Riding in my Car
June 11, 2011 1:51 PM   Subscribe

What are some healthy snacks & meal options for someone spending the bulk of their day in the car?

I start a new job on Monday morning (which I am super excited about). Part of my job will involve me traveling 60-70% of the day and the portions where I am not traveling will be spent in other people's homes.

I went through a period where I worked really hard and lost a considerable amount of weight and was doing really well with my eating but my previous work environment was pretty toxic and there was a ton of unhealthy food readily available and my work eating habits are something I'm interested in changing through all this.

Bonus points for any tips for spending that much time in the car without going nutso?
posted by splitinfinitive to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
My dad (56) is on the road close to 40 hours a week and is in the office enough for a combined workweek of about 60 hours. Over time he's pared back to just vegetables, unsalted pretzels, and coffee or water because he finds that being sedentary doesn't allow for eating high caloric density foods. He still eats a well-rounded and non-restrictive diet outside of the car, but he sets the limits in the car so he doesn't start gaining weight,
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:59 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Baby carrots, raw mushrooms, maybe hard boiled eggs if you want some protein.

And podcasts to keep you sane - there are several previous AskMe's about them. Also audiobooks, and talk radio.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:16 PM on June 11, 2011

Microwave popcorn, without a ton of salt/butter on it, isn't too bad for you. Pop a bag before you leave and it's cheap too.
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:25 PM on June 11, 2011

Snackable vegetables and fruits. Carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beens, bananas, apples, etc. Nuts (almonds or something) are also a good source of protein, minerals, and good fats, but be aware that they tend to be calorie-dense.
posted by J. Wilson at 2:45 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Peanut butter and jam sandwiches -- a thin layer of each on whole grain bread is a fine snack or mini-meal. Other sandwiches. Hard boiled eggs. Mini Baybell cheese. Nuts. Fruit. Sliced chicken breast.

How long is your work day? Unless you are working very long days, eat breakfast at home if you can. At lunch a sandwich and a piece of fruit will do, or a salad with protein from a restaurant. Have some a small handful of nuts for snacks and then eat dinner at home.
posted by Fairchild at 2:50 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you get a small insulated lunchbox and throw in an ice pack each morning, you can keep fresh fruits and vegetables and a sandwich cool all day. Or do PBJs, which don't need to be refrigerated. I work in an office, but I always make sure to have either small one-serving packs of trail mix or an energy bar (my favorites are Larabars or Luna bars) in late afternoon to stave off that blood sugar crash. I would just make sure to only bring single servings of higher calorie foods, so you don't end up munching through an entire bag of trail mix in a day.

And seconding podcasts. Work through the back catalog of Jordan Jesse Go and My Brother My Brother and Me if you aren't familiar with them.
posted by something something at 2:53 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm really enjoying greek yogurt + rolled oats right now. Throw them both together and enjoy after the oats have had a chance to get mushy. Though I wouldn't eat it while actually driving.
posted by ODiV at 2:54 PM on June 11, 2011

You're going to want protein and healthy fats to keep you satiated without going for sugars and carbs. That means hard boiled eggs, healthy jerky (real stuff that you make yourself, not slim jims), cheese sticks...stuff that can sit for a long time with even just a cooler pack of ice. It'd all likely be fine with no refrigeration but in our modern germaphobic society, yeah, you'll be okay. Keep a jar of almond butter (not peanut butter) and a bunch of celery sticks. Try guacamole and carrot sticks.
posted by carlh at 3:27 PM on June 11, 2011

My mother was a home health nurse for many years. Every night, she'd prepare baggies of fresh veggies, and maybe a salad in a tupperware, sometimes a sandwich of some sort. The next morning, they went into her small cooler with an icepack or two (more than one needed in South Texas summer) and the cooler went in the grandson's baby seat.

She managed to lose weight, eat healthier, and be quite satisfied with her job.
posted by MuChao at 5:08 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mouth: Small chunks of cheese, with crackers. And not supermarket cheese.

Ears: ZBS Media offers long original radio dramas, as an alternative to podcasts.
posted by yclipse at 5:51 PM on June 11, 2011

You're going to want protein and healthy fats to keep you satiated without going for sugars and carbs

This simple tip is a perfect way to combine veggies and a bit of protein and healthy fat. Take a jar with a nice tight lid, plop a dollop of hummus or other healthy dip in the bottom, then stick in carrot sticks, celery sticks, or any other crunchy veggie. (Zucchini spears or cucumber or jicama would be great.) Then screw on the lid and you're ready to roll.
posted by Elsa at 6:49 PM on June 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Give yourself a few extra minutes to park in a remote spot (if it is safe and feasible) and walk a loop before your appointment. This will help you stretch your body a bit, get some fresh air and regroup.
posted by HeyAllie at 7:13 PM on June 11, 2011

My suggestions are sort of kid-centric, but they still work. Trader Joes and Whole Foods have freeze dried fruit- mangoes (the kid's fav), bananas, blueberries, pears. They keep really well even when it is hot. Other favs are raisins and Annie's Cheddar Bunnies.
posted by LyndsayMW at 10:01 PM on June 11, 2011

Assuming that your car has cupholders, consider dips as a way of making life interesting. I love me some carrots, celery, zucchini, cucumber, fennel, etc, and I love flat bread and veggie crisps, but eating them day in and day out is super boring.

Go to the store and buy a container of four-ounce jelly jars (the sort used for canning--you can probably get a dozen nice, glass jars for about $8, and they'll last forever). Then fill them with whatever you find delicious. I suggest hummus, tzatziki, baba ganoush, guacamole with lots of lime (to keep it from discoloring and looking gross), seven-layer dip (refried beans, shredded cheese, salsa, etc), white bean dip, roasted red pepper dip, tapenade, cream cheese with caramelized onions, and cream cheese mixed with salsa. (Hit me up if you'd like a recipe for any of these things.) These are off the top of my head--this is in no way definitive.

Anyhow, put a couple tablespoons of dip into your jelly jar, and then pop the jar in your cupholder. Easy access, very transportable, and healthy--most of the dips above are pretty darn good for you, and even though they're relatively high in calories, you only eat about a quarter cup of them. I have no problem eating dip + veg + crackers/flatbread as a meal, especially if I toss a little cheese into the dip.

I'd also cast a vote for smoothies, especially green ones. I'll make a blenderful and then eat it over several days. Fill the blender (not packed, but full) with fresh spinach, and then add about a cup of orange juice and blend until the spinach is basically liquid and the orange juice is green. Add a couple of bananas, plus whatever fruit you like, plus either soft tofu or yoghurt. Puree the hell out of it. I like to also toss in wheat germ and flax seed, and feel that the wheat germ keeps some texture in the smoothie after sitting in the fridge for a day or two, but YMMV. Again, delicious and healthy--this is my breakfast of choice for most of the summer.
posted by MeghanC at 10:08 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

- Make a commitment to yourself to not resort to drive thru food.
- Invest in a high quality insulated tote as well as at least one thermos. Stock up your tote each morning with a supply of water, fruit, cut veggies, and other healthy snacks. In the winter, a thermos will be great for coffee, soup, etc.

Now for the bonus points:
- Learn where you can access clean public restrooms.
- Much of the time, your car will be your office, so try to set it up with some kind of portable desk, filing system, or tote container to organize and store paperwork, forms, tools, maps, etc. Here are several examples.
- Also, try to keep at least a couple audio books in your car. Having a good story to listen to while in traffic should help to keep your stress level down. If you have co-workers who are also traveling much of the time, maybe you can swap audio books, or at least, recommendations.
- If your employer does not provide you with a GPS system, consider investing in one. But at the same time, keep hard copy maps on hand as back up - since we all know GPS can be wrong.
- If you're traveling with multiple plug in devices (cell phone, gps, laptop) consider gettting an adapter that will accommodate more than one device at a time.

Congratulations on the new job!
posted by kbar1 at 1:42 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

  • Apples. Yeah a whole apple. If you need to use two hands, it'll fit in your cup holder.
  • Make a big batch of Roasted Chickpeas and find a small container with a lid that will fit in your cup holder.
  • Almond butter packets. They make single serving pouches that you rip open and squeeze out. They're a bit pricy, but driver friendly.
  • Baby carrots
One thing that made my commute more tolerable was installing a new car radio with USB input. Now I can load up some podcasts and keep myself sane. I really recommend DIY with Crutchfield. It can be under $90.
posted by fontophilic at 12:16 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nuts and vegetables.

I've done this sort of job for years now, and I have tried and failed a number of times with in-car entertainment. I end up spending more time managing the media and devices than I do enjoying them. I've given up and just listen to the radio. Or nothing.

If you have a loud car, invest in earplugs.
posted by gjc at 2:47 PM on June 12, 2011

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