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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Chow Line: Don't let vacation go to waist (5/18/12)

May 18, 2012

We’ll be spending two weeks driving around the Midwest on vacation this summer. I hate the idea of eating a lot of fast food. Do you have some tips for healthy eating while on the road?

Vacations can really throw your diet a curve. First, unless you’re planning to hook up your refrigerator to a portable generator and tow it behind you, getting your hands on fresh fruits and vegetables won’t be nearly as convenient as it is at home. Second, since you’re on vacation, you may decide to indulge in treats more often than usual. Third, even when you do want to make healthy choices, your options might be limited.

But, yes, there are things you can do that will help. These tips are from a variety of sources, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), the National Diabetes Education Program and the Obesity Prevention Program -- the latter two being part of the National Institutes of Health:

  • Bring an ice chest and pack it with resealable plastic bags full of healthy snacks: carrots, celery sticks, pepper strips, broccoli and cauliflower florets, snow peas, hummus, apples, oranges, grapes, single-serving containers of 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice, 2 percent cheese, and low- or nonfat yogurt. Be sure to pack some plastic utenstils for foods you can’t eat with your fingers. And be sure to pack some hand sanitizer to use before eating the foods you do eat with your fingers.
  • Also, take along a box of items that don’t need to be kept cool but are just as healthy, such as single-serving containers of tuna and canned fruit, whole-grain crackers, small portions of dried fruit and nuts, and bottled water. You can build a great lunch with these items, enjoying it at a rest stop picnic table on your trip. 
  • When you do eat at restaurants, try to order first so your choice won’t be influenced by everyone else at the table. And, ask if anyone wants to split an entree with you -- that’s a great way to keep portions to a reasonable size. Stay away from fried foods and instead look for grilled, baked or broiled options. Consider ordering milk as a beverage if you’re not getting much calcium, or stick to water, unsweetened tea or diet soft drinks. Look at the salads offered, but be careful: High-fat dressing, cheese, croutons and other toppings can surprise you with how much fat and calories they contain. When restaurants offer a “healthy” menu, choose from it at least half the time.
  • Staying at a hotel that offers breakfast? Choose eggs if they’re available, or opt for yogurt, fresh fruit, juice or low-sugar, high-fiber cereal.  

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or


Editor: This column was reviewed by Linnette Goard, assistant professor and field specialist in Food Safety, Selection and Management, in Family and Consumer Sciences for Ohio State University Extension.

Martha Filipic
Linnette Goard