On the road again (with an empty stomach)


It happens to all of us. Even with the best intentions of sticking to a healthy diet, we get caught on the road with an empty stomach. And, as we desperately scan the horizon for a decent option, we feel hopeless staring at a vast sea of fast food signs.

Most of us spend a lot of time on the road – driving to work, school, dance and soccer practice or out-of-town conferences. Although eating healthy on the run does present its challenges, choosing a healthy lifestyle is a mindset. And we can create approaches to meet our goal.

Generally, we know when we’re going to get hungry. Yes, there are those rare cravings that sneak up on us occasionally, but on an average day we can predict when we’ll need to refuel: morning, midday, evening and perhaps a light, pick-me-up snack midmorning or midafternoon.

The way I see it, we have two basic options when we’re on the road – either we plan ahead or we eat out.

Since I spend a lot of time on the road, I’m used to packing a cooler and a meal bag whenever I leave the house. And, I store a go-bag in my car stocked with napkins, plastic utensils, plates and hand sanitizer.

For food, I’ll grab a bulk jar of peanut butter or individual cups of peanut butter I’ve prepared in advance. Or I might snag a snack bag of walnuts, almonds and dried fruit. Other dry goods that are easy to grab on the go are a strip of unsalted crackers, instant oatmeal, dry cereal cups and raisins. I also keep an arsenal of KIND snacks on hand, particularly KIND peanut butter dark chocolate bars and KIND dark chocolate whole grain clusters.

Depending on the trip, I’ll pack anything from string cheese, cheddar cheese, Greek yogurt and skim milk for protein, and grape tomatoes, white grapes and baby carrots for fruits and veggies. No matter where I’m going, I always bring along a plentiful supply of spring water.

But sometimes we don’t have time to prepare or we end up running more errands than we’d planned. So let’s talk about a few healthy fast-food options when we’re on the go.

Did you know that a Subway Oven Roasted Chicken sandwich with chicken breast on 9-grain wheat bread with fresh vegetables and oil and red wine vinegar has 370 calories, 23 grams of protein, 620 milligrams of sodium and 10 grams of fat? This is a nutrition bargain.

But watch out for the other condiments because they all contain too much sodium to qualify for healthy eating.

Let’s say there’s no Subway in sight, but you see a Wendy’s sign. You can buy a Sour Cream and Chive Baked Potato and add some black pepper for 310 calories, 8 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber and only 2.5 grams of fat.

Even if your only option is dining at the golden arches, a McDonalds Egg White Delight breakfast sandwich has 280 calories, 18 grams of protein, 10 grams of fat, 2 grams of fiber and 680 milligrams of sodium. And if you’re concerned about the fat content, you can lower it a bit by omitting the swiss cheese.

These are just a few of the saving graces available to us when we’re on the road with an empty stomach. Please let me know if you have any more suggestions!

Be sure to check not only the calories, but also the sodium, fat and the fiber to determine if that food is the best fuel for your body.

(Photo by Daniel Barcelona – Own work, CC BY 3.0)



Author: Carla Spencer

Carla Spencer is a Registered Dietitian and founder of 2 Your Health. Her extensive career working with individuals with health challenges led her to create this site dedicated to helping people enjoy their lives while working to prevent or minimize the impact of kidney disease.

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  1. Love all of the healthy options at fast food restaurants. Also love the sound of “KIND” candy bars!

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    • Thanks for the feedback!

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