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Healthy and fit on the go: Eating on the road

Make healthy food choices when on the road or away from home

Bring water

If eating in the car is a trouble spot for you, make it a rule to bring only water in the car if you are traveling for an hour or less.

Avoid the fast food trap

If your weakness is stopping at convenience stores, fast food restaurants, or vending machines, put those on your “do not stop” list. Or order just one item like the grilled chicken and bring the rest of your meal in a cooler. Lettuce, instead of a bun, wrapped around chicken or a burger is a tasty alternative. Make the local grocery store your food stop or get yourself a cooler where you keep a ‘stash’ of healthy options such as energy bars, bottled water, nuts or fruit.

Plan ahead

Planning prevents you from falling back on bad habits if you suddenly get hungry on the road, in a meeting or at your desk. Bring a healthy snack or lunch to see you through. Include some protein as it satisfies longer. With an apple, also bring some peanut butter or nuts. Microwave popcorn (trans-fat-free, of course) is also a great choice.

Brown bag it

Carrying lunch to work saves you lots of money, plus you have the added benefit of choosing what’s healthiest for you! Skip the brown bag, pack a reusable lunch bag or cooler instead.

Take healthy foods that travel well

Cottage cheese, vegetable sticks, yogurt, fruit, granola bars and nuts are great choices.

Keep it safe

Keep refreezeable ice packs in your freezer to throw in your cooler when transporting meat, dairy and cooked foods. Freeze 100% juice packs or throw some ice cubes in a zipper lock plastic bag.

Making healthy choices at restaurants

Avoid temptation

Know what you are going to order before entering the restaurant; then place your order without looking at a menu. Check options and nutrition information on the restaurant website before you go.

Order first

When you’re with a group, order first so you are not tempted by others’ choices.

Think fish

If you aren’t eating the recommended twice-a-week fish, make this your time to order a fish entrée with lots of vegetables on the side. Other healthy options are small cuts of lean red meat and poultry.

Healthy preparation

Order menu choices that are baked or steamed, not fried or sautéed.

Portion size

Many restaurants serve large entrée portions. Consider splitting the entrée with your dining partner. Another option is to order soup and salad, or an appetizer (non-fried) or two as a way to eat smaller portions. Fill most of your plate with vegetables and think about protein as the smaller part of your plate.

Plan for leftovers

Ask for your to-go box when your order comes and place half your entrée in it before you begin. Two meals for the price of one and you’ll eat less at this meal. Another option is to give yourself permission to leave food on your plate.

Healthy sides

Choose salad or vegetables rather than fries or onion rings. Skip the bread unless it’s whole grain and check the breadsticks to make sure they’re not deep-fried.


Try fresh fruit or berries for dessert, or split that decadent dessert between 3 or 4 people at the table.

Reviewed by Jimmie Johnson, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2023

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