Concerned about drowsiness at the wheel? As the road trip season is upon us, some planning for meals and beverages can help keep your focus and attention on high-alert. Justin Pritchard asks Dr. Jennifer Strong, a member of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, for the scoop on what not to eat when planning an hours-long road trip.

Q. Driving requires one to be alert and energetic — not tired or drowsy. If you’re planning a nine-hour drive in a single day, are there certain foods to avoid eating?

A. Foods to avoid would be anything that is hard to digest, or anything high in simple sugars. This includes greasy, fatty meals, which can leave you feeling in need of a nap afterwards.

High sugar foods like candy, chocolate and slushies are good for an immediate sugar rush, but you’ll have a ‘sugar crash’ after, and feel even more tired than before.

Tryptophan is found in most meat and dairy products. It’s an amino acid known to make you feel a little drowsy if consumed in large quantities — so avoid gobbling down multiple double-cheeseburgers on the go.

Q. Are there certain foods that can promote alertness and focus on a long trip?

A. Nothing substitutes for a good night’s rest the evening before. Then, the goal on the road should be to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Foods that have adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates and natural sugars are ideal.

These include nuts and dried fruit, trail-mix, granola, fresh fruit, whole grain cereals for munching, low fat string cheese, and veggie slices.

Q. What about the timing of a meal before or during a drive?

A. You’ll be in a seated, sedentary position, so not many calories will be exerted. Therefore, small snacks every three hours or so are ideal to maintain normal blood-sugar levels.

Plan ahead and pack your food in a cooler, as opposed to being stuck with fast food. Planning meals and snacks ahead of time allows people to more easily make healthy choices. Plus, your snacks are available to you at all times without waiting.

Lastly, don’t hold back on the fluids. It may be tempting to drink less on the road to reduce bathroom stops, but it’s important to be hydrated in order to remain alert and avoid headaches.

Hunger pains can often be “thirst pains” — so before you reach for the snack, take a drink of water and wait a few minutes to see if that satisfies you.

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