Despite rising gas prices, millions of families all over the Unites States will hit the road this summer. But because of the sluggish economy, they are becoming more creative at planning road trips that provide as much fun as a summer vacation in Europe.

During those trip, grab-and go meals and snacking don’t have to be an unhealthy choice that leaves you feeling sluggish and tired.

Wise meal planning while on the road can be beneficial and contribute important nutrients to a healthy diet. Here is why:

Appetite Control – A healthy meal or snack can tide you over until the next meal and help prevent overeating.
Energy – Meals and snacks provide nutrition and energy when your body needs it. Snacking is a great way to keep your energy levels up and your mind sharp, between meals.
Weight Loss – Wise eating and snacking may help you lose weight. By eating more often, you are training yourself to be satisfied with smaller portions.

It is time to take matters into your own hands. Here are some suggestions that will satisfy your cravings while on the road.

Analyze your snacking patterns

Assess your eating and snacking habits while on the road. Do like to eat every four hours? Or are you traveling with kids who need a couple snacks per day? Assessing your needs will help you get the specifics of your eating habits to determine a realistic solution. Once you’ve determined the pattern, you’re ready to plan your strategy.

Plan your eating and snacking strategy

Anticipate the times and places a hunger attack is most likely to occur. Then, have a stash of nutritious snacks on hand that are 100 calories or less (see below for ideas) or a quick meal (see below for ideas).

Fast foods and snacks

Consuming portable, nutritious meals or snack-like portions of nuts, dried cereal, low-fat crackers, granola bars, and fruit is a quick and healthy way to satisfy your cravings. You may serve meals and snacks on a small plastic bowl to control exactly how much you’re eating.

Fill up with high-fiber foods

Fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods such as whole wheat breads and cereals all contain a great deal of fiber. Fiber helps fill you up.

Taking Action

Now you have the tools to attack your hunger habits. Plan your meals and snacks as carefully as you do your hotel and airline tickets. Never leave home without a snack tucked away.

Smart Snacks
100 Calories and Under
½ small cantaloupe or 1 small banana
4 cubes of low fat cheese
1 cup (8 oz.) fat free yogurt
6 large cucumber slices dipped in lime juice
1 frozen fruit bar made with 100% juice
½ cup wheat cereal with ½ cup skim milk
1 medium orange, 1 medium apple or 20 grapes
2 cups fat free popcorn sprinkled with your favorite spices
10 whole roasted almonds

Smart Meals
Peanut butter & jelly sandwich
Cold pasta salads with vegetables (chopped tomatoes and diced carrots) and low fat dressings
Low fat cheese and whole grain crackers with fruits
Wrap - Lean turkey and cheese in whole wheat tortilla with avocado
Black bean dip prepared with salsa and fat free sour cream and served with baked chips

Next time you are planning a road trip, remember to plan for some healthy meals and snacks. You will be amazed not only with the dollar savings but with the calories you'll save. 

Safe travels!

Sylvia Meléndez Klinger, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, is founder of Hispanic Food Communications, a food communications and culinary consulting company based in Hinsdale, Ill. She is Hispanic and uses her in-depth culinary and cultural expertise to introduce new strategies for wellness to an increasingly health-conscious Hispanic population. For more on her, go to hispanicfoodcommunications.com.