A Road Trip Challenge To Eat Healthy (Healthy Hollywood)

Julia Schmuckler, Rachel Schmuckler and their friends Lauren and Lauren Julia Schmuckler, Rachel Schmuckler and their friends Lauren and Lauren

Between the massive snowstorms and the bone-chilling polar vortex, this nasty winter weather is wreaking havoc on travelers everywhere.

Thousands of flights have been cancelled, leaving families unexpectedly stranded at their holiday getaways. With many folks needing to get back home, these flight snafus have required some families to take an unexpected road trip.

And, if that’s not a big enough hassle, add on the challenge of trying to eat healthy while navigating through our countries fast food freeway fare.

On the road, everything is super-sized! There is an abundance of neon-orange cheese curls, burgers piled high with artery-clogging trans fats and an assortment of unidentifiable meat on a stick. Driving can prompt an urge for mindless munching and the only thing nutritionally promising seems to be where you also stop for gas. Ugh!

Healthy Hollywood’s good friend Joe Schmuckler and his two daughters Rachel and Julia, along with two of their friends, faced this exact scenario. Stranded in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with no flights available for days, this crew piled into a rental car and began their 2,000-plus mile trek back to New Jersey. So, to make their trip a tad bit more interesting, I asked them to document the roadside menu. And, both Julia and Rachel are allergic to gluten, so they needed to be extra careful.

“I knew going into this adventure the food options were going to be an issue, particularly with a celiac daughter and another one sensitive to gluten,” adds Joe.

“My family and I eat healthy foods and treat ourselves here and there but to go for two days with nothing but junk made me feel disgusting. At our last rest stop my dad told me to get something other than chips and candy so I picked up some cashews,” reveals Julia, 16. “I ate a burger with no bun for two lunches and two dinners. I ate sausage for breakfast. The healthiest I was able to get was to drink water as opposed to soda” reveals Rachel, 17, who also counted the fast food chains, adding, “I found a ton of Pizza Huts, 67 McDonalds, 42 Subways, 17 Wendy’s, and 13 Burger Kings.”

Her sister Julia adds, “The only choices offered were burgers and fries, milkshakes, chicken nuggets, pizza, and maybe a salad of iceberg lettuce if you’re lucky.”

This fast food fest sounds like a teenager’s dream menu. And, yes, these gals like their sweets, but after a few days on the road with nary a green in sight, they craved a home cooked meal and certainly had a new appreciation for healthy food.

“I always knew I ate pretty well (even thought I have a sweet tooth) but I never noticed how two full days of eating pure sugar and preservatives and trans fat could make you feel. I was getting headaches,” states Julia. “The best feeling in the world was arriving home, opening the fridge and pulling out a nice bundle of green grapes,” adds Rachel.

So, is there a way to eat healthy on the interstate? “There’s an abundance of fast food options offering high fat, high sugar, high sodium foods, caloric beverages and loads of calories. But there are also mini marts at gas stations. Surprisingly, you can make “better choices” if you give your menus and snack choices some thought,” explains nutrition expert, Amy Hendel, who wrote “The 4 Habits of Healthy Families.”

Amy shares with Healthy Hollywood her three rules for on-the-road nutrition:

If You Can, Pack It At Home: Freeze some water bottles that will defrost along the way. Grab non perishable fruit like apples and bananas. Grab 100 calorie nut packs, so you “feel” the calorie load, based on the portion size. Frozen grapes are wonderful too. A Greek yogurt and berries in a small disposable Tupperware with bran cereal mixed in is easy to eat and quick, if you pull in to a rest stop. or make your own wrap with a large, low carb tortilla , some hummus, veggies, and low sodium turkey or edamame beans. Keep a nutrition bar ( I like Quest Bars - about 170 cal)) handy for about 3 hours after a regular meal. Hard-boiled eggs and individual peanut butter packs transport well too and provide easy eating and quick energy. And cut up veggies allow you to munch away for a very low calorie payoff - carrots, celery and peppers are probably the easiest.

Mini-Mart: Make a coffee latte with skim milk if available. Grab fresh fruit, nutrition bar, simple nut packs, a bottled smoothie, and if you are forced to grab a sandwich - go for turkey and cheese and lose some of the bread - or split the sandwich and make it 2 separate meals with a fruit. If there’s a salad - just beware the creamy dressing - remember you can punch up the protein by adding a pack of nuts.

Fast Food: Choose a simple burger, no mayo, add extra veggies; Grilled chicken sandwich with veggies is a good option too. If there’s a salad with lean protein, ask for dressing on the side. If there is a fruit and yogurt smoothie or a fruit yogurt parfait (rare) -grab it! A vegetable-based soup is great. If you pizza, see if they can add veggies on top or grab a salad. Keep it to one slice, and blot the oil.

For more healthy eating tips, check out www.healthgal.com.

-- Terri MacLeod

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