Hundreds of kilometers had passed under our tires since our last meal. As our little red truck zoomed through the trees toward our rest spot for the evening, I placed my hand over my growling stomach to let it know I’d ease its emptiness as soon as I could.
My boyfriend and I were somewhere in British Columbia. It was right after graduation so we were embarking on a road trip with no real time limit and no real plans; we had nowhere to be and everywhere to go. All we wanted was to fully experience the western side of the country as best and affordably as we could.
Our trip became a month-long adventure and our 1998 Ford Explorer became not only our mode of transportation, but our home and kitchen.
Most road trips are synonymous with junk food and other unhealthy eating habits, but eating goes beyond merely satisfying a growling stomach. Yes, food is a necessity, but also dictates your mental and physical state every day. As they say, ‘you are what you eat.’
The National Institutes of Health states that eating healthy not only decreases one’s chances of developing conditions related to poor physical health, but can also improve one’s mental wellbeing by helping increase energy, manage stress and bolster an overall better mood and body image.
During our trip, both my boyfriend and I found this to be true. Most days we maintained a healthy diet, but on the days where we indulged our junk food cravings, I remember feeling less willing to rise and shine and more willing to chill in our makeshift bed.
David Katz, M.D., a nutrition specialist, suggests sticking with foods ‘close to nature.’ This, he explains, means eating foods containing one-word ingredients, such as almonds, lentils and spinach. The longer the list of manufactured ingredients in your food, he warns, the greater the chance for ‘manufactured mischief.’
This is an idea we held on to while on the road 24/7. Now, I’m no expert, but I’d like to think that I make mostly smart choices when it comes to feeding my body and this didn’t halt while on the road.
I’m a longtime vegetarian and my boyfriend is a former butcher shop employee and part time hunter. Although my boyfriend tends to follow my vegetarian diet when we cook together, he’d much prefer a boar or deer he bagged with a nice side of potatoes.
Our trip, we knew, was going to require substantial physical energy if we wanted to “opt outside” and experience the country to its fullest potential, so we had to ensure both the healthy and the hearty when it came to our regular meals.
I’d say we nailed it by the end of our trip! (Although there’s always room for improvement of course.) We’ve learned eating healthy doesn’t have to be tasteless or expensive. Our favorite easy meals became peanut butter banana sandwiches on whole grain bread for breakfast, grilled cheese and lentil soup for lunch, cheesy black bean burritos with hummus & veggies and egg-drop soup for dinner, packed with noodles, egg, tofu, spinach and mushrooms (and hot sauce when you’re feeling spicy).
A “helpful tip” I’ve found while on the road is that easily accessible food preparation actually helps encourage food preparation rather than ordering takeout. On every extended road trip my boyfriend and I have taken, we’ve packed what we call our “kitchen box,” which includes all the tools we need to create somewhat of a mobile kitchen for ourselves
Our kitchen box includes a pot and pan, spatula, can opener, a good knife, silverware, dishes, sponge, biodegradable soap, paper towels and napkins (which we always make sure to replenish when we opt for a fast food restaurant) and my parents’ old Coleman stove.
These things make preparing food in the great outdoors a little more simple (even when the weather is dreary and eating inside the car is the only option).
My advice for road trip dining? Take the time to listen to your body’s needs. Feed it the fuel it needs to live a quality lifestyle but also don’t always deprive it of its fast food cravings (sometimes that stuff is good for your soul). And have fun with your food; get creative and don’t be afraid to seek out the discount section at the supermarket– it not only saves you money but can help inspire creativity when obscure ingredients make their way into your cart.