Low Carb On The Road by Dana Carpender

It’s that family vacation time of year! This means that many of us will be at the mercy of truck stops, or worse, airlines. Here are some suggestions for making it through the flights and the road trips without carbing out:

  • Eat your high protein breakfast, and maybe even a little bigger breakfast than usual. This will help prevent sudden attacks of hunger that kill willpower and make you prey to junky road food or expensive airport cookies. It will also help stabilize your blood sugar all day, and keep you calm and cheerful – which, if you’re traveling with family, is an advantage not to be underestimated.
  • Make sure the kids eat their high protein breakfast, too – if you feed them Pop Tarts or Lucky Charms, or let them load up on high carb/high sugar pancakes and syrup before loading them into the car, you will be sorry!
  • If you’re flying, take food with you. Most airlines no longer offer food beyond a few pretzels on flights under two or three hours, and even on longer flights will probably not offer a low carb meal or snack option. A couple of protein bars, a bag of pumpkin or sunflower seeds, a can of mixed nuts, some individually wrapped string cheeses, a hard boiled egg or two, all will travel well in your carry on bag or purse, and will keep you from breaking down and buying a overpriced scone at the airport Starbucks.
  • That being said, I have found edible low carb food at airports. I had a wonderful chicken Caesar salad at the Dallas airport last time I was through, and any airport McDonald’s can make you a bunless burger or a scrambled egg for breakfast. Even at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, which was torn up at the time, I was able to get a couple of hot dogs, which I shamelessly ate without the buns – not a gourmet treat, but it kept me from sin.
  • If you’re going to be on the road, you’ll be stopping at gas station and truck stop mini-marts, which are invariably a festival of junk carbs. However, in my experience, there is almost always something we can eat. Look for peanuts, pork rinds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, beef jerky (read the labels – jerky always has added sugar, and the amounts vary tremendously), and occasionally even hot dogs, boiled eggs, and pre-packaged salads. If they have a deli, you can ask for sliced meat and cheese without the bread.
  • Of course, you’ll find coffee, diet soda, and bottled water at almost any mini-mart. If you luck out, you’ll also find iced and/or hot tea. If you’re getting coffee, and like it light, beware of the “cream” – non-dairy creamer contains plenty-o-sugar, especially the flavored varieties. Fake creamer is also loaded with hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is horrible for you. If they don’t have real cream or half-and-half, consider buying a little carton of milk to lighten your coffee – it has some naturally occurring lactose, but it’s far better for you than fake creamer.
  • Truck stop restaurants are no problem at all. You can invariably get a steak, and while it probably won’t be USDA Choice, it will be edible and low carb. They often have a salad bar, too, and if not, I’ve found truck stop waitresses to be very nice about bringing me an extra salad in place of the potato. Depending on the truck stop, you may find broiled pork chops and un-breaded chicken, too. And many truck stop restaurants serve breakfast 24 hours, which is always a good bet for the low carber.
  • Want a cheap, fast infusion of protein? That Nice Boy I Married and I are big fans of Waffle House, those ultra-cheap restaurants you see on highways all over the Midwest. Not gourmet, but you can’t beat it for a few fried eggs and some bacon, or eggs and pork chops, or eggs and steak or whatever. You can get sliced tomatoes in place of the toast and hash browns. The wait staff is invariably friendly at these places, I’ve found.
  • Most fast food places have a grilled chicken salad available, or you can get a side salad and a bunless burger. At Taco Bell, get the taco salad minus the beans, double the meat or chicken, and don’t eat the taco shell! White Castle is pretty hopeless, at least last I checked. KFC recently introduced grilled chicken, and it’s quite good. A couple of pieces of grilled chicken and a double side of green beans makes a quick and filling low carb meal.
  • Consider taking along picnic fare. With a cooler full of sliced turkey, ham and roast beef, some sliced cheese, mayonnaise and mustard, lettuce and tomatoes, plus bread for the carb-eaters and some low carb tortillas for you, maybe some fruit, you’re ready for a quick lunch at a rest area. Bring a Frisbee, and the kids won’t even miss the McDonald’s play land. Cheaper, too. That Nice Boy I Married and I do this all the time. I’ve even been known to make a wrap or two while riding shotgun.
  • I like to carry a jar of instant tea in the car. That way I can get a cup of ice water at a gas station mini-mart, and have nice carb-free iced tea. Most convenience stores don’t have iced tea, and if they do, it’s often the bottled stuff, and sweetened – or if it’s at the fountain, it’s often “raspberry iced tea” – again, with sugar in it. If you want to do this, it’s not a bad idea to get one super-sized iced tea at a fast food joint, in one of those plastic cups with the narrow bottom, to fit in the cup holder, and with a lid and a straw. These will generally hold up for a whole trip’s worth of refills.

That’s about it! Have a safe and happy trip, you hear?

© Copyright 2009 by Dana Carpender. Used by kind permission of the author somewhere on Route 66.

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