Are you traveling soon but want to stay healthy on the road? Have you noticed that since you changed your diet and purposed to eat whole foods that it’s REALLY hard to find food on the road? It can be frustrating and discouraging that you can’t just stop at the next town and grab something quick to eat anymore. It’s a constant reminder that your life has changed, right? It’s time to go Road Trippin’ Paleo Style!
My Big Road Trip Mistake
I’ll never forget our first road trip after I started eating gluten-free. It was close to a decade ago and gluten-free foods were still really hard to find. I didn’t even think to bring along my own food and instead I thought I’d wing it on our trip. That was a huge mistake.
Instead, of enjoying the road trip with my family, I found my self constantly hungry and actually getting angry that my family was still able to make a quick stop at a fast food place and fill their bellies (albeit with something very unhealthy) and I wasn’t.
I had to sit on the sidelines with my hunger pains and watch them eat while I had to abstain since we couldn’t find anything safe for me. Eventually, we found food. Unsubstantial food – a banana. It was very unsatisfying.
I learned from that road trip that I never wanted to feel like that again and I made a big mistake thinking I could just find food and didn’t need to plan ahead.
That situation has never happened again.
Now, since I still eat gluten-free in addition to Paleo, I certainly do not expect to find much in the way of quick foods on a road trip so I plan ahead, bring lots of snacks as well as meals that leave me (and my family) nourished and satisfied.
Tips, Tricks and Ideas for Taking a Road Trip Paleo Style
We’ve gotten it down to a science now when we pack our food for a road trip. Our system has worked quite well traveling all over the United States and even into Canada.
However, there are definitely some variables when going on a road trip that will change the way you pack your food and what you bring. The biggest variable is how long your trip is going to be and where your destination is.
Usually, we have long drives that are anywhere from 5-10 hours per day and we either end up in an Airbnb cabin, house, condo or a hotel with a kitchen.
We have stayed in hotels without a kitchen in the past and it does require a bit more advanced prep. Plus, we end up heating all our food in the microwave which isn’t ideal.
Hotels can work in a pinch but they are not optimal for traveling while eating Paleo.
These days it’s easier to find places to stay that aren’t hotels. We personally love Airbnb because we are able to find nice places for under $100 per night that have kitchens with supplies and at least two bedrooms. It’s truly a win-win. *If you are new to Airbnb and want $40 travel credit when you book your first trip, use this link.
What to Pack For the Paleo Road Trip
Three Different Type of Coolers
1 | We usually have three coolers. One of them is a big cooler that stays in the car while we are driving and holds most of the food that will get us through our entire trip. We try not to open this one very much and keep it as cold as possible.
2 | The next cooler is smaller, soft-sided, on wheels and more portable. This is the one that we get into during our road trip. It usually sits right behind the console on the floor behind the driver and passenger seats. Our soft-sided cooler has cold snack foods as well as cold meal foods and drinks in it.
3 | The third cooler is one we use for short excursions that require us to bring a lunch.
Reusable Shopping Bags + A Collapsible Crate
We also have one or two reusable cloth shopping bags full of
dry goods more snacks that don’t need to be cold. Snacks are so fun on a road trip, right?
This collapsible crate has become priceless for us on a road trip.
I use it to store:
- my cans of organic coconut milk
- collagen peptides
- powdered bone broth or my favorite boxed bone broth
- non-toxic dish soap
- dish towels
- a sponge
- my ceramic mug
- one pot
- one pan
- a few kitchen knives
- cooking fat like ghee, avocado oil, and coconut oil packets
- paper plates
- cooking utensils (like a spatula, tongs, etc.)
- eating utensils
- wooden cutting board
- Can opener
- chip clips
- reusable food storage bags
- food wrap and tins
- An extra glass dish or two for food storage. These are the containers we store our food in as well.
This crate is easy to transfer in and out of the car when we are traveling and it collapses flat for storage when we don’t need it which saves room in our Airbnb or hotel.
Snack foods and Paleo Meals on the Road
Snack foods on the road are KEY with kids. The minute they get in the car they will say they’re hungry so be prepared! A little trick I have is not to let them see what I pack for snacks because if they know what’s in there they will ask for it constantly the entire trip. Another trick I use is to pack snacks that are high in animal protein and good quality fat and lower in sugar and carbs. It helps everyone to have protein and fat to keep their blood sugar stable, behavior great and to feel well throughout the trip.
- Cut up celery with a separate container of nut butter and/or tahini-honey butter for me (since I don’t tolerate nuts.)
- I like to bring Justin’s Nut butter packets for my boys
- Figgy Pops
- AIP Baked Apple Cinnamon Granola
- Simple Easy Cucumber Snack
- Refreshing Cinnamon Oranges
- Spiced Nuts
- Cut up organic carrot sticks
- Soaked and dehydrated cashews, almonds or macadamia nuts
- Pumpkin Pie Apple Spread
- Peeled Hard Boiled Eggs with travel size sea salt
- Unsulfered Dried Fruit
- Beef Jerky
- Grass fed, nitrite/nitrate & MSG free bologna
- Hail Mary’s Chocolate Macaroons
- Apple or pears but don’t cut them in advance or if you do rub them generously with lemons.
- Any other fruit like strawberries, mango, blueberries, pineapple, etc.
- Guacamole (I bring the avocado, spices, lemon wedge for juice and minced onion – prepped ahead so I can just mix it up)
- Plantain chips (homemade or store-bought)
- Organic, gluten free, fair trade 77% or more dark chocolate bar for that sweet tooth
- Pre-made Nut Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. *These are one of the things I have to hide from the kids until it’s time to eat them*
- Sweet Potato Chips fried in non-GMO fried in healthy fat
- Cassava Flour Chips
- Pre-made muffins.
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Simple No-Heat Meals for Your Paleo Road Trip
These are meals that we can just pull out of the cooler and have a picnic style lunch with. It helps to have all foods pre-made and pre-cut if necessary. That way when it is time to stop all you need to do is to combine the ingredients for a meal. Sometimes I have even been able to do this while my husband is still driving so we don’t have to stop.
- For the lettuce wraps below, you could make a loaf of my nut free Paleo Blender bread and add bread to them.
- Butter Lettuce Cups (or Romaine) with homemade organic chicken salad or homemade egg salad.
- Butter Lettuce Cups with nitrate free bacon (you cooked ahead of time), tomato and avocado with homemade Paleo mayonnaise (BLTA’s).
- I also like to make an Apple Fennel Slaw from a beautiful cookbook I have called Gather. Since that recipe is not on the net, I posted one that is similar and would be great on the road especially to get extra fiber and more phytonutrients. It is a Citrus Slaw.
- Almond Butter and refined sugar-free (best if homemade) jam on waffles These make great open-faced sandwiches if you add homemade apple butter on them or a homemade jam with the nut butter or tahini.
- Pre-made Grain Free (and nut free) crepes filled with nitrate free, clean lunch meat, lettuce, tomatoes, mustard and homemade Paleo mayonnaise.*For the crepes I substitute 1/2 C. coconut milk & 1/2 C. water for the almond milk to make it nut free. This is per Danielle’s suggestion. ** Also, don’t put the crepes in the cooler. They need to stay room temperature in order to fold properly and not break.
- Homemade sauerkraut or a pre-made version like Bubbies. Probiotics are essential for road trips for boosting the immune sytsem and when bathroom problems may arise or someone gets a tummy ache!
- Sardine salad on a bed of lettuce is a protein-packed meal that is quick as well. Just be sure to pack your Paleo mayonnaise. I usually make this homemade but like this brand as well. The sardine salad is best if made ahead and stored in a container.
- I will also put together some lunch meat sandwiches ahead of time using either the crepes above or my nut-free blender bread. I LOVE Plainville turkey slices because of the clean ingredients and they are thick slices.
Many of these simple, no heat meals are stored in our soft-sided cooler to put together when we’re ready. Some ingredients are also stored in our bigger cooler but mainly that bigger cooler contains the ingredients for meals we will make once we are off the road and settled into our place with the kitchen.
Health Drinks for Your Paleo Road Trip
I am not a huge fan of juices and really think they should not be a drink of choice for a road trip. They just spike blood sugar, increase cravings and often make kids and adults feel lethargic and/or increase misbehavior. If you do choose juice, be sure to choose organic whole food juice and serve it with a snack that has fat and protein in it.
Instead of juice, be sure to bring filtered water for the road.
If you want something different than water for some of your road trip here are a few great options you can choose:
- You can purchase some bottles of kombucha or even make your own and bring some.
- Water Kefir is another healthy option.
- Another way to spice up your water is to add some pieces of fruit to it an even some slices of cucumber. Essential oils can also be added to water with a drop of stevia, to add some variety and flavor. Great ones to try are lemon, lime, grapefruit, ginger, wild orange, peppermint or even spearmint. *Some of these oils are also great to help nausea from car sickness!
Eating Out and Restaurant Research for Your Road Trip
We do eat out about one meal a day on our road trips (depending on where we’re going). I do a lot of research beforehand on where we can go to get healthy food that won’t compromise our health at the same time. Also, once we have arrived at our destination, we will find a farmers market or natural grocery store to stock up on some organic veggies and fruits for our entire stay.
The ways that I research to find places I can eat are:
- Google “Paleo Restaurant ________” (fill in the blank with your destination)
- Google “Gluten Free Restaurant ________” (fill in the blank with your destination)
I find that the restaurants worth visiting are the ones with a dedicated gluten-free menu. They tend to be more knowledgeable about serving guests with food sensitivities.
Is all the Prep and Planning for Your Paleo Road Trip Worth the Effort?
If you’re anything like me, you know that if you eat foods that you know your body doesn’t tolerate, then you won’t feel good. Not feeling well on a road trip is the pits. The effort you put in before your trip to pre-make some foods and pack wisely will benefit you and your entire family. It will help you remember your trip fondly rather than one you’d never like to repeat.
It doesn’t take long to prepare ahead of time for what you will bring to eat on your road trip. Just set aside an hour or so to come up with a plan on what you want to eat on your trip. Then, shop for your ingredients. We love Thrive Market for a lot of our snack foods because we save so much money! (We also get free shipping on orders over $49 and ordering at Thrive saves me a shopping trip)
Once you have all your ingredients spend about 2-3 hours prep time to get everything ready. The effort you put in is very much worth the end result of peace and a full belly on the road.
I love that when I come home from a family trip I don’t feel sick or have to complain that I have gained a bunch of weight because I ate poor quality foods for the entire time. My family stays well too and it is such a blessing.
Don’t Compromise Your Health Just Because You’re on Vacation
You don’t need to compromise and eat junk food just because you are on the road. Just remember, every dime you spend at a place that serves junk empowers them more.
Instead, frequent places that serve clean nutrient dense food and/or make your own food at home to take on the road and have at your destination. Better yet, do both! Your body and your family will thank you!