1 August 2007

What to Eat While Driving

Many of us, even though we probably know better, occasionally find ourselves consuming a few calories while driving. Fast food chains and coffee merchants do a brisk business every morning selling caffeinated drinks, pastries, bagels, muffins, scones, and sandwiches to individuals who don't have time to eat breakfast at home and want to catch a few bites and sips in the car.

There are several reasons NOT to eat while driving - primary among those is the distraction factor; not only would spilling hot coffee, or ketchup, on your lap while driving divert your attention from the road, but even reaching for another french fry, or wiping grease from your hands could be a dangerous distraction. Safety concerns aside, it's a little uncouth to have a pile of crumbs on your shirt and lap, greasy fingers (which you probably didn't wash before chowing down), and spilled coffee, milk, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, or whatever else on your upholstery and carpets. In fact, the result might be an expensive detailing bill at best, or a lowered resale value at trade-in time at worst.

The above being said, if you are going to eat and drink while you drive, some foods are more suited to the task than others. Therefore, in no particular order, here are the top ten foods to eat while driving.

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme. The Crunchwrap Supreme is literally designed for people to eat while driving. Since Taco Bell does 60% of its business through the drive-through window, they knew that customers were eating while driving. They figured the best way to make those customers happy was with "a warm, soft, flour tortilla filled with seasoned beef, warm nacho cheese sauce, a crunchy tostada shell, cool sour cream, lettuce and tomatoes and then wrapped up and grilled for maximum portability."

Kellogg's Pop Tarts. The yummy quarter inch thick rectangular toaster pastries taste better when they're toasted, but also taste fine right out of the package. They're also relatively easy to eat one-handed in the car.

Dunkin Donuts. This one makes the list with a word of caution, however - stick with the varieties that don't have a soft filling (no jelly, custard, or cream filling), and messier donuts with thick frosting should be avoided, because you will almost certainly need to clean your hands afterward, which is its own distraction. A plain, or reasonably plain, donut should be fine and safe, however.

Candy Bar.
As long as you keep the part you're holding in the wrapper (eliminating problems from melting chocolate on your hands), you should be fine. Stick with larger bars, though, as they are easier to handle and give you more surface area to hold while eating them.

Lance Crackers six pack.
Once you tear open the package (which is pretty simple to do), there are six mini cracker sandwich squares with cheese, peanut butter, or some other tasty filling. For the most part, they stay together and if you have a big mouth, you can put the whole "sandwich" in there in a single bite.

Bottled water. Water is the safest drink while driving - if it spills onto your lap, you won't be burned, and if it spills onto your upholstery, it won't be stained. On top of that, it's also probably one of the healthiest beverages you can drink, and if it's in a bottle, is a very low-risk activity.

Soft Pretzel. The favorite snack of Philadelphia is also portable and easy to eat with one hand. Be sure to have something to drink, though, because they can really dry your mouth, making them difficult to swallow and a potential choking hazard.

Apple slices. Eating an entire apple might be a little difficult - especially if it obscures your vision before the first bite. Then, there's the question of what to do with the core. A solution is to pre-slice a fresh apple in the morning before leaving for work, discard the core, and put the slices into a sandwich bag. Since the core is gone, you can eat the entire contents of the bag with no mess.

Beef jerky. It takes some chewing, and is also nice to have water on hand when eating it, but beef jerky is easy to eat one-handed and dropped pieces can easily be vacuumed off of the floor and seat.

100 calorie snack packs. These come in many varieties, including Cheetos, Doritos, Oreos, Butterfingers, Ritz Sandwiches, and more, and are in a simple pack. Once you open the bag, put it into an empty cupholder or on your lap, and reach into the bag without looking for your next mouthful. When you get to the end of the bag, if it's safe to do so, you can dump the crumbs into your mouth. I recommend only trying that if your vehicle is stopped.

Another small piece of advice for eating while driving: more than likely, you WILL have crumbs on your lap after you are finished. To keep them off of your seat and floor, when you exit your vehicle, swing your legs to the outside of the car before standing up, keeping your knees together. Then, simply stand up while brushing off your legs and shirt, and nearly all of the crumbs should be on the ground outside of your vehicle.

There are plenty of good reasons NOT to eat while driving, but if you're going to anyway (and most of us are), at least choose your menu wisely. Did I miss any good ones (tasty, safe, easy to eat, not messy)? If so, please comment.

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