When you hear the words ‘Road trip’, you immediately think of freedom, exploration and unending fun, right! For a road trip to go well, planning ahead is crucial. You ensure your vehicle is in top shape, you have your route map ready, you know where you want to make the pit stops…wait, what about paying a little attention to you (and your fellow road trip-pers) being in a good shape to enjoy it to the fullest? What about your road trip food?
Road trips go hand-in-hand with unhealthy road-side foods which leads to fatigue, burnout and unexpected breaks in your trip. Add to the unhealthy eating the sedentary situation of driving the car, and you could not only end up gaining a few pounds on your long road trip, but also not have the stamina to enjoy the trip to the fullest. I am sure you don’t want that!
Make sure your road trip is brimming with good health, energy and enjoyment.
Here are some road trip food tips
One week before the start date
Eat a high-carb diet for at least seven to eight days before your trip. A high carbohydrate diet should be packed with complex carbohydrate foods like brown rice, whole wheat chapathis, bhakris, whole wheat pasta, boiled Potatoes and boiled sweet potatoes. Fruits like Apple and Pear, boiled kabuli chana or roasted Bengal gram (The black roasted chana aka Mahabhaleshwar chana) also help building Carbohydrate reserves for a long trip.
Remember! Your body (specifically, your brain) can use only glucose for energy. So, you want to build up a good supply of glucose (stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles)
Water is equally important! Drinking 8-10 glasses is healthy but adding another 4-5 glasses each day, starting one week before the trip, will keep you hydrated and prevent hunger pangs too. Plain, slightly chilled water gets absorbed fastest. Adding Glucose powder will not help you much…so avoid. Coconut water, may be one-a day, for 7 days before the ride, ensures your nerves remain cool.
On the start day
You can have a couple of whole grain toasts and a glass of 100% orange juice Or a medium-sized apple with a handful of raisins, before you step out of the house, early in the morning. Then, a couple of hours later, re-fuel with a wholesome breakfast with the some of the most common road trip food like Upma, Poha, Idli-Sambhar, Misaal-Pav etc. This should keep you full for the next couple of hours. Also, keep drinking water!
A minimum of 10-15 grams of carb along with some proteins should be consumed for each hour of the day (The blood glucose dips every 1.5-2 hours and that is what leads to low energy levels and sluggishness) spent on the bike. You can get this from an energy bar (opt for a sugar free one, containing 2-3 g of proteins) Or from (5-6 seedless dates + 4-5 badams) Or from approx 1 ½ tbsp of raisins + 4-5 unsalted pistas/cashews. Dry fruits are some of the least messy road trip food and it keeps you going.
Having Gatorade/Enerzal/Electral while riding/driving can be beneficial over water alone by not only helping maintain blood glucose levels but might also help to reduce stress on the immune system. One would require approximately half litre of water for every hour of ride. Remember! You get dehydrated, even if you are travelling in an air conditioned vehicle. You don’t have to sweat to lose water!
If you ever stop during a ride and there’s a water source, whether or not you’re feeling thirsty or need a water refill, drink out of one or both of your bottles and then top them off.
Energy drinks are great…they help you stay awake, right? Well, that’s because they contain caffeine. Caffeine is known to give your nerves the ‘kick’ they need to stay alert but then, this spike in alertness will definitely be followed by a drop (so sudden) that one will feel really tired and fatigued. This is also the reason why one should go easy on the excessive coffee consumption too. So, use caffeinated drinks judiciously!
Ideal lunch during the ride
Good options include Chapathi/Rice/Bhakri with Nonveg curry (Preferable egg/chicken or lean cuts of mutton rather than fish) along with a salad and a glass of buttermilk. Vegetarians can opt for a sprouted pulse curry/ thick dal/paneer-based veg curry in place of the non-veg options.
Milk and milk products are very useful snacks. Casein (Milk protein) is a slow digesting protein that keeps you full longer while assisting muscle repair. Whey, on the other hand, is a fast digesting protein, and is a great choice for after the ride or at the end of the day. Milk is also rich in Leucine, a branched-chain amino acid. It helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue after long rides and encourages the growth of new muscle and lessen muscle soreness.
Experts say that you’ll have “tired times” during every 12-hour cycle, most often between 3:00 and 5:00 (a.m. and p.m.). You may want to plan to arrive by that point or stop for a power nap.
Once the ride is over…
First…Rehydrate! Then, a balanced meal including all food groups is recommended. We are often so focused on protein, fluid, and carbohydrates that fruits and veggies go by the wayside. Not only are fruits and vegetables great sources of carbohydrates and immune building antioxidants, they taste great too. And have been proven to help repair tissues and promote overall stamina.
Hope these road trip food tips help you out on your next journey. What food works for you when you are on a road trip? Let us know in the comments. Also check out some useful road trip hacks and road trip essentials.
Not sure where to go for your next road trip? Check out our list of road trips from Mumbai, road trips from Chennai, road trips from Hyderabad, road trips from Bangalore, road trips from Delhi, places to visit near Bangalore and places to visit near Delhi.
Have a great trip with our list of road trip food!
Padmashri Shanmugaraj, is a Registered Dietitian with 14+ years of experience in Corporate Wellness Programs, content writing, Academics, Individual diet consultations as well as Recruitment and Training of dietitians. She holds a Post graduate Diploma in Dietetics & Hospital food Service from IHMCTAN, Mumbai. She holds Life Memberships of IDA (Indian Dietetic Association) and IAPEN.
Her articles are universally revered and have been published online as well as in magazines. Pallavi is also an avid road tripper and you can often see her on the highway with her family and kids.
You can reach her through LinkedIn