Amy Culver - The Queen of Lean
May 31, 2008    

Road trip

Healthy ingredients

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Amy Culver

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Road trip

Well, here we are at the beginning of summer.  Depending on what part of the country you live in, your kids are already out of school or will be very soon.  Many folks will soon be hitting the road for another fun and memorable family vacation.

There are two things that can be difficult to do while on vacation.  One is to not blow your financial budget, the other is to not blow your calorie budget.

I can assure you though, that with a little planning, you can save money, eat nutritiously and create some nice family memories on this year's trip.  The key to all of this is to plan for your own preparation of two meals a day, breakfast and lunch, along with snacks.  In addition to food, the only other thing that you will need is a cooler, something that most families travel with anyway.

Let's take a look at a typical vacation breakfast.  You are staying in a motel near the highway that has a coffee shop type of restaurant conveniently located next door. You get up early because you either need to hit the road to make your next stop or you have a day packed with local tourist activities.  And so does everyone else.  You work to get your family up and ready to go at a decent hour only to find yourself waiting in line behind all of the other travelers for a table.   And due to the crowds, the service may be very slow.  The smell of pancakes and waffles is everywhere and resistance becomes futile.  By the time everyone has eaten, washed up and is ready to hit the road, at least an hour (or two) has gone by.  The bill set you back about $30 or more for a family of four and we don't even want to discuss the number of calories in that pancake sandwich covered in syrup that you just couldn't resist because, hey, you're on vacation, right? 

Let me offer a couple of very simple breakfast solutions.  First of all, you can have breakfast in your room.  We do this frequently and find it preferable to eating in a restaurant.  Dry cereal travels easily.  All you need to do is to purchase milk along the way.  Each night, when we stop, we pick up enough milk for the morning.  I pack disposable bowls and spoons before we leave home.  I also purchase fruit that doesn't need to be refrigerated (such as apples and bananas).  Generally everyone has to take turns in the bathroom in the morning anyway, so everyone gets a chance to eat breakfast while waiting their turn.  

Cereal variety packs are a fun treat for the kids.  And yes, they still make the kind that you cut open and use the box as a bowl – remember those?  Twenty years from now, your kids will remember them just as fondly.  Since sugary cereals aren't the most healthful breakfast choice, you might want to buy boxes of healthier stuff and alternate mornings.  

Having breakfast in your room will save you a lot of time.  It's great on those days when you are staying at a particular tourist destination, you can be on your way and ahead of the crowd with very little effort, expense or calories.

Another quick, easy and nutritious breakfast solution can be found at hotels and motels that include a Continental Breakfast, although you do need to tread carefully here.  Steer clear of the bagels and pastries that are typically available.  Oatmeal is usually offered and this makes a nice, filling choice.  Some cold cereals (like Cheerios), yogurt and fruit are also good healthful choices.  Even if you wait and go as a family, this is still a great time-saver because it's self-serve.  If tables are in short supply, you can usually take the food back to your room to eat which can be helpful because it means that you are not likely to go back for seconds.

Planning your own lunches provides all of the same benefits and can add some fun memories to your trip as well.  Essentially, what this means is that you get to have family picnics!  Growing up, our family vacations always included a picnic lunch on the first day out.  My Mom would make a batch of fried chicken the night before.  It's a nice memory that I will always have with me.  You can make a healthier version of this with baked chicken breasts (spray with olive oil spray and coat with cornflake crumbs and seasoning), your family will hardly know you didn't fry it.  This is a link to my oven-baked "Fried Chicken" recipe.  Add a whole-wheat roll and some fruit and you have a tasty and nutritious picnic meal. 

Sandwiches make for quick and easy lunches on the road.   Make sandwiches with whole-wheat bread and lunch meat or PB&J.  For condiments, you can purchase small packets either at a restaurant supply store or on the web, these are nice because they won't have to be kept in the cooler.  To round out your lunch, add a non-refrigerated individual fruit/pudding cup or a 100-calorie pack of baked chips.  Having lunch this way is a great time-saver, all you need to do is find a nice picnic area by the side of the road and you are set to go. 

Depending on how long your trip is and how much cooler space you have, you may need to replenish your stock now and then along the way. Grocery stores are plentiful so this is not hard to do. 

And don't forget snacks.  Not just for the road but for the room as well.  You don't want to have to rely on whatever you can find in the vending machine down the hall when you get a case of the late night munchies.  A good snack to start your trip with is a big bag of grapes.  Wash and pluck them before you leave.  They should last at least two or three days in the cooler.  Small cups of applesauce and snack bars are also a great snacking option.  Many rooms now include small microwaves.  If the places you are staying in will have one, pack some microwave popcorn for the family to share.

I've said many times that the key to successful weight loss and management is planning.  Vacations are no different.  It takes a bit more planning, but there are so many benefits:  nice family memories, no need to find a suitable restaurant, no need to wonder just what they put into your food or how it was cooked, no need to wait for a table among the crowds of other families on the road, etc.

And you can use all that money you'll save to buy more souvenirs!

Healthy ingredients

Unless you're growing your own vegetables and raising your own meat, it can be hard to include healthful ingredients in your diet.  Take a look at my recent article discussing tips that you can use to help prepare healthy meals for yourself and your family.

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