I drive a lot. I have three long road trips coming up in the next month. I know that I’m going to stop for a snack or meal — either because I need gas; I’m bored, stiff, and tired; I’m hungry – or any combination of the above; and, quite frankly, because I love rest stops and truck stops.
The lure of a rest stop can be hard to pass up when you’ve been sitting in the car for hours on end. You walk in and you’re assaulted by an array of vending machines, candy racks, fast food, donuts, coffee, and every bottled drink under the sun. You’re a captive consumer (there’s probably no other place around that you know of to stop other than the roadside rest stop, truck stop, or gas station) – and, you crave something to:
- Keep you energized and awake
- Ease the boredom
- Reward you for endless hours of driving (especially of you have complaining or fighting kids with you)
- Bring back memories of summer road trip food you had when you were a kid (as a parent I can admit that you often give in and buy all kinds of stuff for your kids because they’re driving you crazy)
The Trap And The Danger
An endless stream of high carb, high fat, high calorie, and processed food is just begging you to plunk down your money so you can immediately indulge (watch how many people start eating the food they’ve bought before they even pay) or to take with you (in case there’s a pending famine).
The real danger – aside from the damage to your waistline – is that the high carb processed foods spike then crash your blood sugar — which ends up making you really tired and cranky. Drowsy drivers are most definitely not safe drivers.
Cranky drivers make life miserable for everyone in the car – not a great tone to set if you’re going on vacation.
- It may take away some of the road trip spontaneity, but when you pack up your car pack some food, too. Fill a cooler with water, fruit, yogurt, sandwiches, whatever you think you will eat and that will keep you alert and energized (aim for some complex carbs and protein). Why not throw in some portion sized bags of nuts and popcorn, too? Planning ahead means you’re not at the mercy of the vending machines and racks and racks of candy, chips, and baked goods.
- Use an app or your GPS to find nearby restaurants as you drive through various communities. A little searching can help you find places with healthier options than you might find at a rest stop. This can be really helpful for anyone with allergies or special dietary requirements.
- If you haven’t done either of the above and just want to play it by ear – or pit stop – at least have your own mental list of some good, better, and best choices of food to buy. The danger is that the candy, chips, fries, and donuts call your name the minute you walk in the door. If you know that you’re going to head straight for the nuts, or popcorn, or even a burger, that’s great, as long as the giant chocolate chip cookie and the bargain 32 ounce soda for 99 cents doesn’t grab you first. Try to decide what you’re going to buy (hopefully, a good choice) before you go in – and then stick to your decision.
Enjoy your road trips.