This past weekend I survived being in the minivan with 3 little ones and a loving husband passing through 3 states in 5 days. To say we had whirlwind adventures was an understatement. What do you do with 3 kids that can’t read street signs yet?


Eating in the car on road trips is nostalgic. It’s the deviousness of packing extra treats and stopping at rest stops to pee and grab an ice cream cone.

Road trips for me also equates to eating at McDonalds. It’s a guilty pleasure that I’m growing out of but given the giddiness of my children when we stopped I’ve passed it on to them.

Leaving for Delaware after a stop at my sisters in Buffalo, my husband and I were well equipped with post Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches, a few chips, oranges and bananas to round out the sandwiches. And yes, we are those people that bring a cooler into the rest stop or a fast food joint to eat. I’ve gotten over the guilt of just purchasing a small thing for the kids.

You should too.

Rule 1- there’s no shame in packing a healthy-ish meal in a cooler to be eaten on the road. In fact, my husband has commented to me on more than one occasion that he’s “thankful” we don’t need to eat crap food. And yes, it’s crap. Our cooler is nothing over the top. You won’t find wheat berry salads, shelled edamame or grilled cold salmon with a dill sauce and a spork. That’s all fabulous. But this is about being real. You’ll find a few standard pieces of fruit, carrot sticks or red pepper slices (the picky boy eats those!), homemade deli meat sandwiches on 100% whole wheat bread and 25 cent bags of chips or Fritos. And water. And maybe 1 cookie for each member of the family. 2 cookies if the trip is really long. That’s it.

But there’s times when fast food calls your name. On our return journey, there were no freshly carved turkey sandwiches in our cooler. Just pretzel sticks, a few brownies and crackers I’d pinched from my aunt’s house before we left. Thus McDonald’s it was for us. We did have an option at stopping at Panera, however, I was not in the mood to drop $50+ dollars for a quick lunch off the turnpike, especially knowing the pickiest one won’t even eat their $5 kids mac and cheese.

So what do you order at McDonalds that doesn’t break the bank (can be done there too), shoot your blood sugars threw the roof and offers an ounce of nutrition.

Rule 2- Keep it Simple. Now’s not the time to be picking McCafe’s, “fancy” sandwiches or salads or piling on the extra condiments, cheese included. Fast food restaurants are notorious for serving up salt licks no matter how simple you keep it. You’re going to be in the car for hours. Don’t let your feet become sausages.

Did you know that a large iced SUGAR FREE french vanilla coffee is 160 calories and still packs 18g of carbs??

Rule 3- Keep it under 600 calories. Most women don’t need much more than 1800 calories for day. So this is just easy math. One meal = 600 calories or less.

Trust me on this when I tell you to order a Happy Meal. Yes for you. If you haven’t ordered a Happy Meal in a while you’ll choke at the size of the french fries. I truly thought it was for my kids play kitchen. It’s the tiniest box the holds at most 20 fries. But it’s McDonalds. That’s all you need of their “World Famous” fries- their words, not mine.

My meal consisted of a cheeseburger ketchup only, fries, go-gurt and an unsweetened ice tea. It set me back 460cal, 18g fat, 19g protein and 56g carbs. That’s a tad above 3 carb servings. Going cheese-less would have saved me 50 calories and almost 200mg sodium. We all have moments of weakness.

If you prefer only 3 carb choices the 6pc nugget Happy Meal is 430cal and 39g carbs. Careful though, if you pick a BBQ sauce for dipping you’re at 50g carbs quick. Stick with ranch for only 1g.

McDonald’s has a great nutrition calculator that adds up your meal pickings here. Check it out before your next road trip (or drive thru stop).

Oh and my husband by the way got a fancy Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich (the plainest sandwich they had), a large fry and unsweetened tea which had his total at 720 cal and 88g carbs. Ouch!

Rule 4- Do not drink your calories. On long road trips it’s easy to lose track how much you are drinking especially if you are drinking something to stay awake. Go with water, coffee or tea. Save those carbs and calories for that Halloween candy that is STILL lingering about and made it into your car.

Have any road trips planned? Any trip tips or favorite places you like to stop? I’d love to hear them! Leave me a comment below.

Happy post Thanksgiving readers. I’m thankful for all of you!