How to Survive a Road Trip on Keto or Low Carb
I’d be lying if I said a road trip is easy when you’re dieting. For me, it was even harder when part of the road trip was my wedding. The hardest part is finding things you can eat, or aren’t sick of eating, at your limited travel stops. It’s tough to survive a road trip on keto when there’s no refrigerator or grocery store, mostly gas stations, travel centers, fast food and sometimes, real food.
I’ve been on a road trip for almost three months. The first month I was a picture-perfect keto-er. I had my bags of pork rinds and lemon water, and I was great through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin (cheese! I had fun here!), Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho. That’s 11 states I was perfect through, but in fairness, none of those states had crumpets, as Seattle did. And I tried, I did. My moment of failure was when I tried to be good and went to a crab shack with a huge craving for crab legs, and they didn’t have any. No crab legs. At a crab shack.
So naturally, I got pasta.
And naturally, I felt godawful for the rest of the day. But like most keto falls off the wagon, I rationalized my little pasta binge by telling myself that this was vacation, and I should be able to eat pasta if I want to, and especially because I’m about to get married in a month in wine country, and I certainly wouldn’t be dieting for my wedding or skipping out on wine tasting.
So, you can probably imagine how that went. I’m human. But eventually I got back on keto after the wedding and all the craziness died down, and frankly, that was just fine. Once in a lifetime experiences are once in a lifetime experiences, and we all fall of the wagon, especially when The Crumpet Shop exists.
So the lesson here is not that you can’t have a keto road trip, surely not, but that it’s challenging and I could have been more prepared, although I’d argue that with the wedding around the corner, I had to pick my battles, right? Here are the tips that got me through eleven states, lessons I’ve learned from myself, and also after getting back on the wagon a few states later.
- Pack snacks, ALL the snacks. Gas station snacks are limited to peanuts, sesame seeds and other stuff you’ll get over fast. They do have mighty good pork rinds and cracklins in the south at every gas station, so pick up a big supply down there like I did, or stock up if you’re leaving the south and going north.
- Get the wings, ALL the wings. I feel like 75% of places serve chicken wings these days, and buffalo wings are usually very low or zero carb. Just ask if they’re breaded first, most local-type places don’t bread their wings.
- Try to skip fast food, but use these cheats when in need. When you’re on the road for twelve hours with no time to sit down, or if you arrive at a destination at 10pm at night, sometimes fast food is your only choice to eat. Places that serve lettuce wrapped burgers include Carl’s Jr, Hardee’s, Five Guys (some do it, some don’t), and In N Out (protein style). You can also get grilled chicken on your salads, and most white dressings are low or no carb. Italian is also usually no or low carb.
- Resist anything but water. You won’t be moving a whole lot when you’re in the car for a few days, so keep hydrated.
- Ask how everything is made. In Texas, you have hundreds of options for ribs. Some are made with a salt and pepper rub, others are slathered in BBQ sauce.
- Bring lemon juice or True Lemon packets. You’re going to spend a lot of time in gas stations picking up water and without any real exercise during the days (until you stop places), your not going to be thinking about drinking so much. In order to encourage water consumption and of course keep yourself pH balances and kidney-stone free, add lemon to your water. I kept a bag of True Lemon packets with me.
- Highway Travel Centers have good snacks. Skip the little gas stations and stop at the huge ones like Love’s that are marked as travel centers. They often have local snacks and I found some of the best keto snacks there.
- Find the seafood. Seafood is so low carb, full of protein and often fatty. Just don’t get the fried stuff. Crab legs, crab claws and fish are all low carb and served with butter, butter and more butter. Oysters, shimp, crawfish and all those goodies are OK too. The crab leg boils in New Orleans are not to be missed!
- Don’t torture yourself. Listen, you have to get the beignets in New Orleans at Cafe Du Monde and nobody is going to judge you for it. This is your one and only life, and when an opportunity to try something you can’t get anywhere else pops up, just take it and get back on track.
- Don’t make excuses. Little pleasures are important, like the beignets, but don’t let a bag of beignets turn into pasta and doughnuts. Choose wine and whiskey over sugar-coma filled Hurricanes and Margaritas. Sugar leads to sugar, which leads to more sugar.
So the road trip is just about over and I’ve been back on keto for a while, but not without the repercussions of my little wedding binge. It’s actually the reason why I decided to put together the Keto Life Handbook – for everybody, even me, who is either starting keto or getting back on the wagon.