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Travel smart: In the car

Travelling by car can be incredibly boring. Munching on lollies and high-fat, salty snacks fills in time but can end up making you feel tired and irritable.

What is it about sitting in one place virtually immobile that makes you absolutely starving?

The trick is to have healthy snacks packed in advance. Bananas, apples, grapes, dried apricots, figs, pretzels, plain popcorn, low-fat crackers and small muesli bars are a few ideas.

Keep snacks in sealed containers or re-sealable food bags to keep them fresh and prevent them from being squashed.

Packing a small chilly bag keeps yoghurts, drinks and sandwiches fresh. Take plenty of bottled water with you; some chilled, some frozen. That way you will always have a refreshing cold drink on hand. Add slices of orange, lemon, lime or a sprig of mint to your water to spruce up the flavour.

Stopping for petrol is inevitable, but eating a pie or chocolate doesn’t have to be. If you’re not hungry but get that urge to buy something, go for sugar-free gum, mints or Tic Tacs.

If you are hungry and ready for a meal or snack, plan what you are going to have before you go into the shop. Opt for a sandwich, sushi, plain popcorn, pretzels, a small bag of unsalted nuts (a 30g packet not 150g!) a muesli bar, yoghurt drink or fruit smoothie.

If you have a treat, keep it small: a single Whittaker’s dark chocolate finger, an individual packet of low-fat chips or a kid-size packet of lollies to share.

A family-sized packet of chips can have 74g of fat (two golf balls worth!) and a family-sized bag of lollies can have around 20 teaspoons of sugar, which you don’t really burn off by sitting on your bum for six hours.

  • Think about length of journey and take enough healthy food to keep you all going.
  • Be strategic about where you stop: if you’re not hungry and don’t need to buy food, go to a petrol station with a small shop; there will be less tempting food on show.
  • Take a picnic and make it a fun part of the journey – plan your journey to go past a park or nature reserve so you can have a toilet and walk stop and a healthy lunch.
  • Keep the journey fun so that food isn’t the only distraction: play eye spy, count red cars, hunt the alphabet out on number plates, or listen to music.
  • Plan your breaks – have ‘comfort’ and stretch stops by walkways, parks or rivers rather than at a café or fast food place.
  • Take your portable snacks with you.
  • If you can plan for a meeting, try planning for your eating. Work out a rough plan of where you will stop to eat and what time.
  • Have something to eat before you leave home or take breakfast with you. A whole grain bread sandwich with peanut butter and banana, muesli bar and piece of fruit, portable breakfast of pre-made overnight oats (see our recipes). If you skip the healthy fuel at the start of the day, by 11am you’ll be needing a quick food fix and making a healthy choice might go out the window.
  • Stop at a supermarket, fruit store, bakery or sandwich shop en route if you haven’t got food onboard. Buy a single whole grain roll, a small amount of lean deli meat or a can of tuna, add a handful of lettuce from the
    self-serve section and a tomato. Voilà: you have a healthy lunch. It’s easy to buy a few pieces of fruit and single yoghurt and much cheaper than from a gas station.
  • Have plastic cutlery, a small plate and bowl stored in the glove box. A small packet of baby wipes is also great to clean up with after your healthy feast.
First published: Jul 2007



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