Even when you’re not on a road trip, traveling for work, or on a dedicated extended outing, you likely have days when you’re out and about for the entire day. Whether planned or unplanned, these all-day outings can wreak havoc on your healthy eating, not to mention your food budget. However, with some simple preparation, it’s possible—and easy—to eat healthy on the days when you find yourself on the move with all-day errands, working away from the office, or simply busier than anticipated.
1. Bring prepared snacks… ones that you’ll actually eat
Sure, it feels virtuous to pack a snack box with carefully portioned unsalted almonds and carrot sticks, but when the 2 pm hunger hits and you’re passing a greasy fast-food joint or fueling up at the corner gas station, it’s hard to resist a quick hit of drive-through fries or a packaged snack in lieu of your healthy snack box. Your morning snack packing has its benefits, but it doesn’t do any good if the food seems unappealing or unsatisfying later in the day. The key is variety, and not trying to be too idealistic when packing.
Instead, try the middle ground: pack veggie sticks and nuts, but allow yourself something sweet as well. If your sweet tooth is satisfied because you put a cookie in your bag, that sugar in moderation is far better than grabbing fistfuls of sugary snacks at the convenience store.
Variety is also important because you don’t know what kind of mood you’ll be in later in the day. Give yourself plenty to choose from, including something salty, something crunchy, something chewy, and something sweet. If the thought of convenience makes you hit the drive-through, combat this with equally convenient snacks. Cut your apple ahead of time and bring snack-sized treats like packaged string cheese or dried fruit packets. Stock the energy bars you’ll actually eat, not the ones that were on sale. Consider the reasons you hit the fast food or convenience stores, and see what you can do to mitigate that ahead of time.
2. Stay hydrated with an easy-to-use reusable bottle
Drinking water throughout the day helps keep you energized, clear-headed, and also helps you feel full, which can stop mindless snacking. Being out and about all day does make it harder to stay on top of water intake, especially on super busy days. Bring a reusable water bottle with you when you leave the house in the morning, and make sure it’s easy to use. While “easy to use” might sound unnecessary for a water bottle, many people are more likely to take frequent sips of water if it’s more accessible. Instead of a screw-on lid, look for a bottle with a pop-out straw or squeeze valve, or even a large reusable tumbler with a straw. This will make it easier to drink water in the car and to use one-handed if you’re juggling shopping bags.
3. If you do need to grab food on the go, choose wisely
If you’re out of snacks, your errands are taking longer than you thought, or you’re working remotely from a coffee shop and the day got away from you, that’s fine, you can still make smart choices. First off, avoid the fast-food spiral. While it’s easy, cheap, and convenient, it’s not the best habit and too much fast food has been proven to be detrimental to health—it contributes to heart disease and obesity.
Instead, hit up a health food store or grocery store for a wide variety of nutritious snacks, including grab-and-go options and prepared foods. And if you’re in a part of town where the gas station is the only option? You can still make good choices. Grab an energy bar with ingredients you can recognize, high fiber, and low added sugars. A piece of fruit or a pack of almonds are also common finds at most convenience stores.
4. Keep shelf-stable snacks in your car
It’s never a bad idea to stash a few different healthy, energizing snacks in your car for those days when you’re out longer than you expected. Just make sure they’re shelf-stable and won’t become inedible after a few weeks if you don’t get around to eating them. Protein bars are a great option but avoid chocolatey coatings during the summer, or they’ll be a melted mess. Nuts, trail mix, or exercise-friendly options like energy gels or chews are portable and easy to eat quickly on the go.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, hitting up the ice cream shop or fast food joint once in a while is going to happen, but if you follow the tips above on most days, these stops will be fewer and farther between. Make some trail mix and grab a water bottle. It’s time to hit the road healthy-style.
Written by Maggie Slepian for Matcha in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.