How to Stay Healthy
Staying healthy on the road is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish. Unfamiliarity with cities and towns, strange hours, bad food at gas stations and truck stops, poor sleep, and stress can really take their toll on a body. It's hard to keep up with normal habits while on the road, like eating a good breakfast, staying away from snacks and access to fresh vegetables and fruit. I've found that sometimes eating on the road means choosing the lesser of evils. Here's a few tips for navigating the aisles of the truck stops.
Pack your own food and snacks.
If you are smart and plan ahead, you can pack yourself a cooler full of good for you goodies. Pre-cut vegetables and fruits, sliced deli meats, boiled eggs, nuts, dried fruits, and jars of healthy herbal infusions to sip along the way (Ideally including nervine and adaptogenic herbs to help deal with the stress of being on the road). I wasn't as prepared, so I didn't have a cooler full of goods, so took my chances with the truck stop fare.
Avoid any foods you usually avoid.
If you have an allergy to any sort of food: gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts etc, you definitely need to stay away from them. Having an allergic reaction of any sort, mild or severe is not something you want to be dealing with while driving and being away from home. If you have food allergies, it is probably even more vital that you pack your own food for the road, as it is very hard to guarantee the food on the road is free of offending allergens.
Stay away from high fructose corn syrup.
This is much easier said then done. Sodas, juices, and even some beef jerky is full of this stuff. High fructose corn syrup is even worse for you than just plain sugar, in many respects, favor cane sugar over corn syrup in your drinks, or better yet, choose unsweetened, unflavored drinks, like water. Being on the road is the one time I make exceptions for caffeinated beverages, because sometimes you NEED something to stay focused on driving. (Better though would be to pull over and rest if you need to). In the case of a caffeinated drink, I suggest plain black coffee, (pour it over ice if you need a cold drink), or unsweetened black or green tea. No Red Bull, Monster pump you up kind of drinks. Sodas are usually a bad choice too, as are most “juice” drinks, which are mostly corn syrup and red dye #3. Watch out. Read your labels.
Read the labels on your snacks too. I usually choose beef jerky as a snack on the road, but many brands are full of additives: corn syrup, soy sauce with wheat, hydrolyzed soy protein, MSG and other unmentionables. Pack your own jerky if you can. If you are lucky enough to be traveling in an area which relies on ranching or subsistence hunting, you might be able to find real, honest to goodness, Jerky. I found a nice brand, Old Santa Fe Trail jerky, sold in NM, made with beef, salt, and various spices. They have green and red chile flavored jerky. It was dry, crunchy, and just pure beef jerky. This was my best friend while on the road. I bought several packages as soon as I found it in New Mexico at the first gas stop, and ate it along the way. This makes a really good breakfast option if you are on the road early as well. Here's a link to the company's retail website http://www.route66beefjerky.com/index.html. Okay, so it isn't organic, or even free range beef, but again, the rule here is LESSER OF EVILS. I'd rather eat this than a snickers bar or additive ridden fake food.
Usually choosing nuts, unflavored, but salted, is safe. Read the labels to be sure, but they are an excellent source of protein and fiber, and are usually not too disgusting, but stay away from the smokehouse or ranch flavorings.
This is probably one of the hardest things to do while on the road, but probably one of the most important. You are much less likely to snack, feel tired and run down, foggy headed, or have a dangerous blood sugar crash while driving if you start the day off with some real food. Even if it means going to a Denny's and ordering fried eggs and a side of potatoes with fruit. Some places will have nice scrambles with sausage, bacon, veggies and eggs. Again watch out for dairy in the scrambled eggs, and skip the toast if you are gluten intolerant. Be careful though, make sure you make your needs clear to the waiter.
If you can't take the time for a sit down breakfast, you must make sure to have something to eat. I ate nuts, beef jerky, and a hemp protein drink (made with some plain juice, no HFCS), when I couldn't stop for eggs. But, that said, I would have been much better off eating some eggs in the morning. I choose to leave early in the morning to plan around the weather ( wind was much worse in the afternoons), and skipped the sit down breakfast.
Skip the gas station fare.
If you have the choice, avoid eating at a gas station all together. You are much more likely to find real, edible and reasonably decent food if you sit down at a restaurant rather than a quickie fast food joint or gas station. I was pleasantly surprised when we opted to eat at a Crackerbarrel one evening. I ordered a plate of plain roast beef, turnip greens and green beans for dinner, at a very reasonable price. Meat and veggies, yeah, again, not organic, and probably cooked poorly, but it wasn't a crazy fried meal of nastiness. Remember, Lesser of Evils. If you have to eat at a fast food joint, get the burger sans bun and deep fried fries (skip the coke too), or a salad with grilled chicken without the corn syrup and rancid oil laden dressing.
Another good option for eating on the road is stopping at a real grocery store to pick up deli meats, prepacked salads, rotisserie chickens, or whole pieces of fruit.
Plenty of rest
Getting enough sleep and rest is just as important to your health as it is to your sanity. Make sure you stop and sleep if you are tired, get a good nights sleep, either at a hotel, camped out, or otherwise.
Herbs for Digestion
I know for me personally, under stress, my digestion is the first thing to suffer, and can cause all sorts of suffering. Staying away from junk foods on the road is a good first step, as is taking your nervine herbs to stay relaxed. Good digestion can't happen if you are stressed out. Then I encourage good digestion with the use of some simple herbs. I keep on hand a very few things in capsule form, but find that ginger capsules or pills are extremely handy to keep in the car, both for car sickness, indigestion and discomfort, but to keep the digestion in good working order. I start the day with a couple, and take a few before every meal.
If, like me, you seem to get heartburn regardless of whether or not you eat good food, bad food, or no food, a stash of whole fennel seeds is a handy remedy from Ayurveda. I just kept a little bag of the seeds in my console and took a pinch and chewed it periodically, as needed. Fennel tincture can work, as can wood betony.
Keeping up with your fiber intake can be really helpful on the road, and aid in preventing constipation or diarrhea. Beans are high in fiber, but can cause gas. A little hemp protein shake has lots of good fiber and protein, or a couple of handfuls of chia, flax, and sesame seeds every day can help things stay regular.
Despite the annoyance of stopping every couple of hours to pee, staying hydrated is really important, both for proper digestion, staying focused and just staying well overall. Plain water is best for this while on the road, the caffeinated drinks are likely to be more diuretic and dehydrating than regular water. Good herbal infusions to keep up with hydration can include moistening, demulcent herbs like marshmallow, elm, linden and hibiscus. You can easily mix powders of these herbs to your liking, and then add a teaspoon full to a jar or cup of cool water.