If you travel a lot for work or find yourself in the car a large portion of the day, it can seem like the food choices are stacked against you if you are trying to maintain some sort of healthy diet, or even tougher if you are trying to actually lose some weight.
Truth is, it is “harder” but not impossible – and it is actually rather simple if you follow these simple rules.
Rule #1: Are you actually hungry?
If you just ate breakfast or lunch, you shouldn’t be hungry. Driving long days in the car can be stressful, boring, and tiring. However, using food to cope with these three emotions is never a good idea, especially when you are stuck in a small confined space of a vehicle.
If you find yourself mindlessly stress snacking in the car, the first thing to address is the question of “how did this snack food get in here in the first place?” – you. It all starts with you. If you know you are prone to this, don’t buy that stuff. You are only exposing yourself to an opportunity to mindlessly eat.
It’s like a recovering alcoholic popping in the liquor store to buy a water…not the best idea.
Tip: Plan your trip out ahead of time – nothing in the car that is a challenge for you. Plan your route, schedule WHERE you will stop for lunch, and have some “go-to” meals that you can choose.
Rule #2 – Protein First
I like the rule of “20 grams or bust” – anything I eat in the car, when I am actually hungry, has to contain 20 grams of protein or more per serving. This will help keep you full, minimize the possibility that it is a junk food, and should hold you over until you reach your destination.
It doesn’t have to be all from one food, or even at one time either, but keeping it to 20 or more grams of protein is key.
Some examples might be:
- Quest Protein Bar
- Fairlife (Core Power) High Protein Milkshake
- Jack Links Tender Bites
- Hard-boiled eggs
These are all things that you can buy at most well-stocked, larger gas stations.
Just like avoiding the snacky, mindless food takes the preparation of not buying them, making sure you are stocked up on quality protein foods also takes preparation.
There are SO many options out there, it is hard to name them all. This is where you need to have the MINDSET of someone who is being health conscious and take an extra minute or two to search the store outside of the areas that you usually shop.
I have found some pretty awesome options by just exploring a new store.
Rule #3 – If Eating Fast Food…
Let’s be real. You’re going to stop for fast food at some point. While it may not be ideal, it is still possible to do some form of damage control. Applying the protein rule again – this should be your first focus. Luckily, most fast food places have the calories listed on their menus now, so you should be able to figure out what the better choices are.
Stick to these basics and you should be covered:
- Don’t drink your calories – water, or diet soda ALWAYS
- Non-breaded chicken is the leanest option
- Minimize the extra fat – cheese, bacon, mayo, all can be skipped
- You might be better off getting 2 sandwiches than 1 sandwich and fries…
- 6″ subs with double meat are always a good choice
- You don’t need dessert with your fatty lunch…ever.
- It is already high in calories, so no, you don’t want to supersize it.
While it may not be the most convenient, eating on the road and sticking to your goals is possible. Like accomplishing anything else, it takes a little planning, and little prep, and a little bit of willpower.
In the end, it comes down to keeping your target goal in mind, and reminding yourself what this is all worth, and where you are trying to get to in your health journey.
This is where tracking, managing, and learning along the way can be very powerful for anyone who is on the road a lot. Instead of having to choose “boring salads” and “plain chicken breasts” – you can play some “macro tetris” and make a juicy burger fit for lunch if you want – but you may need to make some adjustments to the rest of your day.
Ultimately the choice is yours, and up to you to decide what you truly want or need while on the road.
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Stay healthy my friends,