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Tips for Taking the Principles of Eating In on the Road

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Traveled down to DC last Thursday in the middle of Eat In week. I braved the blizzard at La Guardia and the guy in the suit in 6F throwing up. (Thankfully he went for one of those paper bags in the seat pocket you always wonder if anybody actually uses.)

I knew this trip would fall in heart of "Eat In" week, but I imagined packing myself off with meals to carry me through at least a day. But getting out of the house, and setting up my seventh-month old with her babysitter, proved a bit preoccupying. As a result, I was reminded of a few of the basic principles of sort-of eating in, on the road. And I decided I would only eat out what I could make at home. That meant, of course, cutting out all processed foods and most of what you find in airports. It also meant planning ahead. So the first night in DC, when I was heading back to my hotel, and before ducking into the Metro, I spied a café with handmade sandwiches and just-made soups and salads and dove in. A half-hour later, popping up somewhere in Maryland, I was glad I had. The only so-called food options out there were golden arches and a strip mall's Chinese takeout.

Eating well on the road is tough, but not impossible. And, it's getting easier, at least marginally so.

When we landed at DCA on Thursday and I was famished-- despite the stomach-turning in-flight experience -- I discovered Cibo stocked a self-declared "vegan sandwich" with hummous, eggplant, and squash on 7-grain bread. It was certainly not as good as what any of us could make for ourselves, but at least it met my cardinal rule. I would make it at home.

Here are some more tips for eating well on the road:

1. Bring your own gear: Grist's Umbra has a great video on the benefits and sourcing of cool to-go food gear. When traveling, I always try to remember to grab my coffee mug and bring my own tea bags, especially nice for late nights in hotel rooms when you've got a coffee maker and not much else.

2. Make your own to-go snacks: I love to bring along nuts and dried fruit: cashews and dried cranberries, almonds and raisins. Your own personalized trail mix is always a great snack in a pinch.

3. Keep your eyes peeled: When you see good food, go for it. You never know when you'll find it again.

4. Tap online resources before you go: Use the Eat Well Guide to find farmers market hours, stores with great food options, and restaurants carrying sustainably raised and locally grown foods.

5. Ask the locals: Peep up on Twitter, check out Chowhound, see what the Slow Food USA chapters have to say. Even if you don't know any locals where you're headed, you can ask informed sustainable food devotees. You'll be glad you did.

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