As a California native, I grew up in the car driving up and down the state. On average, we were in the car for two hours to our destination. Three day weekends were always spent visiting family in Santa Barbara (a 4 hour drive) and Marin County (an 8 hour drive). Needless to say, I quickly learned to have the essentials for a long car ride.
My priorities have changed since those family road trip days. A pillow, blanket and my gameboy are no longer are on the list, but other essentials have stayed the same (with some refinement).
As a Natural Foods Chef, (and someone who gets ‘hangry’ when their blood sugar is low) I make sure to plan a day ahead when it comes to food. I’m not the girl looking for an ‘In-N-Out’ along the 405 freeway. I’ve learned to plan and have my essentials on hand. That way, I have what I want when I want it, and can explore as I like along the drive.
Here is my go-to checklist for healthy road trips!
Water is the number one item to pack. Quite frankly, I can’t pack enough clean, quality water. I hate buying plastic bottled water. I fill up half gallon and one gallon bottles at my local filtered water spot, or spring water when I'm lucky. Most health foods stores have good quality filtered water machines for a small fee. I suggest investing in some glass gallon jugs. You’ll save money in the long term. Plus, no one wants to drink water out of a plastic bottle that’s been sitting in a hot car! That is how dreaded BPA is known to leak into your water, a nasty substance linked to a variety of health hazards. Go glass!
Healthy Whole Food Snacks
It’s tough to find healthy snacks at the gas station, and even harder to find good quality fruits and vegetables. I always pack a small cooler with apples, carrot sticks, celery sticks, some nut butter and any other vegetables I have left in the fridge. I also like packing organic turkey wrapped in lettuce or collard greens. I’d rather be prepared than find myself ‘hangry’ (hungry + angry) and far from the next exit without quality restaurant choices. If I don’t end up using them on the drive, I then have snacks prepped for the weekend. It’s a win-win!
Whenever I travel, whether a it's a road trip or an extended vacation across the country, I always pack a variety of teas. Good quality green and herbal teas are a must in my travel bag. You can get a cup of hot water virtually anywhere, but you can’t always get a decent tea bag. Serious tea drinkers know what I mean!
My must-have brand is ORGANIC INDIA's Tulsi Teas. Tulsi is an excellent travel buddy because it is known to promote stress relief, healthy energy, digestion and immune support. In particular, I go to Tulsi Turmeric Ginger, for soothing digestive support, Tulsi Sweet Rose for relaxation, and Tulsi Green Tea or Tulsi Masala Chai when I need a little caffeine to keep me going.
Along with my teas, I always pack a clean 8 - 16 ounce jar. That way I can brew sun tea anywhere, anytime. If I am stopping for a hike or exploring a little town off the beaten path, I’ll brew some sun tea while I’m window shopping. Simply fill a glass jar with water. Add 1-2 tea bags. Set jar in the sunniest part of your car. In one hour you will have a perfect cup of sun tea!
Farmers Market Bags
I love when I happen upon a farmers market. Be prepared and keep a few tote bags or baskets in your car. That way, you can pick up fresh local vegetables, fruits, nuts and snacks.
Seeing what grows in the area you are traveling provides great insight into the community and culture. Since I always pack olive oil, salt, a fork and knife, I can make a meal out of anything, anywhere. When you are picnic ready you can really take in the road trip experience.
A Pairing Knife
A little pairing knife is a major essential for this chef! You can slice an apple and prepare a salad with the items you’ve picked up at the farmers market. It steps in for a pair of scissors and is much more handy. This way I can stop at any market along the way and put together a meal if need be.
Most small pairing knifes come with a plastic cover, so they are safe to store in your suitcase or keep in the car. Think of it as a more foodie Swiss Army Knife.
Fork & Spoon
I’m talking a real fork and spoon. Whether it’s silver, stainless steel or bamboo. Food tastes better when you use the real thing. We’ve all been there, enjoying a meal and our plastic fork breaks. Avoid those moments and keep a decent set in the car. Because, when hangry hits, you need to be able to eat your food.
You can turn anything into a meal if you have a drizzle of olive oil. I pack a tiny 2 oz jar for those just in case moments. I can then grab a lemon or lime from a farmers market, and voila, I have salad dressing.
Because when that sweet tooth hits, you don’t want to have to settle. I like having a few mini sized chocolates packed, just in case. I reach for vegan chocolates that are made with organic cane sugar and no soy-lecithin. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. I like Marou, Equal Exchange and Righteously Raw.
You can elevate any meal with good quality salt. I pack a little 2 ounce shaker of Redmond Real Salt which can spruce up any vegetable. I also pack a small zip lock bag of salt in my duffle to use in a bath when I get to my destination. Sitting all day in the car can make you stiff. A salt bath will soothe any ache, and revitalize you for the weekend ahead. Who doesn’t like a little spa moment at the end of a long day of exploring? I sure do!
Last but not least, I lean on turmeric as an essential travel take-with. Turmeric has so many benefits, including promoting immunity, heart health, circulation, and joint mobility and support; all helpful while on the go or sitting in a car for long periods of time! I love to take ORGANIC INDIA's Turmeric Formula capsules with me, or mix an ORGANIC INDIA Turmeric Lift packet in a beverage on hand. These are easy, convenient ways to take nutrition with you on the go!
About the Author
Whitney Aronoff is a Natural Foods Chef based in Laguna Beach, California. She graduated from Southern Methodist University with a degree in Communications, and went on to culinary school at The Natural Gourmet Institute in New York. She works as a personal chef and recipe developer, with a focus on healthy, whole foods cooking. You can follow her food and travel adventures on Instagram at @WhitneyAronoff or on her website www.WhitneyAronoff.com.