Fight those fast-food blues during road trips this summer by taking along a movable feast.
Instead of refueling with Big Macs and Whoppers, pack fruit salads and take-along meals. Take advantage of roadside produce stands or stop for a picnic at a rest area and enjoy packed sandwiches, salads and snacks.
When packing a roadside picnic, think portability and include items that travel well such as fresh fruit and vegetables. If sandwiches are a must, try a pita or tortilla wrap instead of the usual sliced bread.
Be creative with your treats.
Pair savory cheeses such as camembert or blue cheese with walnut or raisin bread. Add apples or figs for a well-rounded snack. Serve with sparkling grape juice or cider.
Instead of potato salad, serve unexpected combinations of fruits and vegetables or colorful pasta salads.
Pack quick individual salads using pre-washed, pre-cut greens and sliced vegetables. Spice up sandwiches and picnic salads with sliced or diced apples.
Make vegetable matchsticks for a colorful, crunchy and convenient snack in the car by slicing carrots, zucchini, yellow squash and green bell peppers into thin strips.
There's little doubt, however, that while traveling, fast food restaurants offer the quickest, most convenient meals for your money. But remember that getting a meal on the run doesn't have to be more of the same ol' burgers and fries. Many fast food restaurants offer lighter fare such as pancakes, low-fat muffins, salads and grilled chicken sandwiches.
Or consider this: Make a quick stop at a grocery store instead of a restaurant for lunch. Buy plenty of pre-washed fruits and vegetables to serve with bagels or bread, some deli meat and cheese.
If you plan to take a picnic along on your road trip, use these tips to keep your meal safe:
Make sure food is cold or frozen before packing it into a cooler.
Use plenty of ice or reusable frozen gel-packs. If you don't have a gel-pack or you need to conserve space, try freezing your drinks or water in sealed containers.
Replenish melting ice as soon as possible.
Pack the cooler in the air-conditioned part of the car. Keep all perishables in the cooler. When food must be put out, place it in a cool place, not in a hot car or trunk or in direct sunlight.
Avoid opening the cooler lid repeatedly. Consider placing drinks in a separate cooler, so the food cooler is not opened frequently.
A full cooler will maintain cold temperatures longer.
Perishable food should not be kept out of refrigeration or the cooler longer than two hours (less if it is a hot day).
For more food safety information about meat, poultry or eggs, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (800) 535-4555.