How to Stay Healthy on a Road Trip

Finding the willpower to eat healthy while traveling is hard enough when you have access to fresh markets and cooking utensils. It becomes even more of a challenge when you’re on a road trip, trapped in a car for hours on end, with nothing but fast food restaurants and greasy spoon diners for roadside dining options. But with a little planning, a little extra time, and a lot of self-control, you can eat healthy while on a road trip. Here are few tips.

Start your day off right.
Begin your day with a carbohydrate feast and you’ll be craving carbs again in a few hours. Put down the donut and instead, take the time to have a healthy breakfast at your hotel. Eat a good mix of whole grains and protein and you’ll ingest fewer calories while staying full later into the afternoon.

Get some exercise.
Spending eight hours or more being sedentary in the car means that your body may be burning a lot fewer calories than normal. Reduce your intake accordingly and try to get a nominal amount of exercise. Even if all you do is take a 15-minute walk in the morning and then do a few bonus laps every time you stop along your route, you’ll feel good having stretched your legs. Even better: plan your stops around scenic walks or hikes so you can do a little sightseeing while you get moving.Pack healthy snacks.
It’s easy and tempting to swing through the drive-thru or grab some chips from the gas station, but that won’t do your waistline any favors. Pack healthy snacks like almonds, granola or trail mix (choose low fat, low sodium, high fiber varieties), fruit and peanut butter, or power bars. Depending on the length of your drive, you can pack a cooler with items like string cheese sticks or hummus and pita. Just refill the ice each day at your hotel. And don’t forget to drink lots of water throughout the day and avoid coffee and soda.

Choose your meal stops wisely.
It’s harder to make healthy choices at a place where the daily special is a triple cheeseburger or a chicken-fried steak. If you can, take an hour to stop and have a proper meal once a day. Sit down, eat slowly, and follow the same healthy rules you normal use for eating out – choose grilled or broiled over fried, get dressings on the side, opt for tomato-based instead of creamy sauce. If you don’t feel like dining out, try to seek out a grocery store where you can pick up healthy prepared foods to go. Most Whole Foods locations have extensive salad bars and cut fruit available to go.

Going on a trip? Stop and get a flu shot at the airport

Luggage? Check. Passport? Check. Flu shot? If you’ve yet to get yours, you can take care of the task on the way to your next flight at clinics set up in several airports around the US.

Among the nearly 20 airports that will be offering flu shots beginning within the next few weeks are Atlanta, Boston Logan, O’Hare, Denver, Honolulu, LAX, JFK, and San Francisco. Costs range from $20 to $35, which is about what you’d pay at most clinics, unless your insurance covers it. Hours vary by location, but all are open from at least 8am to 4pm on weekdays. Currently, airport locations are only offering the regular seasonal flu vaccine. The H1N1 flu vaccine may be offered at these locations when it becomes available.

I’ll confess: I have never gotten a flu shot. I try my best to avoid being poked with a needle so the thought of actually requesting it seems counter-intuitive. I know I should get it though. 200,000 people were hospitalized for the flu last year, and travelers like myself who spend a lot of time breathing recycled air in the close quarters of planes may be at an increased risk. There’s also this little thing you may have heard of, called the H1N1 “swine” flu, which the CDC expects will reach pandemic proportions. It just makes sense to get the vaccine. And now getting a flu shot won’t even require a special trip to my doctor. I’m out of excuses. I may have to muster up some courage at the airport bar first, but it looks like my next vacation will start off with a flu shot.

Check out full details on airport clinic hours and costs here.

Tips for flying healthy and staying that way

First of all, I don’t do any of the things you are supposed to do to stay healthy when flying. I tend to turn into a hamster the night before a flight which means I’m busy into the wee hours of the morning nesting and packing, packing and nesting. It helps me relax.

What I do do that is offered as a staying healthy tip while flying is drink plenty of water. Jane Brody, in her article in the New York Times, also suggests the following:

  • Take 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C and echinacea right before flying. Brody swears by this. Why not? It couldn’t hurt.
  • Prepare for the trip well in advance and get plenty of rest to lessen stress. Like I said, I don’t do this, but it sounds sensible.
  • Don’t drink alchol and limit caffiene intake to keep membranes designed to protect you moist.
  • Wash hands often and keep them away from your mouth and nose. Also sound advice. I do this most of the time.
  • Book an aisle seat in order to be able to walk around easily and avoid blood clots.
  • Wear compression stockings when on long flights also prevents blood clots.

Brody developed her methods after she caught bronchitis along with several of her fellow travelers. She was with a group, so was able to track who became ill.

In the article she also highlights why knowing how to stay healthy is particularly important. Flights are becoming longer in some cases which ups the risks. Also, passengers are becoming older. Because older people have more health risks, they need to be more aware of precautions to take.

For example, people who have heart or respiratory problems need to know if they may need supplemental oxygen while flying. People who have cancer, are overweight or who have had surgery also need to check with their doctors to find out their fitness to fly.

Although I haven’t become sick from a flight that I know of, Brody’s article is a good reminder that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Still, if it’s an international flight, I most definitely will keep drinking the wine–just one glass–maybe two. If it’s free, it’s mine. I’ll also drink coffee, but not as much as normal. I love coffee, even if it’s not all that good and in a Styrofoam cup with white powder with scary ingredients instead of Half and Half that I normally use.