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6 Principles of Eating Healthy on The Road

By Lillian McWilliams, Dietetic Intern at Duke University

Sitting in the car for hours on end presents perfect situations for boredom to convince us we are hungry even when we’re not. For most of us, snacking on crunchy foods is a way to stay entertained, alert and distracted from the highway or traffic that seems to never end. However, we know that sitting in a car all day means fewer calories burned. So how do we combat this?

 6 Principles of Eating Healthy on the Road

Plan meals at your regular times:

As you’re mapping out your driving route, be sure to think about what times you will want to eat and where you will be in the leg of your journey. Pack your meals in a small cooler or insulated lunch bag or bring non-perishable items. If you wish to eat out or buy food, look up where you will be at meal times and see what restaurants will be available.


Focus on protein and fiber:

Pack foods rich in protein and fiber to help you to feel full longer and stave off some of those boredom-induced cravings while traveling.

Portable Hunger-fighting foods:

  • Whole wheat turkey wrap or sandwich (or peanut butter sandwich)
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Tuna (try the single serve pouches) and whole grain crackers
  • Jerky
  • Low-fat string cheese


Smart Snacking:

If you’re someone who needs that satisfying crunch, make sure you’re snacking on lower calorie foods and portioning out your snacks to avoid a calorie overload before you know it.

Lowest Calorie Crunchies:

  • Veggies of choice
  • Apple slices
  • Berries
  • Grapes


Lower Calorie Crunchies (be sure to portion these out as calories will add up if you eat more than one serving)!

  • Air popped popcorn
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Baked chips
  • Roasted chick peas
  • Snap pea crisps


Sugar Free gum and mints:

These are great to have on hand in order to stay alert while keeping your mouth occupied.



Always have your water bottle by your side to hydrate, keep you full, fight infection and stay energized.


Utilize your smart dining out principles:

If you plan to dine out on your trip, make sure you know what you’re getting in your meals. Check nutrition information ahead of time, order from “kids” or “light” menu, add veggies, limit extra starch, choose lean protein and avoid specialty coffee drinks. When ordering Made-To-Order foods at convenience chains like Wawa or Sheetz, use their online nutrition calculators to build a healthy meal. Otherwise, read ingredient labels and use nutrition apps such as My Fitness Pal to choose meals that fit into your nutrition goals.

Great gas station finds:

  • Zero/low calorie drinks
  • 100 calorie snack packs- nuts, popcorn, etc.
  • Natural, low sugar protein bars
  • Jerky- watch out for added sugar
  • Tuna packets
  • String cheese
  • Veggies with hummus dip
  • Whole fruit



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With more than 40-year years of experience in delivering wellness and weight loss programs, the Duke Diet and Fitness Center has established itself as one of the leading weight loss and total body health destinations for health conscious individuals seeking a residential style health program focused on natural weight loss.

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