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Ten Tips for a Healthy Road Trip

road trip with kidsThis past summer my two boys and I went on a 10 day road trip. Usually when I go on vacation, I also take a break from exercise, healthy eating and sufficient sleep. I was determined to make this road trip different – fun and memorable while making healthy decisions along the way. How did I do it? Here are 10 tips from my 10 day road trip:

1. Pack healthy food – This was the best way to set my family up for success on our trip. Fast food, gas stations and restaurants have too many tempting options that are calorie rich and full of sugar and salt. We planned and packed our food so well, most days we only ate out for one meal. Here’s what we packed:

  • Fresh fruit and apple sauce cups
  • Bagels and yogurt
  • Baby carrots and hummus
  • Lunch meat, cheese and whole wheat rolls for sandwiches
  • Trail mix and granola bars
  • Whole grain crackers and peanut butter cups
  • Lots of water and 100% juice boxes

2. Make healthy decisions when you do eat out – Let’s face it; we ARE going to eat out. That’s the best part of being on vacation. But, there are delicious and healthy options that don’t have to send you home with an extra 5 pounds. Menus now include calories and other information that can help you make good choices. Also, if you’ve completed tip #1, you won’t need to eat out every meal, just once or twice a day.

3. Plan before you leave – Staying healthy takes planning no matter where you are. Before we left, I spent some time online reading about the different areas we would be staying. I located parks, beaches, hiking and biking trails and other places that would give us options for activities along the way. We also packed swim gear, sports equipment and Razor scooters so we would always have something active to do.

4. Take breaks and stretch – Taking a road trip means prolonged sitting, which can lead to muscle stiffness, back pain, hip tightness and even headaches. To avoid this, we pulled off the road when we felt like taking a break. One of our days on the road pulled off along the beach. The boys played in the water, while I walked along the beach and did some stretching. We felt so much better the rest of the way!

5. Spend time with others doing something active – Usually visiting with family and friends means going out for a meal, meeting for a Starbucks, or eating food somehow. Instead, meet for a walk, go to museum or visit outdoors at a park. One of our most memorable days was when we met with a friend and her kids to play whiffle ball. The kids had so much fun, and it was great bonding for everyone (besides the arguments

between my kids…). After we left, my kids were already planning the teams for next year’s game.

6. Play with your kids – Most parents sit on the sideline while their kids run and play. Don’t watch, play along with them! One morning we took a walk to the park, played soccer, swung on the swings, and explored. Although it wasn’t a “workout”, I did get a lot of exercise that day.

7. Find a hike – We took a great hike that was quick enough to do in a couple of hours, yet gave us a good workout for the day. The scenery was amazing, and we all enjoyed reading about the history of the region along the path. We also got some fresh air before getting in the car and heading down the road!

8. Visit a waterpark, amusement park, or fair – My family and I spent two long days on our feet moving quickly from ride to ride, squeezing in as much fun as possible. I’m not sure how many steps we took, but needless to say we all slept well those nights!

9. Stick to a normal sleeping schedule – It’s tempting to stay up late visiting with friends and family, or even to watch TV in your hotel. However, keeping your family on a consistent bed time schedule will help to make the days more enjoyable. I know I am not myself when I don’t get enough sleep, and I sure don’t want to spend several hours in the car with my kids after a night of poor rest. It’s better for everyone just to go to bed on time!

10. Enjoy the ride – Vacations are meant to be a time to make memories, not to beat yourself up over mistakes. Don’t deprive yourself of a delicious meal with friends or a conversation over coffee. Find your balance. For us that meant planning one to two healthy meals and doing something active each day. After that, we enjoyed whatever the day had in store.

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Hi, my name is Natalie Cooks and I supervise the Health Coaching department at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center.  I have a Bachelors and Master’s degree in Kinesiology, and I love helping people lead healthier lifestyles.  Not only do I have a full time job at the Fitness Center, but I am also a full time wife and mom to my two boys, Trey (10) and Kane (9).   We moved to Reno almost two years ago so my husband Roosevelt could return to school at UNR where he previously played on the Wolfpack football team.  We stay very busy with school, work, PTO activities, sports practices and competitions, and church activities.  I am so grateful that our General Manager, Amanda LaTorre, supports the staff at Saint Mary’s Fitness Center in establishing a healthy work life balance so we can be happier, more productive employees.


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