Summer offers a great time to hit the road with friends or family. But from disruptions in your sleep schedule to changes in your diet, a long road trip can wreak havoc on your body.
Before you head out of town, plan to bring some sensible snacks to keep calorie intake in check and make truck stop diners and fast food joints less of a temptation.
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Healthy snacks help you stay energized -- which you need to stay alert and safe on the road -- keep food cravings under control and provide additional nutrients where your daily recommendations may fall short. A good snack may also keep the kids from getting crabby.
So, what should you do before you leave to make sensible snacking possible? Here are my top five trip tips.
Stock up on healthy foods to bring in the car. Pack a cooler for items that need to stay cold and load up a bag of nonperishable items.
Bring a variety of snacks from different food groups that everyone in the family or group can enjoy. In the grain group, pack granola bars, whole wheat crackers or pita chips, popcorn, pretzels or unsweetened cereal placed in a plastic bag. Fruit, like apple slices, bananas, frozen grapes, orange slices, raisins, natural applesauce and fruit cups are car-friendly, as are baby carrots, celery sticks, raw broccoli and cauliflower, red pepper strips and cherry tomatoes.
For dairy and protein, consider low-fat cheese sticks or cubes, nonfat fruit yogurt, cottage cheese cups, pudding cups and peanut butter, hummus, sliced turkey, almonds or walnuts, roasted soybeans and foil-packed tuna or salmon (you can flake the fish into a tossed salad from the convenience mart).
Combine items from the food groups above for tasty combinations, like apples and peanut butter, hummus and pita chips, yogurt and raisins, or baby carrots and string cheese.
Portion out your snack by placing raw veggies, whole grain crackers, popcorn, or pretzels into snack-size bags.
Stay hydrated. Drink zero calorie beverages such as water or sugar-free flavored beverages.
Pack diversions, such as books or games, to keep passengers from eating out of boredom.
Exercise. Make frequent stops to stretch your legs. Walk, or run, around at a rest stop. Or if the weather is not cooperating, pop into a mall or grocery store to get some physical activity.
Taking a break from everyday life doesn't mean you can take a break from taking care of your health. Sensible snacking on the road can keep you on track for a healthy summer.
• Toby Smithson is a registered dietitian with the Lake County Health Department/Community Health Center and a national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.