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Healthy eating tips on the road

As fall settles in and we northerners begin to stray from the lakes toward indoor attractions in the cities, I thought I would take a moment to discuss healthy eating strategies for traveling. Despite the plethora of tauntingly accessible fast food pit stops and the affordability of gas station donuts, healthy eating options can be found everywhere, if you know where to look for them and how to create them.

This past weekend, my mother and I took our yearly day-trip to the nauseating, capitalistic chaos known as the Outlets at Albertville. Even amidst mayhem, it's possible to survive such a trip without any nutritional regrets (although financial regrets are nearly inevitable). To be sure I was emotionally and physically prepared to navigate the crowds and the deals, I started my day with a good breakfast. A nice, big bowl of fat free, plain Greek yogurt mixed with 3/4 cup fresh blueberries, 3/4 cup Special K Protein Plus cereal and one cup Puffed Brown Rice cereal fueled me forward with lean protein and healthy carbs.

Thinking ahead to the three-hour car ride, I packed a supply of healthy snacks. This is perhaps the most important strategy for healthy travels. Never arrive at your destination hungry and assume you'll find healthy options. My favorite traveling snacks are Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate Chewy Granola Bars, light cheese sticks, 100-calorie packs of plain almonds, raw carrots and apples. On this particular trip, I chose two Kashi bars and two cheese sticks.

Upon arrival at the shopping Mecca, we prioritized lunch before shopping. We selected a convenient, local sports bar and ordered two Chef's Salads, no croutons, ranch, and a side of salsa. Salad is always a safe staple for dining out. Almost every restaurant has, at the very least, a dinner or Chef's. Simply ask your server for an entrée sized dinner salad with extra veggies and a grilled chicken breast. If they don't have light dressing, use less full fat dressing by mixing it with a side of salsa.

After a few hours pounding the pavement, I realized I was getting irritable, even more than was justifiable by the competitive sport of bargain shopping. I rushed to the car for a snack, only to find my last granola bar reduced to mush in the sun. Did I cave and wait for a cleaner, more appetizing option? Oh heck no, it's survival of the fittest out there. I skillfully opened the bar and ate it right off the wrapper, wearing my chocolate lipstick with satiated pride.

With renewed sanity, I endured one last hour before we headed back to the Northwoods. Having eaten our supply of snacks, we planned to refuel our bodies and our car at a Holiday gas station in St. Cloud. Gas stations may seem like havens for processed, gut-bombing, "road food," but even the most desolate stops should have a few acceptable options. Most of the bigger chains have some sort of "Fresh" or "Market" pantry with fruit, veggies and dip, and cheese sticks. An increasingly common gas station staple is snack packs of almonds or mixed nuts, a great low-carb option high in healthy fats to keep you full longer. We chose two mozzarella cheese sticks (lower in fat than its orange counterparts), two snack packs of plain almonds (toasted means added salt and often sugar), and two Sobe Zero Calorie Life Waters.

We arrived home around 7 p.m. Luckily, I anticipated our late arrival and pre-planned a quick and healthy dinner of steamed cauliflower, acorn squash, and a cod fillet with a nice glass of red wine (okay, maybe it was two glasses of cheap red wine).

The moral of the story is road trips are no excuse for self-sabotaging. Take matters into your own hands by planning ahead. Don't assume you'll find time for healthy eating. Schedule reliable pit stops, pack a cooler of healthy snacks and be prepared to whip out your best "puhleeaase" smile for menu modifications. Last but not least, accept the fact that you may not end up eating exactly what you were craving, even if it is your vacation. Instead, resolve to arrive home with no regrets, knowing you ate what your body needed.

Sarah Frieden is a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Park Rapids. Please email your health and fitness questions to All questions will remain anonymous.