Photo courtesy of Katy Wilkens
Use a lettuce leaf or a rice wrapper. Fill them with a chicken salad. Or try peanut butter and banana in corn tortillas, which have a lot less sodium than flour tortillas

You Are What You Eat: Hit the road with your own food

by Katy Wilkens, MS, RD
Nutrition and fitness manager, Northwest Kidney Centers

You can’t do much about the price of gas when you travel, but with planning you can save a lot of money on food you eat on the road.

With your own food aboard, you’ll save money and time – and eat healthier. Skip stops at fast food places to offset gas prices. You’ll enjoy a better vacation because you’ll see interesting sights or get to your destination sooner rather than spending time to fill up on greasy burgers.

Keep it cool
There are many choices for keeping food cold in your car, from coolers just big enough for a six-pack to insulated bags, called soft coolers, that keep food chilled for hours. There are even mini-refrigerators that run off your car’s lighter plug.

Try freezing some foods before putting them in your cooler; they will slowly thaw and keep things colder longer. For example, tubes of yogurt can be frozen and then eaten when thawed.
They double as an ice pack for the cooler.

Not your average grease burger?
The typical drive-through meal of burger, fries and soda is easy to hold while you drive, but it is full of saturated fat and salt, harmful to your heart and kidneys. You and your fellow travelers will prefer these tasty, healthy, non-burger options.

• Think wraps. Use a lettuce leaf or a rice wrapper. Fill them with a chicken salad. Or try peanut butter and banana in corn tortillas, which have a lot less sodium than flour tortillas.

• Hummus with pita bread is a great snack. Or you can make pita sandwiches with tuna, mozzarella cheese and your favorite vegetables, like red peppers.

• My chicken nugget recipe can be made ahead too. Serve nuggets chilled with the dip below or thin out some orange marmalade with a little vinegar for a quick and easy dip. Add barbecue spice if you like.

Speedy wraps

6 corn tortillas
4 ounces cream cheese
1 cup lettuce
4 ounces leftover chicken, beef or fish
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 tablespoon yogurt, tzatziki, mayonnaise, sour cream or low-sodium ranch

Spread cream cheese on tortilla. Lay on lettuce, meat and pepper slices. Spread lightly with yogurt, tzatziki, mayonnaise, sour cream or low-sodium ranch dressing. Roll up each tortilla like a jelly roll. Cut in half and wrap in plastic wrap to hold together. Serves 6. Keeps chilled in cooler for 6-8 hours.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories: 184, Carbohydrates: 14 grams, Protein: 9 grams, Sodium: 233 milligrams

Make-ahead chicken nuggets

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1/4 cup Dijon honey mustard (look for a brand that is low-sodium with 5-25 milligrams per teaspoon)
1 cup panko bread crumbs

Pat chicken dry, and cut into bite-sized nugget pieces. Dredge into mustard, then roll in bread crumbs. Put on baking sheet, bake at 500 degrees for 15 minutes. Chill for the road. Serves 4.

Nutritional facts (per serving, 6-8 nuggets):
Calories: 247, Carbohydrates: 20 grams, Protein: 31 grams, Sodium: 484 milligrams

Joyce’s quick dip

8 ounces nonfat yogurt
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash (any flavor)

Mix yogurt and Mrs. Dash with a fork until well blended. Let sit overnight in refrigerator before serving.

Nutritional information (per serving, 2 tablespoons):
Calories: 16, Carbohydrates: 2 grams, Protein: 1 gram, Sodium: 17 milligrams

The information in this column is meant for people who want to keep their kidneys healthy and blood pressure down by following a low-sodium diet. In most cases, except for dialysis patients, a diet high in potassium is thought to help lower high blood pressure. These recipes are not intended for people on dialysis without the supervision of a registered dietitian.

[Katy G. Wilkens is a registered dietitian and department head at Northwest Kidney Centers. The 2014 recipient of National Kidney Foundation Council on Renal Nutrition’s Susan Knapp Excellence in Education Award, she has a Master of Science degree in nutritional sciences from the University of Washington. See more of her recipes at]

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