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Eating Across America

Credit: puroticorico

My hubby and I (and pug!) recently moved cross-country. While we could have flown and been done in just a few hours, circumstances, family visits and the amount of stuff (and pug!) we had required us to do the distance driving. Even though we were able to break up the drive with family visits in the Midwest and a vacation, we still had to drive from Northern California to New Jersey. That drive is no joke, requiring five full days in a car.

I’ve been so diligent about working out and trying to eat healthy, so I was curious how healthy we’d be able to eat on the road during the drive. I gave us a challenge: Get across the country without eating fast food.

I was thoroughly excited to see if it could be done. I knew it would require some sacrifice and forward thinking, but I was up for it. I packed healthy snacks and vowed that I’d skip the Big Macs (yes, even FBGs cave to the Big Mac temptation every now and then—at least this one does).

Unfortunately, only the pug was able to stay on track with her pre-packaged kibble. Our fast-food strike didn’t make it past the first day.

It started out well. After a Luna bar and coffee breakfast, I had some beef jerky for a snack before we stopped at a grocery store to walk the dog and pick up lunch. My husband got some California rolls,and I had a chef salad with minimal dressing. A nice leafy green salad? I was off to a good start. A couple of hundred miles down the road, hunger struck. After a small serving of Somersaults, I was good to go again. My husband grabbed a hot dog during one of our gas stops, and I stole a nibble, but I was willing to wait to grab something more nutritious for dinner.

We kept pushing on, and pushing on, trying to get a little farther before we called it a night. Before we knew it, it was 9:30 p.m., I hadn’t had dinner, and we were several miles from our stopping point. By the time we got to a seedy-yet-dog-friendly hotel on the border of Nevada and Utah, I was ravenous and slightly lightheaded. And by the time we struck out to get dinner, it was 11 p.m. with the time change, and ouroptions were severely limited. We headed to the only grocery store in town. At that hour, none of the pre-made food items looked at all appealing, and I knew it was over. But hey, we’d passed an Arby’s. I could get a roast beef sandwich for just 320 calories!

Except Arby’s was closed. My roast-beef-hungry belly was not happy at this point. What else was open in this little town, you ask? You guessed it: McDonald’s. So not only did I not make it past the first day, but I also had to cave and have McDonald’s on the first day. And because I just wanted something hot, I got the grilled chicken (370 calories) and a small fry. All in all not a diet disaster, but I hated giving in the first day.

From Nevada, it only got more difficult. With stretches of a whole lotta nothing through Nevada, Wyoming and Kansas, food choices were often limited at best. Grocery stores don’t line I-70, and in my attempt to eat fresh at a gas station Subway, I was stuck with a way-soggy turkey sandwich. After that lame lunch, I caved big time with a dinner in Colorado. I’ll just say that there were chicken wings, corn fritters and macaroni involved. It wasn’t nutritionally pretty. But it was delicious. And at least my husband and I split it instead of getting our own meals. That counts for something, right?

Lessons Learned on the Road

1) Don’t get ravenous.

When on a fast-food fast, don’t wait until you’re starving before finding something to eat. Chances are that even stellar willpower will fail you if you’re about to keel over, and Burger King and the like start to look like reasonable options.

2)Start foraging during normal dining hours.

Not at nearly midnight in a small gambling community in Nevada.

3) Plan ahead!

If you know your planned route, map out grocery stores for healthy lunch options. And pack healthy snacks in case you’re in the middle of Kansas and your only snack options are rest-stop Cheetos and candy bars.

4) Don’t let a bad meal and a soggy sandwich derail your diet.

And if you do go for broke with food items like macaroni and wings, control your portion size when possible by splitting the meal with your travel buddy. And don’t feel guilty about not cleaning your plate. Just because you don’t have a refrigerator for leftovers doesn’t mean you need to store the food in your belly!


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