Staying Healthy and Eating Real Food on the Road (Challenges & Solutions)



If you follow me on instagram, you might think I’ve been aimlessly gallivanting around the U.S. all summer without a care in the world.

But in reality, my trips have consisted of driving to and from two family weddings and one family reunion — and bumming food/places to stay off of family members along the way!

Not exactly the most luxurious or fancy kinds of vacations (but still fun nonetheless).

And if you’ve ever been on a road trip, you know how difficult it can be to eat REAL food and stay healthy while on the road.

While it’s almost impossible to be 100% perfect in these situations (or ever) there are certainly things that can be done to minimize damage without compromising the fun factor. I’ll go through some of the challenges I’ve faced below and what I’ve done to mitigate them. If you think I’ve missed something, feel free to let me know with a comment at the bottom of this post!

  • CHALLENGE #1: Avoiding drive-throughs. You wake up feeling motivated and decide to get an early start on your drive without stopping for for breakfast or even a quick snack. But a few hours into your drive, your stomach starts to rumble.

    And within a matter of 5 minutes, you’re starving.

    Suddenly, the Del Taco coming up at the next exit starts to look reeaaallly good (even though you haven’t eaten there in years).

    I feel your pain. And while I would never pass judgement on anyone for eating Del Taco in this situation, there ARE ways to avoid it.

    Snacks, for one, can be a lifesaver on road trips. Since I’m one of those people who doesn’t know how to stop eating, I usually try to avoid snacking and instead stick to eating 3 balanced and hearty meals every day.

    But road trips are a different story.

    And a bit of planning ahead can save you from compromising your otherwise healthy diet for food that will leave you feeling gross and possibly even sick.


    Farmer Jeff and I usually stock up on Larabars, Jackson’s Honest Chips, and a few other non-perishable “healthy junk food” snacks for road trips.

    While these things are great, they’re no substitute for complete meals. That’s why I’m dying to try this cooler (pictured on the left) on our next road trip! It plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter for power, allowing you to easily travel with foods that would otherwise go bad if not kept cool. How awesome is that!?

    But regardless of how much pre-planning and preparing you do, there’s still going to be times when you just have to work with what you’ve got. And in these cases, it’s always a good idea to weigh your options and make the best decisions you can considering the options at hand.

    Sometimes that means opting for a baked potato and apple pecan chicken salad from Wendy’s (been there, done that)…or getting beef jerky and a banana from the closest gas station just to hold you over.

    It isn’t ideal, but that’s life. So rather than beating yourself up over these small compromises, realize that you’re doing your best and move on with life!

  • CHALLENGE #2: Finding ways to exercise. A little bit of travel is no reason to not get your daily sweat on!

    If you’re staying in a hotel that has a fitness center, this should be easy enough. But if you’re staying with relatives or friends or somewhere that isn’t equipped with an exercise area, you may have to improvise a bit.

    CrossFit is my drug exercise of choice. So I brought a kettlebell, jump rope, and wall ball along in the car during our trips this summer.

    With these few pieces of equipment combined with body weight movements and weighted back squats (my 100 lb. little sister was nice enough to volunteer as my barbell), I was able to come up with countless on-the-go WODs during our trips.


    I also did more outdoorsy stuff (hiking, trail running, etc.) than normal, which felt amazing. There’s nothing quite like going OUTSIDE and connecting with nature — road trips are perfect for that!

    Whether you’re a runner, yogi, crossfitter, or whatever, the important thing here is to do SOMETHING. Go outside. Play a sport. Take a walk. Be creative and have fun!

  • CHALLENGE #3: Being gracious to hosts. Explaining why you eat the way you do can be a pain. Because for some reason, eating real, unprocessed food is an extremely foreign and strange concept to most ordinary folk.

    In general, explaining food choices should always be done in an extremely casual and non-defensive manner (check out Real Food Liz’s video, Explaining Food Choices (What to Say & Why), for some sound coaching on the subject).

    But when you’re a guest in someone’s home, this matter becomes all the more delicate and tricky. You want to be polite and kind, but also don’t want to feel obligated to consume edible products that just aren’t food.

    I’ve found that the best way to handle — or prevent — this from happening is to chat with your hosts ahead of time. Otherwise, they’ll end up slaving away on a meal that will you will either 1) eat against your will or 2) not eat and risk offending them.

    Neither situation is good.

    Instead, casually fill them in on your new diet and lifestyle. Offer to pick up some groceries and cook a meal or two for your hosts while you’re there. Chances are, they’ll be receptive if approached in a friendly and non-condescending way. And who knows, you might just leave a lasting impression that will transform their health for the better!

  • CHALLENGE #4: All the sitting. I can’t stand sitting still for long periods of time, so road trips are challenging for me. But there really isn’t any way to get around this one — only ways to minimize the suffering.

    These things, unfortunately, involve looking kind of silly in front of people. Oddly enough, people tend to stop and stare when you start doing air squats immediately after exiting your car at the gas station.

    I realize this approach isn’t for everyone.

    Stretching at rest stops is a good, more socially acceptable way to get the blood flowing after hours upon hours of sitting in a car.

    It also helps to do things that involve movement before and/or after your drive. For example, if I’m in Bozeman, MT and need to drive 6 hours to Salt Lake City, I’ll get up and hike for an hour or two before making the drive (instead of doing something else that involves sitting beforehand). The endorphins from the hike are usually enough to help me power through the long and tedious drive ahead.

  • CHALLENGE #5: Remembering the essentials. There’s a few things that I just don’t like to be without.


    Coconut oil is one of those things. I use it to wash my face, moisturize my skin, fatten up my coffee, and more. Without it, I’m lost. Okay, that might be an exaggeration — but only a slight one.

    Having a healthy, stable, Omega-3 rich source of fat (like coconut oil) on hand is especially important considering all of the unhealthy vegetable/seed oils that most of us are inevitably exposed to while traveling.

    Apple cider vinegar (for digestion) and sardines (for their impressive fat, protein, and vitamin content) are some of my other road trip essentials.

    And whenever I’m lucky enough to pass through a town that happens to have a Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Natural Grocers, I always stock up on Kombucha, Coconut Water, and whatever other goodies I can get my hands on!

I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone HAS to do all of these things on road trips in order to enjoy them. But I tend to feel better and have more fun when I’m making healthy choices, so it’s worth it for me to put some extra thought/effort into this stuff!

Do you agree or disagree? What are some things you can’t travel without? Have a personal experience that relates to one of the challenges listed above? Share it in a comment!


  1. says

    Those little fridges are great. A friend has been driving for business (escort for oversize loads) and pleasure (moving to Oklahoma from Norco). He uses it all the time.

    I recently went with him and friends to look at the Oklahoma property and really saw the advantages of having that little fridge.

    • Bethany McDaniel says

      Really? Okay I will definitely need to get one for next time! Just checked out your website – love the philosophy behind the site’s name and what you’re all about!

      • says

        Bethany, Thank you so much for taking the time to check out my blog and the kind comment. I’ve not been very active on it lately; too busy getting ready to move and working. Once I’m moved and we start really getting the farm up and running, there will be lots more things of interest to see there.

  2. Ken Myers says

    I’ve done a form of ‘car yoga’ on long trips. You can sit in a car and focus on the sacrum and crown lengthening away from one another, and also the shoulders lengthening / broadening, and focusing on the breath. You may want/need to move the seat back far enough that it is not supporting you, and just sit up straight on your own. I drove 12 hours in one day doing what I could in terms of yogic stretches and breath work in the car and felt great at the end of the day. In addition to helping me feel better physically after the long drive, In some ways I felt I had improved / deepened my yoga in some ways from having this kind of specialized focused session. And, too, it’s something to occupy your mind and attention which helps the time fly.

    • Bethany McDaniel says

      That is so awesome, Ken! What a great way to pass the time while improving your yoga practice! I haven’t done much yoga YET, but this is definitely something I would try. Did you find specific tips or movements from somewhere? Or were you just making it up as you went along?

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