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It’s easy to fall into Big Mac and KFC crispy chicken sandwich habits when fast food is so ubiquitous. Because of this, my diet was one of my largest concerns when I set out this July for what would end up being a road trip of more than four months and 15,000 miles.
I had good eating habits at home, but living out the back of my truck took some getting used to when it came to my diet.
Here’s what I learned on the journey.
Your meals are only as good as your gear.
The first thing I did was create a simple but flexible kitchen setup that would work for all my meals.
I chose a two-burner tailgating stove, a backpacking stove, a 20-liter cooler (that I restocked with ice from gas stations and grocery stores), a plastic plate and bowl, a small paring knife, a small cutting board, and a rubber spatula.
I also chose lightweight aluminum pots, and a cast-iron pan that I’d be able to clean out by wiping with a paper towel.
Make breakfast easy.
I often stuck to a simple cold breakfast of yogurt and granola.
While large containers are often cheaper, they kept breaking open in my cooler. Instead I used single-serving yogurts. To make breakfast more filling I’d add granola and eat fruit that didn’t need to be refrigerated. A container of strawberries is usually good for a day or two, as are kiwis, apples, and oranges.
For lunch, always go light.
Lunch is where I got most of my leafy greens in. I found it surprisingly hard to keep greens from wilting or spilling into the water of my cooler, so after a lot of wasted money on damp veggies, I decided that if I ate on the road, I would buy prepared vegetables.
Restaurants like Panera and Applebee’s can be found near many roads and offer menu items heavy in roughage. Walmart also often sells affordable prepared salads.
In smaller towns without chains, I’d look for the brewery, as they often have at least one salad on the menu, plus beer.
In addition, I kept peanut butter and jelly, a loaf of bread, and cans of tuna with me at all times so that even if I couldn’t get greens, I wouldn’t have to eat a burger.
For dinner, opt for soup. Yeah, soup.
After long days driving, I always wanted a simple meal, so I often turned to soup. To get a filling meal, I’d start by making a cup of quinoa from the five-pound bag I kept with me. I’d eyeball the amount of water and add more as necessary. When the quinoa was done, I’d pour a can of soup on top.
I tried to buy vegetable-rich, low-sodium soups like Amy’s Organic, Campbell’s Well Yes!, or Progresso Vegetable Classics.
If I had a big workout, I’d add a pouch of Mono Life bone broth for more protein.
Rethink your snacks.
The hardest part about eating well on the road is having food on hand for when you’re hungry between meals or have to put cooking off while you travel.
In order to avoid fast food, I kept a number of healthy snacks on hand at all times. One of my favorites was durable vegetables that didn’t need to be refrigerated.
I’d eat bell peppers like they were apples, or a handful of carrots. Both could last for about a week without being refrigerated.
When my body did crave something salty or sweet, I turned to a two-pound bag of flavored almonds, or a bite of dark chocolate.
With a clean diet, life on the road doesn’t feel so exhausting. By keeping to these foods I always felt ready to pull over at a neat-looking trailhead or pull down my bike for a ride.
A few simple strategies and a bit of planning can keep you feeling your best.
Just don’t forget to bring hot sauce, too.