Nutrition can reduce stress and fatigue during long car journeys. Nutritional therapy practitioner Kate Delmar-Morgan shares her top tips to stay safe and alert on the road.

Driving home for Christmas may be a classic Christmas song, but otherwise may not spark much festive joy.

However, have you ever thought about how nutrition might help you stay safe and happy on the road?

Healthier dietary choices have been associated with more positive driving behaviour and less fatigue.

If you’re looking to optimise your long drives this festive season, here are our top tips – with advice from nutritional therapy practitioner and ION’s former head of clinics, Kate Delmar-Morgan.

1. Don't eat and drive

The RAC says that eating whilst driving isn’t illegal, but could lead to charges of dangerous driving if there is an accident.

Yet according to Delmar-Morgan stopping to eat has other benefits, rather than just being safer.

She says: “If you are eating and driving at the same time, people tend to eat too quickly and they are not eating mindfully.

“This can lead to compromised digestion and the digestive system may find it harder to digest the foods you are eating.

“Digestion starts with chewing — and lack of chewing will mean foods are not digested as well.”

The RAC and Delmar-Morgan therefore both suggest that you stop to eat.

2. Eat for concentration

Food choices can also have an impact on energy and concentration whilst driving.

Quick snack foods tend to be highly refined, sweet, and lacking in nutrients. Therefore, they may contribute to poor blood sugar balance.

Delmar Morgan says: “This in itself may cause tiredness and lack of concentration, and unfortunately won’t help to support energy and focus while driving.”

3. Plan ahead

Irregular meal patterns may also contribute to fluctuations in energy if drivers are not keen to stop for food, says Delmar-Morgan.

“It is good to have a break from long car journeys, so stopping to have some lunch or dinner is definitely recommended.

“When you do this, try not to have a huge meal as it may put you into a ‘food coma’ and this won’t help with driving!”

If you plan ahead, you could bring a meal from home. This means that, even if traffic and detours scuff up your plans for pit stops at services, you won’t go hungry.

“Something like overnight oats that you can prepare the night before and take with you is a good breakfast option and you can transport this easily in some Tupperware,” says Delmar-Morgan.

“You could also take a small cool bag and take a salad with you for lunch or evening meal.

“If you are making a salad to take with you, aim for one that’s easy to eat on the go and requires just a fork e.g. lentil, bean, rice or quinoa salad with lots of vegetables.”

Delmar-Morgan also suggests taking soup in a flask, but stresses “it’s imperative that you do not eat this while driving as it can be dangerous since it will be hot”.

Soup, she says, should contain some form of protein such as beans, lentils, meat or fish.

4. Snack smart

If you don’t want a meal during your stop, lighter bites to keep you and your passengers going could include:

  • Mixed nuts and seeds with fruit
  • Cheese
  • Hummus with veg or wholemeal pitta
  • Falafels
  • Mini wholemeal sandwich with egg, chicken, tuna, cheese or good quality ham, and some veg or salad
  • Egg and vegetable frittata
  • Pre-cooked sausages cut into chunks
  • Homemade low sugar oat cookies
  • Homemade low added sugar banana cake with walnuts
  • Homemade low sugar muffins with seeds
  • Homemade savoury muffins

5. Happy kids, happy driver

Whilst the temptation to keep children quiet with sweets can be strong, the benefits may be short-lived.

Delmar-Morgan says: “Try not to give the children confectionery and sweets to keep them happy — these will just cause major blood sugar fluctuations, which will cause big highs and lows and associated mood swings.

“Aim to provide some cut fruit rather than sweets and a small snack containing protein.

“This will help to prevent mood issues and provide more consistent energy, and therefore keep them happier!”

6. Stay hydrated

Some of us might try to avoid liquids, but staying hydrated also helps to support energy and concentration.

Delmar-Morgan says: “Aim to sip slowly but consistently between meals... Leave lots of time so that you can build loo stops in.”

7. Get a good night's sleep

Finally, prioritise getting a good night’s sleep before setting off on a long journey.

Avoiding or limiting alcohol will not only help to support good quality sleep, but means you won’t have to worry about being over the limit the next day.

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