What The Pennsylvania Turnpike Taught Me About Eating Right

Creative Commons License photo credit: Nicholas_T

You never know what kind of epiphany the open road will give you.

This past weekend I traveled to a friend’s wedding. I learned a few things about healthy eating while truckin’ on down the PA Turnpike towards Ohio, so I thought I’d share them with you as well.

Below I outline 5 things I noticed and offer 5 travel tips to help your 4 hour body.

It’s nearly impossible to eat right without planning ahead

On your next trip of substantial distance, I double dog dare you to find food that’s worth eating, especially if you’ve adopted a diet like slow-carb. Our paleo friends might have an easier time than we do because of fruit selection, but it’ll still be a challenge.

What kind of foods can you get at any of the rest areas? Crap, that’s what. You might think beef jerkey is a valid option; I did too. Then I looked at the ingredients, and behind meat was sugar on almost all of the packages I saw. I didn’t find one without sugar.

About 95% of the food I found while on the road regardless of where I looked was packed with sugar. Breads are on everything that’s not candy. Every place you stop at will have cookies right at the register. The more meal-type foods are usually fried or cheesed. What I ended up settling on was a chicken wrap, hold the Doritos. It wasn’t the best for me, but it was the smartest thing I saw.

Travel Tip #1: Eat a solid meal before leaving and take Real Food for the next one.

My junk food tastes have changed

My usual trip fare was cookies, a tube of Pringles, a large bag of Doritos, Swedish Fish, or some other type of terrible snack. Lunch always involved burgers and fries. Whatever was fast and delicious.

This time, I generally looked for less damage-inducing things. Not because I was trying to, but because that’s what I have been training myself to do. I avoided the burger and fries on purpose, but it was almost second-nature. I didn’t even consider a soda. I was more interested in a large bottle of water and the least unhealthy food option.

Travel Tip #2: If it’s not second-nature to you yet, just hang in there. Make conscious decisions and eventually you won’t have to think about it.

When you eat right, you don’t get as tired

I’m used to driving alone, and a condition that has always plagued me has been fatigue. Trips are just downright boring when you don’t have someone to talk to. I’d fight my fatigue with coffee and energy drinks.

I realized this weekend that most of my fatigue was probably related to the perpetual insulin spike I was giving myself.

I didn’t eat a lot of carbohydrated stuff on my trip and you know what? I didn’t get tired. I was actually surprised. I’m going to pay particular attention to that the next time I travel to see if that trend continues.

Travel Tip #3: Stick to low-carb, high-protein food when you travel and you won’t get a crash that might cause you to…crash.

On almonds: go with single-serving packages

Almonds are your best friend on a trip. They’re easy to carry, travel well, and fill a craving.

But do yourself a favor and only buy a single serving package. You won’t stop if you don’t. In the smallest container of almonds I found, there are still 6 servings, for a nearly 1000 calorie jar. I could eat that mindlessly while driving in about 30 minutes.

Psychologically, you’re probably less likely to eat more once you get to the end of a package. Think about how many things you eat until they’re gone. If they’re gone quicker, you will probably not eat as many.

Travel Tip #4: Instead, buy the $1 packages and keep most of them out of easy reach.

If you do screw up, don’t take it hard

You’re not Tim Ferriss, so you’ll probably “screw up” and give in to convenience. To be honest, I didn’t stick to the slow-carb plan for most of the weekend. I made that decision because I wanted to spend less time fussing with food and more time enjoying my best friend’s final weekend as a single man.

The difference from before, though, is that I’m not using it as a reason to pity my terrible discipline and go on a week-long binge. I don’t have to because I know that whatever I did this weekend is only temporary. The weight will be gone before I know it. Today I’ve had my fantastic breakfast, and I have a great slow-carb lunch to eat.

When you take control of your fitness, you don’t fall off the wagon. You may decide to stop the wagon, get off for a bit, and then climb back on, but it is your decision. The wagon didn’t leave me anywhere. Today it’s moving again and I’m on it.

Travel Tip #5: Enjoy yourself, because you know how to control your life.

The point is that habits start to stick

Even though I didn’t observe a slow-carb diet this weekend, I didn’t overeat. Overeating has plagued me my whole life. Yes, I considered going back for more but I have learned what being full feels like, so I didn’t eat until I was sick because I confused craving with hunger.

As you can see, I also picked up some tips for next time so my trip can be even better. I hope they help you the next time you go on vacation.

Maybe I’ll be superhuman one day, but for now I’m content figuring out how to hack my humanness. 😉

What tips do you have to share that have helped you while traveling?


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