My kids had midwinter break last week (how is this a thing? why do kids need a weeklong break just six weeks after winter break? and then in six more weeks, they’ll get spring break!). Anyway, I decided to take the boys down to Georgia to see my parents. It’s 825 miles door-to-door, and since my husband was not taking this trip with us, all those miles were on me. On the way down, I drove a little more than halfway and we stayed at a hotel on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee – I have never felt I could manage the entire huge drive by myself in one day without someone to trade off driving duties with. But on the return trip, I surprised myself by driving the whole thing all in one go. Would it be too much to credit my new paleo ways for this accomplishment? I don’t know. I do know that I am feeling pretty happy with how I managed, food-wise, on the road. And since I did a lot of blog-reading to figure out how to make this work, I thought I would record what I did, in case it helps anyone else.
I bought this cooler – Arctic Zone 30 Can IceCOLD Cooler (mine’s an older version) a few years ago, when I was following Eat to Live, with big ideas of eating well on the road. I LOVE this cooler, but my grand ideas of eating only good, homemade food on road trips – well I never quite managed it. I decided this time, I would try again. I bought a little set of Glad plastic containers, which seemed simpler than packing all my regular storage containers.
Here are the things I packed for the trip down:
in the cooler:
- raw veggies – specifically, sliced bell peppers and Persian cucumbers (LOVE!)
- dip – my current favorite is Sunshine Sauce (a sunflower butter-based alternative to peanut sauce), recipe from Melissa Joulwan’s Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat(I adore this book and I love this sauce SO MUCH – it took me a long time to finally make this sauce, because I thought from past experience that I didn’t care for sunflower butter, but I was oh-so-wrong; I’m obsessed with this sauce)
- Waldorf Tuna Salad – recipe also from Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat (I super-love this book, y’all!)
- green leaf lettuce – for wrapping the tuna salad (and anything else) in
- jar of garlic-stuffed olives
in the car:
- a box of clementines
- a bag of gala apples
- one slice of chocolate chip banana bread – recipe from Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great (around 9:00pm on my first travel day I ate this single slice of banana bread and for the rest of the trip I seriously regretted leaving the rest at home for my husband!)
- stainless steel bottle of cold water
- a wee bit of very dark chocolate (!) (not truly Paleo, because it did have a little sugar in it, but I’m not on Whole30 now, so I can live with that)
- assorted pantry items for cooking in Georgia
The first travel day was six hours (430ish miles). I snacked on the veggies and sunshine sauce and ate tuna salad on lettuce for dinner. I didn’t feel snackish after we arrived at our hotel a little after 10:00; what I ate in the car was sufficient. The next morning, at the hotel continental breakfast, I ate a couple of boiled eggs and a couple of sausage links (in general, I try not to eat conventionally-raised pork, but I do make occasional exceptions). In the car, I had a couple of clementines. Lunch on the road was more tuna salad. I snacked on veggies and dip.
My time in Georgia wasn’t pure paleo. I cooked for myself for breakfast and lunch each day (I even found grass-fed ground beef at the Publix down there!), and the boys and I went out for dinner with my parents each night. I checked menus online each time before going out and decided ahead of time what was the best paleo option. It went really well. I did make my dad a very non-paleo birthday cake – a recipe my mom used to make for my own birthdays – and I enjoyed every bite of my slice(s!).
For the trip back, I wanted to make more Sunshine Sauce, but was so sad to discover I hadn’t brought my coconut aminos with me and I was completely out of time to go hunting some down in my parents’ town. So I looked around online and found this recipe. I omitted the fish sauce and hot chili oil (I didn’t have either), and I subbed ground ginger and garlic powder for fresh ginger and garlic. I also didn’t bring almond butter with me, so I used the sunflower butter I had on hand. I threw in a bit of cayenne. So my recipe looked like this:
Paleo “Peanut” Sauce
- 1/2 C sunflower butter
- 1/2 C canned coconut milk
- 1/2 C unsweetened applesauce
- juice from 1/2 lime
- 1/2 t ground ginger
- a sprinkle of garlic powder
- a pinch of cayenne pepper
Blend everything in the food processor and eat up.
I was really pleased with how this turned out. I think I still prefer the Well Fed version, but this was pretty darn yummy with my bell peppers and cukes.
I also whipped up some five-spice cashews (recipe from the Nom Nom Paleo iPad app) and some Waldorf Chicken Salad (using the tuna salad recipe from Well Fed as my starting point).
So on the trip back, my cooler and car looked essentially the same as on the way down, with a couple of substitutions and the happy addition of cashews. I had wanted to make a frittata for breakfast before hitting the road, but I was out of time. So when I stopped to pick breakfast up for the boys at McD’s (no judgment, please), I grabbed a sausage biscuit for myself, ditched the biscuit, and wrapped the patty in a crisp leaf of green leaf lettuce. It was tasty and held me for a good long while.
Late morning, I stopped for my first Starbuck’s in seven weeks. WHAT. I KNOW, RIGHT? My standard Sbux drink is a triple tall latte (no sweetener, no flavor, just the classic goodness of espresso and milk), and since I was doing no dairy on Whole30, that was out for the duration. If I’m going to be drinking something other than a latte, I prefer my own home-brewed coffee to anything I would buy at Starbuck’s, so I just didn’t darken the door of my local Sbux during Whole30. And even since being done with Whole30, I haven’t been inclined to mess up my nice even-keeled energy each day with an espresso drink. I’m sure my baristas wonder what happened to me. At any rate, for the long trip home, I decided to treat myself to a triple tall latte, and it was sublime.
For lunch, we stopped at the Kentucky Welcome Center (roughly the halfway point) and ate at one of the picnic tables outside (I had chicken salad on lettuce) before taking a nice walk around the grounds. By dinnertime, I was ready for something different, so I scouted out a Chipotle and got myself a salad with carnitas, veggies, two salsas, and guacamole. Perfect.
I drove 825 miles that day (12.5 hours of drive time, and a little less than an hour and a half for stops). Typically, when my family takes road trips, I don’t drive more than a few hours before switching places with my husband, because I tend to get drowsy very quickly. It was a real surprise to me on this trip that I never dealt with that feeling. Sure, I got tired of being in the car, but I never felt like I was having a hard time staying awake (if I had, I would’ve stopped and stayed in a hotel rather than trying to do the whole trip in one day). Maybe I’m wrong, but I attribute this to the sustained energy and focus I’ve found from eating the way I’ve been eating. Without those grain-based carbs (flour, sugar), I just don’t have the spikes and lows in energy I have often had in the past. To undertake a 14-hour solo road trip in one day and to arrive home feeling not much worse for the wear – well, it’s just one more piece of evidence that this is working for me.
When I started my Whole30, I quit soda cold turkey, too, so I did this trip without the benefit of Coke or Diet Coke (or my favorite, Diet Sunkist) – I found the cold water, crunchy veggies, and savory cashews to be sufficient for the times I just needed to have a little something to eat or drink, not so much out of hunger as out of boredom. I should add that this trip was also aided by listening to some great Judy Blume audiobooks – Blubber (the reader, Halley Feiffer, is amazing) and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (The Fudge Seres)(read by the author). I read both of these books when I was the age my sons are now; it was really cool to listen to them with my kids and to discuss them afterwards. The Blubber CDs also have a great conversation at the end between Judy Blume and a middle school teacher – good questions to discuss with kids. (The trip was also accompanied by the entire Wicked soundtrack multiple times.)
So that was my paleo road trip. I was very happy with the preparations and provisions I made for myself for this little adventure. In the future, I might add an additional dip, some baby carrots, a few boiled eggs, and some homemade Larabars. Yum – I’m already looking forward to my next trip!
Thank you for this! Eating on the road is a huge challenge, and you show how do-able and fun a road trip can be.
Fantastic. It’s all in the planning, isn’t it? Melissa’s WELL FED books are my go-to cookbooks. Love them!
Yes! The planning and the preparation – the two things I often fall down on. So glad I managed to get on top of it this time. And also yes to the Well Fed books – love them so much!
Thank you for documenting this so well. Bookmarking for later…
Great! Thanks, Amy!
Thanks for the tips—I have a road trip of 1700 miles coming up!
Good luck! I hope it goes well.