Guilt-Free Road Trips—Healthiest Fast Food Options for Your Family


Guilt-Free Road Trips—Healthiest Fast Food Options for Your Family


Written by: Jenna Joubert

You’ve made sure your car is mechanically sound before a big road trip, mapped out the route, and packed all of your kids’ favorite toys.  Now use this guide to make the healthiest dining choices while on the road.

Planning Ahead

Instead of one large meal, you should eat smaller amounts of healthy foods throughout the day. Eating small portions tells the brain there is a large supply of food, so it’s okay to burn calories quickly, which will give you more energy. Limiting a large portion of your calories to a single meal (even a healthy one) notifies the brain food is scarce. Instead of burning the calories, your body will store them as fat. You may also feel sluggish and sleepy, which is particularly undesirable if you’re driving.

Eat Protein

To make sure you’re giving your body what it needs while on the road, focus on eating the right amount of complete proteins. A complete protein contains all the essential amino acids your body needs for important processes such as weight management and blood sugar regulation, and it increases your ability to concentrate. Eggs, red meats, and fish are great sources of complete proteins. However, if you have dietary restrictions or want a light meal, drink a smoothie or shake with high-quality, lean protein instead.

Drink Water

Rather than soft drinks and juices, you should drink plenty of water during your trip. Water is vital to the body and is needed for almost all your bodily functions. Drinking water will help you manage junk food cravings, avoid travel lag, and prevent symptoms of overexposure such as heatstroke. Water also enhances concentration and mental alertness, so pack a refillable bottle or a case of water instead of coffee and energy drinks.

Healthy Fast Food Options

Not all fast food is created equal. You’ll be surprised to find that fast food restaurants and chains offer a variety of nutritious meals. To meet your protein quota, choose salads with protein such baked chicken. Don’t buy salads with added cheese or ones that describe their meat as “crispy.” Cheese and crispy (fried) salad options can have as many calories as large burgers. If you usually eat your salad with dressing, ask for a low-fat salad dressing like balsamic vinegar. Depending on the chain, adding ranch or Caesar salad dressing to your food can double the calories.

Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad, McDonald’s Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken, and Subway’s Chopped Turkey Breast Salad (sans the cheese) are all excellent choices to fit your nutritional needs. Jack in the Box and Carly’s Jr also offer healthy salads with grilled chicken. If a salad doesn’t suffice, you can still have a burger if you order a single patty and supersize the vegetables instead. Fast food chains allow you to customize most any order, so feel free to order a hamburger and pile on the tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and pickles.



If you have a specific craving for breakfast food or don’t want to break your fast with salads or burgers, you have a wide variety of locations to choose from. If you’re traveling overnight or leaving early in the morning, the first meal of your day should be something filled with protein to keep you alert and awake.

Fortunately, McDonald’s offers Fruit and Maple Oatmeal. Oatmeal is a great, nutritious option for any meal, as it contains soluble and insoluble fibers that promote heart and colon health by lowering cholesterol and stabilizing blood sugar levels. Oats are rich in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and other important minerals your body needs. They also contain six grams of protein and are naturally gluten-free.

Still, if you aren’t a fan of cooked whole grains, order the Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait. Plain yogurt is a perfectly healthy breakfast snack and a great source of lean protein. If you stumble upon a food chain that offers it, opt for Greek yogurt instead. Greek yogurt will keep you feeling full throughout your morning because it has nearly twice as much protein as regular yogurt.

Other viable breakfast options are Subway’s Egg & Cheese Muffin Melt; and the Bacon, Egg White, and Cheese Muffin Melt. Even with cheese, both melts are less than two hundred calories. Dunkin’ Donuts also has non-donut breakfast options such as their Egg White Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap and their Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wrap. Both are exactly 150 calories.


Although most consider breakfast the most important meal of the day, lunch is an equally great opportunity to provide your body with much-needed nutrients before your evening meal. Most fast food restaurants stop serving breakfast just before noon. Nevertheless, fast food chains have a myriad of guilt-free, healthy options on their lunch menus.

If you decided on Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast, you’ll be pleased to know they also offer an Egg White Turkey Sausage Flatbread during the day. Subway offers freshly made sandwiches with leafy greens in their Turkey, Ham, or Roast Beef with veggies on 9-Grain wheat roll sandwiches. Taco Bell also has healthy food options on their Drive-Thru Diet Menu such as their Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco.


Midday dining options are perfect for dinner and usually available well into the night. However, if you’d prefer something a little heavier for you and your family, consider Mexican grills like Chipotle or Moe’s, or sit-down restaurant chains like Panera Bread. Chipotle’s Vegetarian Burrito Bowl with black beans and fajita veggies is filling, without being too heavy, and under three hundred calories.

You could also order the delicious Grilled Salmon Salad at Panera Bread to give yourself an extra boost of protein. Your body absorbs protein faster from fish than from any other meat. Therefore, if you don’t have an allergy or an abhorrence to seafood, consider eating more of it during your trip.

Final Thoughts

The first step to eating healthfully on a road trip is understanding what you should eat and why. You should give your body the same care and consideration you give your car before a long trip. Before you scope out any fast food chains, consider the general and specific needs of your body.

If you suffer from anemia, make sure to eat leafy vegetables that are high in iron while on the road. If you have diabetes or high cholesterol, avoid sugary and fatty foods. If you’re proactive and flexible, you should have no problem eating healthfully during your trip.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Give your inbox a dose of delight.

Sign up to receive helpful parenting info, program updates, contests, and special offers - right in your inbox.

Let’s be friends!

Join us on Instagram for the latest Mommy Connections news, promos and updates.