Road Trip Tips for Healthy Eating

Some of you might have seen the commercial by Volkwagen that plays the country song Mama, Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys in the background.  The commercial depicts a mother who has to stop at a gas station with three boys and the boys proceed to raid the gas station’s various junk foods.  The mom is at the pump and looks into the car and notices they are gone and says, “Boys??”  The “other” mom in the commercial doesn’t have to stop for gas (because her VW gets such great gas mileage) and her three boys are all quietly reading books in the car while she is happily driving along.  Something noticeable from the commercial is that the boys in the gas station appear overweight and all of the boys quietly reading in the car look thin and somewhat athletic.  I think the commercial has since been pulled from the air and we might guess as to why.We’ve all been there.  We’ve all taken road trips and we know what it’s like to have hungry kids in the car and, regardless of the kind of gas mileage our car gets, we have to stop at some point and get gas or go to the bathroom.  And let’s just face it, the gas station/convenient store environment is the absolute worst.  Not only is there a massive majority of horrible junk food, any food that appears remotely healthy is usually outdated or spoiled or just gross looking.

We recently went on a road trip to pick up my son at camp and I was able to observe something that I found extremely interesting.  A woman walked in with her two children who were around the ages of five and seven.  The little girl was walking around the store with her mom and she asked, “Mommy, can we get some candy?”  The mother looked at the little girl and said with incredulousness in her voice, “No, of course we aren’t going to get any candy!!”  Then I saw her steering them toward the milk and saying, “Would you like a milk?”  The response of the kids was nothing abnormal.  They were completely okay with not getting any candy and seemed to be fine with the idea of having milk instead.   I remember thinking to myself, wow!!!…..good for them and what a great mom!  Unfortunately, my joy was short-lived!  I ran into the bathroom and came out five minutes later and to my disappointment, that same woman was at the counter with an array of junk food, which included items like “bug juice” and donuts.  Wait….WHAT????  How could this have happened.  I kept wondering what could have possibly happened in those five minutes to cause that woman to lose her sanity and crumble.  Her kids weren’t throwing a fit, no one was forcing her to buy the stuff, so why did she just do a complete 180?  The answer is simple….addiction and corporate greed.

​I am quite certain this woman went into that gas station with good intentions.  The end result, however, signifies the many problems surrounding the fast food/convenience food industry and it’s impact on our society.  Truly, it comes down to addiction.  No one in their right mind would want to send the message to their children that “no” doesn’t always mean no.  Yet this is what happens when we are faced with all that sugar, salt and FAT.

We say YES!

If one were to examine addiction and the way the brain processes emotions, it becomes clear that a sort of “relapse” occurred right there in the gas station.  The mother was adamant about not getting candy but the triggers were all around her. The emotional and psychological path of relapse begins with a trigger and then continues with emotional interior chaos, denial (one little donut won’t kill me), justification (I’ll just start over tomorrow), loss of control, and finally, giving in to the addiction.

A 2013 study regarding sugar addiction gained a lot of attention when it declared that Oreo cookies were shown to have the same effect on the brain as cocaine in lab rats.  In fact, the study showed Oreos to be MORE addictive than cocaine or morphine.  One really fun tidbit the study mentioned was that the lab rats also liked to eat the filling first just as we humans do.  Hmmm.  That’s interesting.  The science behind the addiction to sugar, cocaine, or many other addictive substances is their effect on our body’s natural dopamine production.  According to the study, “sugar hijacks the neural pathways of the brain associated with dopamine, making sugar-eaters more and more dependent.”  Hence, the massive problem with obesity in our country.  Let’s say NO to sugar!!!

Things you can do to reduce triggers on a road trip:

–       Pack a cooler with tasty sandwiches, fruit, protein bars, and water

–       Stop for gas early in the morning or only after eating a snack from the cooler

–       Have the kids stay in the car during a gas station break

–       Stop at designated rest stops instead of gas stations for your bathroom breaks

For my family, a road trip used to mean that we could cheat and get an unhealthy treat.  But I discovered it was even more difficult to get my kids back on track after letting them splurge (it goes back to that whole idea of addiction).  Now they just know it isn’t an option anymore.   It’s not easy at first, just like any lifestyle changes we make, but eventually it becomes second nature.

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