or tomato cucumber feta salads).
    -Nuts & Dried Fruit (raw almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, gooseberries, etc)
    -Rice cakes and almond butter (the little to go packages make it awesome to travel with)
    -Fruit Smoothie. Happy Planet Extreme Green (with spirulina!) – I feel sooo healthy when I drink this
    -Protein Bars. My favs Elevate Me (from Vancouver, BC – amazing), LaraBars, PureFit Nutrition Bar (vegan protein and super filling)

    And just as you mentioned hummus, healthy crackers, fresh fruit and yogurt are all musts. I wish I could get Chobani up here. You’ve got me hooked on greek yogurt now. We have a similar brand called Liberte – super delish.

  17. 25

    I keep seeing lemon yogurt around the blog world and REALLY want to try it. If there are any non dairy lemon yogurts I’m all over it! I’ve never even heard of salad in a bag, cool tip.

  18. 26

    As the Queen of the Road trip — I just drove from DC to Ft. Lauderdale to Savannah to Knoxville to Asheville to Chapel Hill to Virginia — I’ve learned to pack fruit, granola bars, nuts, pretzels, water, and yogurt — especially when I am checking into a hotel at night and want a snack. In a pinch, Cracker Barrel restaurants have some good food on their menu, although lots of their items are fried or have butter — but the menu does have some decent choices. Some of the fast food places, like Arby’s has a pretty good market sandwich (depends on which one you order). A grocery store always works!

  19. 28

    I pick up sushi from Harris Teeter before I get on the road- and then I make my sister feed it to me while I drive so I don’t spill soy sauce everywhere :)

  20. 30

    Great idea! Lara Bars are my saving grace while traveling!

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