Road Trip Tips for Healthy Eating


We’ve all been there. We’ve all taken road trips and we know what it’s like to have hungry kids in the car and, regardless of the kind of gas mileage our car gets, we have to stop at some point and get gas or go to the bathroom. And let’s just face it, the gas station/convenient store environment is the absolute worst. Not only is there a massive majority of horrible junk food, any food that appears remotely healthy is usually outdated or spoiled or just gross looking.

I remember a road trip a few years ago we were going to pick up our son at camp, I witnessed something extremely interesting. A woman walked into a gas station store with her two children who were around the ages of five and seven. The little girl was walking around the store with her mom and she asked, “Mommy, can we get some candy?” The mom said no and I noticed her trying to steer them toward the milk and saying, “Would you like a milk?” The kids seemed completely okay with not getting any candy and seemed to be fine with the idea of having milk instead. I remember thinking to myself, wow!!…good for them! Unfortunately, the junk food ended up getting the best of them! I ran into the bathroom and came out five minutes later and to my surprise that same woman was at the counter with an array of yuck, which included items like “bug juice” and donuts. Wait….What? How could this have happened? I kept wondering what could have possibly happened in those five minutes that I was away? The answer is simple….addiction and corporate greed.

​I am certain this woman went into that gas station with good intentions. The end result, however, signifies the many problems surrounding the fast food/convenience food industry and its impact on our society. Truly, it comes down to addiction. This is what happens when we are faced with all that sugar, salt and FAT. We say YES!

If one were to examine addiction and the way the brain processes emotions, it becomes clear that a sort of “relapse” occurred right there in the gas station. The mother seemed pretty adamant about not getting candy but the triggers were all around her. The emotional and psychological path of relapse begins with a trigger and then continues with emotional interior chaos, denial (one little donut won’t kill me), justification (I’ll just start over tomorrow), loss of control, and finally, giving in to the addiction.

A 2013 study regarding sugar addiction gained a lot of attention when it declared that Oreo cookies were shown to have the same effect on the brain as cocaine in lab rats. In fact, the study showed Oreos to be MORE addictive than cocaine. One really fun tidbit discovered in the study was that the lab rats also liked to eat the filling first just as we humans do. Fascinating. The science behind the addiction to sugar, cocaine, or many other addictive substances is their effect on our body’s natural dopamine production. According to the study, “sugar hijacks the neural pathways of the brain associated with dopamine, making sugar-eaters more and more dependent.” Hence, the massive problem with obesity in our country. Let’s say NO to sugar!!!

Things you can do to reduce triggers on a road trip:

– Pack a cooler with tasty sandwiches, fruit, protein bars, and water

– Stop for gas early in the morning or only after eating a snack from the cooler

– Have the kids stay in the car during a gas station break

– Stop at designated rest stops instead of gas stations for your bathroom breaks

For my family, a road trip used to mean that we could cheat and get an unhealthy treat. But I discovered it was even more difficult to get my kids back on track after letting them splurge (it goes back to that whole idea of addiction). Now they just know it isn’t an option anymore. It’s not easy at first, just like any lifestyle changes we make, but eventually it becomes second nature.

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