For my August 10th article about staying healthy while at fast food joints, Eating Healthy on the Road, either click here or keep on reading!
While summer means barbecues, pool parties and campfires, for a lot of families, it also means road trips. Whether you’re visiting your Grandma in Thunder Bay or your sister in Halifax, a lot of Canadians hit the highway from May to September. And though these trips are sure to be enjoyable, for the health conscious among us, on-the-road food options can be scarier than trying to cross Toronto at 5 p.m. on a Friday. Normally, clean eaters get lost in a Big-Mac-Quarter-Pounder-large-fry haze, and we arrive at our destination feeling bloated, sluggish, and full of regret.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Though fast food once held to a greasy-food-only policy, many chains are offering lighter options to keep us happy and healthy. Keep reading for my best healthy road trip food advice.
Ok, when you think of healthy eating, the golden arches don’t exactly leap to mind. But there are ways to keep you calorie count in check while dining at Mickey D’s. For breakfast, an Egg McMuffin without cheese or meat is only 230 calories, and gives you 15 grams of protein. For lunch, try salads like the Tuscan Salad, Southwest Salad, or Cashew Teriyaki Salad — all with grilled (not crispy) chicken. Remember to avoid creamy dressings. If salads aren’t your thing, try a Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap. Large enough to be a light lunch, if you hold the cheese and ranch dressing, it’ll give you 14 grams of protein for only 180 calories.
At Tim Horton’s:
If you’re on the road before noon, Timmies offers some great healthy breakfast options. My go-to? An egg white breakfast sandwich on a toasted, whole wheat English muffin — hold the meat, hold the cheese. With 13 grams of protein and only 160 calories, this tasty breakfast will hold you over well into your road trip. Other healthy breakfast options include the yogurt parfait and the oatmeal bowl — just watch out for added sugar. They’ll be happy to hold the sugar for you.
Lunchtime at Tim’s gets a bit dodgier, but still offers some healthy options. Try a Turkey Bacon Club on multigrain; but, you guessed it — hold the bacon. Other healthier options include the Garden Vegetable Sandwich, the Turkey Chipotle Panini, and the Turkey and Wild Rice Soup. Whatever you choose, think twice before ordering that double-double (or worse yet, triple-triple)! A large double-double will set you back 150 calories, a triple-triple 225. Learn to love taking it black.
Though their burgers are awfully tempting, Wendy’s offers some tasty and healthy lunch and dinner options. Try the Berry Almond Chicken Salad or the Apple Pecan Chicken salad (just ask to hold the cheese), both under 450 calories. Wendy’s also offers great wraps, like the Ultimate Chicken Grill or the Spicy Chicken Wrap, both only weighing in at about 300 calories.
Subway is, without question, my favourite on-the-road food stop. With locations in virtually every town, the chain offers loads of healthy options, ingredients are fresh, and you can choose exactly what you want (and more importantly, what you don’t want) on your meal. A health-conscious chain, Subway prominently displays their food’s nutritional information, and even offers creative substitution ideas for your favourite sub. For example, one poster lays out the best sandwiches, sauces, and toppings to try if you’re on a low-fat diet, another for a low sodium diet, and so on. They help make it easy.
For breakfast, Subway offers delicious egg white sandwiches. Deliciously topped with veggies like tomato, spinach, and hot peppers, I get mine on a toasted, whole wheat English muffin. If that isn’t up your alley, a whole grain six-inch sub roll is also a healthy choice … But beware of flatbreads. Remember, their flatness doesn’t always indicate a caloric flatness; many times flatbreads contain more calories and fat than plain old bread, and their reduced size can leave you feeling unsatisfied. Stick to whole wheat, multigrain, or seven-grain bread options.
Lunch and dinner on the road is also easily made healthy at Subway. In either a sub or a salad, stick to lean meats like turkey breast and oven roasted chicken, and steer clear of cheese. Pile on the fresh veggies, and opt for mustard instead of mayonnaise. Add some apple slices and a bottle of water on the side, and you have a nutritionally dense, clean meal — for under $10!
At Taco Bell:
Though the majority of the menu is loaded with calories, fat and sodium, Taco Bell has recently introduced their ‘Fresco’ line of burritos and tacos. With no creamy sauces or cheese, these options have about 50% fewer calories and grams of fat than their non-Fresco counterparts. Try the Fresco Chicken Soft Taco, for only 140 calories!
Who can resist those pickles? The Canadian chain serves up some of the best burgers around, but also provides you with some healthy lunch choices. Try a 170-calorie Grilled Chicken Sandwich or a Veggie Burger on a multigrain bun, or a Warm Grilled Chicken Salad for 150 calories.
Healthy options are pretty darn limited with the Colonel; I’d generally make another choice if at all possible. That said, you can order the KY Grilled Chicken and request a breast. Add a side of green beans, and you’re looking at a total of 250 calories and a whopping 40 grams of protein.
At the gas station:
Remember to load up on water! Getting dehydrated is easy when you’re travelling, and drinking extra water will keep you feeling full and craving-free. If you’re snacky beyond belief, try picking up a protein bar or bag of Pop-chips at the gas station. Both are far superior to a bag of chips, and will keep you happy until your next mealtime.
And my best road-trip advice? Pack your own snacks. A little bit of prep can go a long way, and will save you time, money and calories. Try hardboiled eggs, cold grilled veggies, and hummus with carrots, broccoli, and red pepper slices. Other great options are almonds, berries, peaches, grapes, cherries, and other in-season fruit. Cold poached fish is also a great snack, as is protein-packed Greek yogurt. I keep an extra plastic spoon, fork, and knife in the glove compartment, just in case.
Don’t forget to always check the nutritional labels of prepackaged items; an item just saying its healthy doesn’t actually make it healthy. Information is your best weapon. Keep these tips in mind, and remember to enjoy everything in moderation. Happy travels!
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