Let me just start by saying that I’m not a person who loves fast food, and this can be tricky when my husband and I drive 3,000 miles across the country with our kids for our annual camping trip. I don’t love bellying up to a fast food counter three times a day for yet another meal that comes wrapped in paper and stuffed in a bag. Sometimes there’s no avoiding it though, like when we wake up at 6am, hitch up our RV, and hit the road for a full day of driving. I have to admit that we hit the drive-thru on these early mornings, but they’re few and far between. Even though we’re living life on the road for almost two weeks, we still manage to eat healthy meals (not including our bagged breakfasts!) and get plenty of exercise. With a little planning and the desire to not derail the healthy habits your family follows at home, there are plenty of ways you can stay healthy and active while on the open road.
The Basics: Food and Water
If I had to choose only one healthy tip to follow when cruising down the open road, it’d be to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Water is imperative to your body’s healthy functioning, and without it you’ll quickly start to feel the negative effects of being dehydrated. These include
- Muscle cramps
- Joint pain
Driving for long periods of time, especially at high speeds on the highway and towing an RV, requires that you be alert, wide awake, and focused on your surroundings. If you get dehydrated, you won’t be any of these things. You’ll be tired, irritable, unfocused, shaky, and you won’t feel good. The easiest way to make sure you stay hydrated is by always having a water bottle in your cup holder and regularly taking sips from it. And when it’s gone, refill it or replace it with a new one. The same goes for your passengers! Keeping your little campers hydrated could very well ward off the backseat fighting and screams of “He’s touching me!” or “She keeps looking at me!” Avoid sugary drinks at all costs! Not only are they loaded with astronomical amounts of sugary syrups and sometimes caffeine, but they also use water that is stored in your body as they’re processing and making their way through your systems. They act as a kind of diuretic and can speed up dehydration. If your taste buds need something a little more exciting than water, give sparkling water with lemon or orange a try for something different.
Healthy Snacks=No Temptations
One of the quickest and easiest ways to ruin your diet on the road is by relying on fast food for snacks instead of packing your own. The fast food industry has made it so easy to just pull over and pick up a large fry and milkshake or a bag of Combos and a soda at a gas station. There’s a reason that fast food restaurants are literally within .1 mile of every highway exit in the entire country. But just because they want you to buy a #4 with a side of chili fries doesn’t mean you should! As you’re packing for your camping trip, make a separate list of snacks for the car. And then go buy them. Bring along delicious, healthy food that you and your family will actually eat. Think of things like fruit that is in season (apples, grapes, oranges, berries, etc.), air-popped popcorn, almonds, peanuts, natural or homemade granola bars, pretzels, and so on. Wash the fruit ahead of time and put it in a sealed container or baggie so it’s easy to get to. If your kids like chips, buy the small lunch-sized bags so they don’t devour a large bag in five minutes. If you’re in for a long day of riding, try eating smaller, snack-like meals to help with digestion. It never feels good to inhale a large meal and then sit for hours without moving. By bringing along healthy snacks and having them within reach in the car, you will not only save yourself from making unhealthy, spur-of-the-moment decisions in the drive thru, but you’ll save loads of money as well! It may be fast food, but it’s not cheap!
Eating out can’t always be avoided, and that’s ok. Just be smart about what you order when you do eat out. Just because the restaurant you’re at has a triple deluxe bacon cheeseburger meal deal on the menu doesn’t mean you should order it. Sure, it might sound good after driving for 6 hours and listening to your kids bickering in the backseat nonstop, but how are you going to feel after you’ve downed the last bite, your stomach is at max capacity, and you still have 5 hours of driving left? Be the person in line who orders the grilled chicken. Or (gasp!) the salad! They’re actually pretty good. I’ve had delicious strawberry walnut salads or grilled chicken cherry salads at fast food restaurants that were surprisingly tasty! Steal a few of your kid’s fries when they’re not looking instead of ordering your own large fry. They won’t know and you’ll walk out feeling victorious because you conquered the fast food line. When on the road, try to stay away from fried foods (fries, mozzarella sticks, onion rings), carb-loaded foods (donuts, muffins), nutrient-starved foods (potato chips, cookies), and sugary foods (soda, candy).
Don’t Skip Meals
When you’re trying to make good time and reach your destination before it gets dark, it’s tempting to make fewer stops and forgo meals. But don’t do this! While it sounds like skipping a meal might make you feel healthier, it actually backfires and has negative health effects.
- Your body produces more cortisol, making you feel stressed
- Your insulin increases, then drops dramatically, creating blood sugar problems
- Your digestion slows and becomes erratic
- Your metabolism slows down and you’ll feel tired
- You’ll become “hangry!” (an unpleasant combo of hungry and angry) and no one will want to be around you!
- When you finally eat, you’ll overeat and make poor food choices
So, to avoid all the negative effects of not eating, try to stay on a regular schedule of 3 meals a day. Since this can be hard when traveling, rely on healthy snacks in between meals so your body doesn’t go on strike!
While it’s hard to get much of any exercise when riding from point A to point B, once you get there the sky is the limit! Turn the great outdoors into your gym! Your campsite, campground, and surrounding areas offer plenty of opportunities for you to get moving, get fit, and have fun! Recently on a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine, my family and I spent hours hiking along the rocky coastline and couldn’t have had more fun! We climbed up huge volcanic boulders, jumped over crevasses, hiked up and down mountains, swam in the (chilly!) water of the Atlantic, and so much more. We used muscles we didn’t even know we had! In our daily outings to see and do everything Acadia had to offer, we got a great workout in at the same time. So lace up your hiking boots and start exploring the beauty around you! Set off on a hike, a bike ride, or a kayaking adventure and take in the stunning scenery. Research hiking or biking trails before you go so you can choose trails that are suited to your family’s ability levels.
But you don’t have to leave your campsite to work up a sweat and tone some muscles. Give these exercises a try at or near your campsite the next time you’re feeling like you need to tone and tighten. Kids and hubby still sleeping? Start your day with these energizing exercises right outside your RV.
Sprints: Get your heart racing and blood pumping
- Either by yourself or with your family, do sprints on solid ground.
- Sprint for 15 seconds in one direction.
- Turn around and sprint in the other direction for another 15 seconds and try to beat your first time.
Squats: These build lower body strength
- Stand tall with your feet should-width apart. Tighten your ab muscles.
- Hold your arms out straight in front of you. This helps with stability.
- With your chest up, sit back as if you’re going to sit in a chair.
- Keep your weight on your heels.
- When you’re as low as you can go, push back up through your heels, squeezing your glutes.
Picnic Table Jumps: Take your squats one step further with these!
- Stand in front of your campsite’s picnic table or find a park bench nearby.
- Lower yourself into the squat position (above).
- Using your arms for momentum, spring upward and land on the picnic table bench (seat) with both feet.
- Step back down and repeat.
Picnic Table Push Ups: Work those biceps!
- Position your body with your hands planted firmly on a picnic table bench and your feet a good distance behind you. Your body should be on a sloping angle.
- Extend your arms so that they’re straight.
- Slowly bend your arms so your chest is nearing the bench.
- Once you’re as low as you can go, slowly straighten your arms to the beginning position.
Picnic Bench Dips: Reverse push ups
- Stand with your back to the picnic table and put your hands behind you on the bench with your fingers cupping the bench.
- Extend your legs out in front of you.
- Bend your arms and lower yourself down slowly so that your butt is getting closer to the ground.
- Slowly push yourself back up and repeat.
Lunges: Tone those thighs and rear!
- Always keep your upper body straight, shoulders back, chin up, and your core tight.
- Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are at about a 90° angle. Don’t extend your front knee past your foot or let your back knee touch the ground!
- With your weight in your heels, push back up to the starting position.
Yoga: The great outdoors is the perfect place to get your “Om” on!
- Use a thicker mat for outdoor yoga, as the ground can often be harder, rocky, or unstable.
- Choose a nice quiet spot that will enhance your outdoor yoga experience, like a nearby beach, along a rocky coastline, or at a park.