Healthier Choices on the Road
Traveling across the United States on major highways can be difficult. Road conditions and traffic are often challenging and unpredictable while the dining options leave a lot to be desired, especially if healthier fare is the goal but times are a changin’. Instead of McDonald’s, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Chick-fil-A, Dunkin Donuts, or Taco Bell, consider the following options for a healthier alternative when a Clif Bar just isn’t going to suffice for another meal:
Cracker Barrel: This chain tends to be alongside major highways across the country (630 locations in 42 states). Stop in for lunch or dinner and order the Country Vegetable Plate: your choice of four vegetables that include baked sweet potato, mixed seasonal vegetables, tomato, cucumber n’ onion salad, sweet whole baby carrots (ask to hold the butter), mixed green side salad, fresh steamed broccoli, and whole kernel corn (again, ask to hold the butter).
Chipotle: Chipotle is popping up more and more along major highways into and out of large and mid-sized cities. Consider the Salad Bowl with chopped green romaine, brown rice, pinto or black beans, fajita vegetables, salsa, corn, and a dollop of guacamole.
Panera’s Bread: Stop in at Panera’s Bread and ask for the Avocado Sandwich on whole grain bread. Made with fresh avocado, lettuce, tomato and red onion, the Avocado Sandwich is also delicious with fresh spinach added. Tell the cashier to look in the “off menu” (I learned this from a store manager) otherwise they won’t know what you’re talking about. And, don’t forget to ask for whole grain bread (the default option is white bread).
Jimmy Johns: This national sub chain features an 8 inch Vegetarian Sub which can be ordered on 7-grain bread instead of a white sub roll. Hold the mayo and provolone but have them pile on the vegetables: real avocado spread, sliced cucumbers, lettuce, tomato, onion, celery, sprouts, and hot peppers.
Wendy’s: When the options are really slim, stop at Wendy’s and order a plain baked potato or two and a Garden Side Salad without the croutons but with the light balsamic vinaigrette.
Cheesecake Factory: This chain is phenomenal for vegan and vegetarian fare on the road. New menu additions include the Vegan Cobb Salad which is made of crisp lettuce topped with grilled asparagus, green beans, roasted beets, avocado, cucumber, tomato, garbanzo beans, quinoa, almonds and sunflower seeds with a house vinaigrette (which isn’t really needed with all the other flavors).
Other options include the Avocado Toast which is grilled artisan bread topped with fresh avocado, marinated tomato, watercress, radish and red onion, and then drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and lemon (note: the olive oil can be left off if requited). Place a double order because everyone loves avocado toast.
Another option is the Super Antioxidant Salad: a blend of salad greens, spinach, kale, avocado, broccoli, grapes, roasted pear, blueberries, onion, sunflower seeds and almonds with a lemon-blueberry vinaigrette (which can be ordered on the side).
Olive Garden: Order the Famous House Salad (without the cheese and with the dressing on the side) which comes in a huge chilled bowl and ask for seconds. Then, order the Cucina Mia – Create Your Own Pasta Bowl with 6 different pasta options including whole wheat fettuccine or gluten-free noodles and 5 sauces including marina sauce. Vegetable options are not on the menu but ask the server if vegetables (i.e. mushrooms, onions, broccoli) can be added for a nutritional boost.
Applebee’s: This national chain is not usually at the top of my list but they do offer baked potatoes, steamed broccoli (ask for no butter or margarine), grilled vegetables, and possibly the soup of the day depending on the offerings. Skip the salad here as there isn’t much to it after the bacon and cheese are taken out.
Five Guys: Believe it or not, Five Guys has a “veggie burger” although you won’t see it on the menu under burgers because they call it the “Veggie Sandwich“: choose lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, ketchup, ketchup, mustard, and relish (and peppers if you’re a pepper fan). Enjoy a small basket of peanuts instead of fries.