Road Trip Survival Guide to Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives


The holidays are here and roadtrips may be part of your traditional season. As you plan trips, think about what food is in your path that may add to the holiday weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle. Set yourself up for success by planning ahead. When not prepared, any decent healthy eating plan can easily take a ‘DIVE’ when venturing into the land of the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Eating Out, Learn Your Route!

Learn the tricks to surving while on the move and in those not so healthy but tempting eateries. Investigate which fast food places are the best options on your route, during road trips, daily commutes, and around busy holiday shopping hot spots. Reduce moments that lead you astray with these tips and use them here in town, on campus or on the open road, this fall and winter season!

Mindy’s Triple D Smart Tips: (Here’s several tips but try a few to start, I bolded my favs that you can tackle right away.)

  • Look up nutrition facts before you go.
  • Trade up, pick 2 healthier options to choose between at your favorite joint.
  • Order off the light/healthy menu.
  • Share a large item with someone or an appetizers as an entrée instead.
  • Avoid giant portions.
  • Control your alcohol, soft drink and sweet tea refills, these add up!
  • Instead of 3 slices of pizza have 1 with a side salad (get dressing on the side for dipping instead of drowning greens).
  • Order items loaded with veggies. Turn choosing healthy options into a game/challenge with family or friends. (The one with the most veggies wins, French fries don’t count as veggies!)
  • Keep healthy snacks with you or in the car: fruits, nuts, seeds, and water. (On long day trips, I pack chicken or tuna salad on ice and take whole grain bread with fruit instead hitting the drive thru.

Craving fast food? Not so fast. If you find yourself driving through, avoid large sizes, this cuts down on added fat, salt and sugar. Take a look at the difference between calories, fat or sugar in French fries and sweet tea. Choose the smaller version.


When choosing a restaurant:

If you’re familiar with a restaurant’s menu, decide what you’re going to order before you go by looking at online menus and nutrition facts. This will help you avoid the temptation of higher calorie meals. Choose a location that has nutritional available when able.

Sorting through the sit down menu

Remember that foods served fried, au gratin, crispy, scalloped, pan-fried, buttered, creamed or stuffed may be higher in fat and calories. Try food steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached, roasted or blackened instead. Choose skinless lean protein from chicken, poultry and seafood.

If you’re not sure how a meal is prepared or what ingredients it contains, ask your server. Check the menu for items marked healthy, light, skinny or ask the server about the healthier choices on the menu.

Campus Tips: Stop by our Sam’s Place Markets to grab some healthy snacks and water for your next car ride home or shopping trip in town.

Visit these links for more: Webmd Best Fast Food Meals HealthyEating Out by Cuisine Mustard Tuna Salad Eatingwell Chicken Salads

Here are tips from the American Diabetes Association…

Smart Ordering Tips:

  • Avoid ordering before-the-meal “extras” like cocktails, appetizers, bread and butter.
  • Be selective at salad bars. Choose fresh greens, raw vegetables, fresh fruits, garbanzo beans and reduced-fat, low-fat, light or fat-free dressings.
  • Ask for fish and meats broiled without butter.
  • When ordering baked potatoes, get them plain and top it yourself with low calories options and veggies.
  • Ask for low salt versions or for no added salt, if watching your sodium intake.
  • Swap Fries for double veggies
  • Vinegar and a dash of oil or a squeeze of lemon instead of high calorie dressings.
  • Pick low calorie condiments instead of mayonnaise, sauces, and cheese. Try mustard, fat-free salad dressing, salsa, or barbecue sauce.
  • Choose sugar-free drinks such as water, unsweetened tea, coffee, or diet fountain drinks.
  • Choose lean meats for subs or a veggie sub. Try the turkey or chicken breast sub instead of a meatball sub.

Visit this link for more: Diabetes and Fast Food

Things to Ponder:

How often do Americans eat at fast food joints? Take a look at statistics from 2013. Do you think we are doing better or worse in 2016? Where do you fall in this chart?

Fast food is suspected to increase obesity, Type-2 diabetes, heart disease and mortality rates. Many studies suggest since 2005 that the increase of severe obesity is a correlation from fast food options.

Looking through current research, I found many studies suggesting adverse effects from fast food.


Interesting Facts:

  • In a 2012 study, 52% of Americans (that were polled) believed doing their taxes was easier than figuring out how to eat healthy.
  • At least 1 in 4 people eat some type of fast food every day, 20% of all American meals are eaten in the car.
  • Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that in 2011 the average American consumed nearly one ton of food. That’s 1,996 pounds of food a year.
  • The study also revealed some other interesting numbers. Americans ate: 632 lbs. of dairy products (including 31.4 lbs. of cheese), 415.4 lbs. of vegetables (most popular being corn and potatoes), 273 lbs. of fruit, and 183.6 lbs. of meat and poultry.
  • Healthiness of the food we eat decreases by 1.7% for every hour that passes in the day, meaning that people generally eat healthiest at breakfast and will most likely eat less healthy food later in the day.
  • Americans spend 10% of their disposable income on fast food every year.
  • The largest restaurant chains in America from highest grossing are *McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks, Wendy’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, KFC, and Chick-fil-A (Technomic, 2013).

Prepared by Hospitality Dietitian Mindy Diller, MS, RDN, LD 


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