MY FAMILY ARRIVED home just a few days ago from a 3,000-mile, 18-day road trip.
The Sanford three loaded up the family Prius, with borrowed roof top box to make it feel like a double-decker bus, and set off to explore the Canadian Rockies.
You might guess that this included a heck of a lot of car time.
You would be absolutely correct.
Hitting the road is a great way to travel slowly and see more of the land you’re crossing.
It can also mean relying on truck-stop fast food and hastily procured junk to occupy and feed the troops.
Because we’ve weathered several trips of this sort and are fresh from the road right now, I thought I’d share some tips to try and keep healthy on the highway.
Empty your pantry and fridge of healthful crackers, nuts, dried fruit and hard vegetables that will travel well.
You’ll spend less money than stopping for fries every time you feel hungry.
Plus, kids respond well to familiar snacks when everything else is upside down and backward while away from home.
A cooler, water bottles, cutting board and utensils are very handy for picnic stops.
Often billboards will advertise a stop hundreds of miles in advance.
Take advantage of local produce stands and farmers markets in towns you’re stopping in or passing through.
It’s a great way to support small farmers and local businesses, as well as sampling the freshest food often grown right nearby.
Small children also need lots of breaks to run around.
Farm stands sometimes offer more to see as well.
Hot tip: eat cherries outside of your car to avoid pits, stems and juice stains on your seats.
When planning your stops for the day, consider towns that have health food stores.
Often these are co-ops or locally owned establishments with healthful options you can grab to go.
Check out the produce, deli and bulk food sections.
Trail mixes, granola, nuts and more are often less expensive and more fresh in stores that have large bulk food displays.
You also can get small amounts so you don’t need to commit to a new kind of cereal or store a giant box in your car.
Be sure to ask the staff for recommendations in the area.
You might find a few unexpected places to visit.
We find that we eat better and spend much less money if we make our own breakfasts and lunches and eat out for dinner.
Whatever makes the most sense for your family, but consider skipping the restaurants for one or two meals each day.
Breakfast is often homemade instant oatmeal or granola with milk, coffee and fruit.
Yogurt can travel well if you keep your cooler stocked with ice.
Lunch is a smorgasbord of fruit, vegetables and bread from our last produce stand stop, some salami, nuts, crackers or trail mix.
Stay away from sugary drinks.
Not only are they not healthful, extra sugar on the road makes for cranky, twitchy passengers and lots of extra bathroom breaks.
Being away from home can be stressful for so many reasons: changing children’s schedules, car issues, visiting family, lots of uninterrupted time with your spouse and child(ren).
Remember that you need to be flexible.
A McDonald’s stop is not the end of the world.
A road trip is no time to be militant about eating choices.
Fries do taste good and stopping in for fro-yo or ice cream might be just the break you all need to make it all the way through a long car day so you can fully appreciate what you set out to do: see that family, hike, fish, enjoy new places.
Carrie Sanford, who shares the Peninsula Kitchen column with Betsy Wharton, is a mother, wife, educator, artist, activist and cook.
She writes the newsletter for Salt Creek Farm in Joyce during the growing season and volunteers with nonprofits and schools in Port Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Tom Sanford, and their daughter, Abby.