I am a huge Star Wars fan and mental health advocate. The characters in The Force Awakens (I only saw it 7 times) displayed a depth of humanity that I hadn’t seen among many movies. The characters had strengths and flaws which only made them more human. Being a connoisseur of the DSM-V myself I saw many diagnostic criteria of the illnesses so many face in the movie. Not that anyone should run around diagnosing people, rather recognizing the traits of the disorders many suffer from portrayed on the big screen.
There is a a heated debate regarding traditional hand washing methods and newer waterless hand sanitizer. There are passionate supporters on both sides of the argument, but what does the research show? Let science!
A good way to measure which method is more effective is to look at its’ impacts in the real world. Several studies consistently report around a 30% decrease in hospital infections with easy access to alcohol based sanitizer. But it’s not all on the hands of the caregivers: a study done in a large hospital found that simply giving patients alcohol-based sanitizer and educating them on their benefit had a 36% decrease in infections in the urinary tract and at surgical incision sites as well. Simply installing gel sanitizer stations in dorm rooms and dining halls in the University of Colorado Boulder campus resulted in up to a 40% improvement in upper respiratory infections like the flu and colds. One study found that using gel sanitizer decreased sick days in children 5-12 by one-third.
What about sanitizer compared to hand washing? A very large study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found no difference in infection rates in a neonatal unit between hand washing and sanitizer. Another study of 18 second and third grade classrooms found no significant differences in illness rates between the two, only that school nurses preferred the hand sanitizer.
Looking at actual germ counts, research found alcohol based sanitizer to be significantly more effective at reducing bacteria populations than hand washing with soap. It took 4 hand washes with antiseptic soap to reduce the bacteria as much as the sanitizer did. The British Medical Journal confirmed that alcohol based sanitizer decreased bacteria on hands 26% better than the proper hand washing technique of 30 seconds. Using sanitizer numerous times in a day does not make it less effective. There is no difference in effectiveness between gel, foam or wipe forms. The Center for Disease Control recommends sanitizer made of at least 60% alcohol. Gels with the antimicrobial agent Triclosan were popular in the past, but are being phased out due to environmental concerns.
Based on the review of many studies over several years the International Journal of Nursing Practice came to the conclusion that: “alcohol-based hand rubbing removes microorganisms effectively, requires less time and irritates hands less often than does hand washing with soap or other antiseptic agents and water. Furthermore, the availability of bedside alcohol-based solutions increases compliance with hand hygiene among health care workers”.
Convenience is key. A very large study from the Journal of the American Medical Association saw hand hygiene compliance rates double from hand washing alone when alcohol based sanitizing stations were placed outside of patients’ rooms in a hospital. Doctors are actually worse about hand hygiene than nurses. Visitors to the ICU washed their hands 20% more than staff! Access to sinks is another reason many people have poor compliance with traditional hand washing. Time is a major factor in convenience; proper hand washing takes on average 8 times as long than use of waterless sanitizer. Washing with soap is more than inconvenient, it has been shown in several studies to significantly cause more dryness and irritation to hands than gel sanitizer. However not all healthcare workers prefer sanitizer; hand washing is preferred by 71% of dentists.
Hand washing does win in some areas. Washing with soap and water was more effective at decreasing bacteria under the fingernails. Many dangerous bacteria and fungi including yeast can live under the nails. Proper nail care is essential to hand hygiene. Use of a nail brush with hand washing has the greatest impact on these dangerous organisms.
Soap is always recommended if the hands are visually soiled such as with dirt or food. The friction of rubbing the hands together will loosen the contaminant. Soap works by mixing with the dirt and bacteria so that water washes it away off of the hands. If hands are already moist such as working with food, hand sanitizer is not as effective. Alcohol based sanitizer work by actually killing the virus and bacteria. If the hands are moist or oily they cannot reach the bacteria and cannot be as effective. Hand washing is preferred in the food industry because of this. Also, if it is not left to dry long enough before handling food, leftover gel can get into the food and contaminate it. While sanitizer is good for your hands, it is not good for your stomach!
Hand sanitizer are not effective against all microorganisms. Clostridium difficile is a dangerous bacteria which causes extreme diarrhea and is usually only seen in hospitals. If a patient has a C. diff infection warning signs are placed on the door advising staff that they must wash hands with soap and water as sanitizer is ineffective. Staff and visitors must also wear special gowns to enter the room to prevent the spread of infection. C. diff infections are not common outside of hospitals and are easily diagnosed so proper infection control is initiated completely.
Adequate hand washing techniques are not common. Proper technique involves many steps and 20-30 seconds. A study found only 26% of college students sufficiently washed their hands. and only 30% of food workers. Improper hand washing can actually increase bacteria on the hands. There can be significant amounts of microorganisms on the faucets and paper towel dispensers as well. Hands free electric dryers decreased the most bacteria versus paper towels, but hands free towel dispensers were safer than those that had to be touched.
Although I have always been biased to alcohol based sanitizers due to their convenience (and you can get ones that smell pretty, thanks Bath and Body Works!), I approached the situation with an open mind and the research was clear. Based on the clinical evidence research I performed I have come to the following conclusion.
Alcohol based hand sanitizer is more effective in reducing microorganisms on hands, less harsh on hands and more convenient therefore increasing compliance. However traditional hand washing is preferred when hands are visibly soiled or moist, in the food industry and when in contact with someone with C. diff.
Tune in next time when we science again!
I’ve been working through some body image issues and looking for some positive body role models looking for someone to inspire me to become something better. But then I realized: I’m my own God-damn hero. Every time I look into the mirror means I have made it through the fist clenching struggles of another day. I haven’t given in to the harrowing little voices whispering in my ear to end it all today, to give in to the false sweetness of eternal surrender.
I know when I see myself that I am working my ass of to become a better person, to overcome my seemingly endless inner demons. Spending hours going therapies, counseling and psychiatrist appointments. Going through the never ending nightmare of finding the right combination of drugs to live a somewhat normal life. Enduring the horrible side effects that these chemicals do to my body and mind. Dealing with all of the emotional turmoil and anguish brought up from delving deep into the dark places of my mind where the demons came from and bringing what has been stuffed away and exposing them into the sickening bright light.
Even looking in the mirror is a triumph, not being terrified to see my own reflection for once. Overcoming all of the messages the world says about my body, that I am disgusting and should not be seen or even think about loving myself.
It’s hard to even associate the word hero with myself, I feel like it is only for soldiers and people who run into buildings on fire. Researching the definition of hero keeps showing me that heroes are male (seriously). But I know I am working my ass off and it is hard as fuck. Not giving in to the thoughts in my head telling me to kill myself every day is a battle in itself.
However, thinking about all of this making myself better stuff makes me feel selfish. But if I don’t take care of myself, I won’t survive. I do it for the people that love me, my husband, my future children. Trying to stay alive isn’t selfish, is it? Trying to live a somewhat normal life can’t be selfish.
I just hate thinking about anyone else going through this pain. I like to think I could inspire them. I’m not at the finish line yet, but I’m running as fast as I can, getting up time and time again after I fall. I guess that is the definition of hero. Someone who displays courage. Courage is definied as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.” Even though I struggle with associating the word “hero” with myself, I know damn well that I am the embodiment of courage.
I was first introduced to Star Wars in 1997 at the 20th anniversary re-release in theatres. They absolutely blew me away. Han Solo became my first crush. I was so worried about him at the end of Empire Strikes Back being frozen in carbonite! Princess Leia became one of the first badass female action heros I was exposed to who would rather grab a blaster and defend herself than sit around waiting to be rescued.
After seeing the movies I was hooked. We had some action figures, but I preferred playing Star Wars with legos. Now they didn’t make Star Wars legos back then so I just found minifigs that were close enough, like I had one with black legs, a white shirt and a smirk on his face for Han. My brother would make me a make-shift Millennium Falcon and we would go on adventures throughout the house. I spent many nights fascinated by the ships and vehicles books learning every detail. We even had a guide to the many planets of the Star Wars universe which I was enchanted by. I read several of the EU books, but mostly I just liked hearing the summaries from my brother.
In the days before DVRs, Netflix and iPads existed to entertain children, my brother and I would spend our spare time as children watching, and rewatching and watching again the gold VHS box set. One of the first video games I ever played was Super Star Wars ESB for SNES (it was really hard!). As I grew older I absolutely loved Rogue Squadron and Shadows of the Empire on N64. I also had this badass PC game called Droid Works where you build your own droid and go on missions. It was super cool.
Being a Star Wars fan at that time, not so cool. It is so strange to see how mainstream it has become when we were made fun of relentlessly for liking it growing up. And one thing was clear which I was told many times by male and female classmates: Star Wars is not for girls. Whatever negative outcomes that came from being a Star Wars fan was nothing compared to the magic that galaxy far, far away brought me and others.
When word of a new set of Star Wars movies hit me I was ecstatic. My brother recorded the trailer for The Phantom Menace and we watched it every single morning before school until the movie came out. Some people will disagree with me, but I loved the movie. I loved the strong female Padme/Queen Amidala was (and her awesome wardrobe) and I was actually entertained by Jar Jar Binks, although it sounds like I was the only one. We added this movie to our VHS rotation. I remember seeing Attack of the Clones at the midnight opening and then missing school for sleeping in the next day, but showing up for last period to take a biology quiz. Apparently “Star Wars” was not a good enough excuse for the Assistant Principal. Watching that epic volcano fight scene in Revenge of the Sith had me at the edge of my seat. No matter what people say about the prequels, learning the story of how that sweet little boy became Darth Vader was a wonderful story.
Sharing Star Wars with others has also brought me joy from the fandom. I loved going to San Diego Comic Con and Toronto Fan Expo and seeing the cosplayers and fellow enthusiasts. In college it was so amazing to meet other female Star Wars fans. Then 3 years ago I met the love of my life, someone who shared my affinity for Star Wars and clearly exceeded it (he works on a friggin Star Wars video game!). It is clear to see our love of Star Wars in our home from our Han and Leia hand towels to Darth Vader cookie jar. Tonight will be a very special day in my life. I never thought I would see an Episode 7, but most of all I am fortunate to be sharing with with my amazing husband and wonderful friends.
Thank you to my parents for fostering and encouraging a love for this amazing universe.
I dedicate this to the biggest Star Wars fan I know and the best big brother a girl could ask for Matt Regan
And a final word: May the force be with you, always
If you don’t know Pusheen, she is a very popular cartoon cat on the internet
She has a sister named Stormy too
My phone is even dedicated to Pusheen!
I made my very own drawing of Pusheen and Stormy as part of a holiday card contest
Here is my drawing in pencil then outlined in sharpie
I edited it and colored in Gimp’s software which I feel pretty comfortable with, but I feel like there is an easier way to clean up lines than with various filters. Artists let me know your secrets!
This reminded me how much I love drawing, especially cute things! Although I love more artistic styles, I feel like kawaii is the only one I am skilled at. I look forward to drawing Pusheen again and more!
Recently I had surgery and was told I had a very difficult intubation (inserting the breathing tube). The anesthesiologist recommended I put the information on my fridge and wear a medical alert bracelet. The paper had tons of detailed information, how could I fit it all on a bracelet? I asked myself, would the emergency responders see the paper on my fridge? What if I had an emergency away from home? I also wanted a way for healthcare professionals to easily access my all of my medical history, emergency contacts, medication list, allergies and contact info of my doctors. How could I make all of this info easily available when needed?
I knew I could print all of the information out, but that would be difficult to carry around with me and hard to update. Would a responder look for it in my wallet? When my husband had an emergency recently the paramedics didn’t go looking at the fridge or his wallet for information, they just went right to him.
An alert bracelet was a good idea, but how could I fit all of my information on it? I researched scannable QR code bracelets, but many people don’t know how to use them and the websites they worked with weren’t as customizable as I would have liked.
I did like the of using a website for my information though. When I researched online medical profile websites, most required a monthly fee! These sites seemed hard to navigate for a first responder and required a password yoo. Then I had an idea….
Could I make my own website with my information? This website is run on the free hosting site WordPress, couldn’t I just make one with my info? It is very popular so it won’t be going out of business in the foreseeable future. How could I make sure it was secure? WordPress has a function where websites can be seen when the link is shared, but do not come up in search engines. Getting this site to show up on search engines is hard enough, so I knew my medical info wouldn’t be accessible to the public. Wordpress posts are easy to edit so I could easily update my health information over time. Having all of my information in one place would be nice to access when needed, like at a doctor’s office.
But the url for any site is usually pretty long; how could I fit it all on a bracelet? I’ve seen people use link shortening websites, but I wanted mine to be easy to remember. TinyURL.com lets you create a custom tiny url! The site says the irl will never break or expire.
I’m pretty fashion forward so I knew I needed a medical alert bracelet that aesthetically pleasing too. After a lot of research I found Lauren’s Hope. They had a great selection of fashion conscious bracelet styles with enough engraving space to fit my website link. I found the perfect solution!
5 Super Easy Steps even grandma can do!
1. Make a free website at WordPress.com
Choose a theme, nothing fancy, I like Penscratch
2. Name your site something unique like (random numbers)(lastname)(random letters)
3. Write medical info in a post
4. Go to TINYURL.COM and make custom alias, again something rather unique, no more than 7 characters long
5. Get a custom engraved medical alert bracelet (like LAUREN’S HOPE) with a line saying “Medical History at” (next line)”tinyurl.com/youralias”
I think this is a great idea and I would love to share it with anyone with a complicated medical history like me. Please share this site with your friends!
Dear Scare for a Cure,
I recently received an email from NADE asking permission to publish an article I wrote for Instructables on The Complete Desk Job Fitness Guide that I wrote 5 years ago, how time flies! It still has a lot of good info, so here it is!
The Complete Desk Job Fitness Guide
by Bridget Regan Kolek, PT, DPT
Step 1: Control your methods to and from work
Public transit: If you live in an area with accessible public transportation, you may be able to utilize it to also remain less sedentary. Although many stops are very convenient, you will most likely have to walk a bit to your nearest stop and stand to wait, which is more physical activity than driving. Even just a simple 1/2 mile walk to the bus stop would help you burn an extra 80 calories per day! And get you out of the rush hour traffic…If these seem a little hefty, try one of them one day per week to start out . The best thing about using your method to and from work for exercise is that it forces you to do it. If you biked to work, then you will have to bike home whether you feel like it or not.Of course not all of these options are available to everyone. Sometimes you just have to drive. But what about parking a little further and enjoying a stroll or jog to work?
Step 2: Make health-conscience food choices
Bring lunch as often as you can: The easiest way for me to do this was to buy a bunch of bags of ready made salad, low-cal dressing and croutons and a carton of low-sodium soup and fat free yogurt and just leave it at work in the fridge. That way you don’t have to fuss with preparing a meal each day and turning to unhealthy, quick alternatives. Some people really like the health-conscious prepared frozen meals and stock them in the work fridge as well. Just be sure to find ones that you enjoy and will fill you up.Plan for meals out: Just because you want to stay fit doesn’t mean you have to skip lunch out with coworkers. Look up the restaurant you are going to ahead of time. Most places have their nutrition facts online. You may be surprised, for instance a McDonalds McChicken sandwich has more calories and fat than their cheeseburger? If you are going to a sit down restaurant, portions are often unnecessarily large. Ask for a take out box and plan on eating half of the meal and saving the rest for the next day’s lunch.
Skinny your coffee: Many desk job workers are also coffee fanatics. I was surprised to learn my favorite Starbucks drink, the Grande Iced Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha has a whopping 400 calories and 9 grams of fat! (That’s more calories than a McChicken sandwich) But did you know that you can ask for many of your favorite drinks to be “Skinny”? The same sized Skinny Flavored Latte would bring me down to only 180 calories. Better yet, skip the coffee shop all together and brew yourself. Check out the flavored creamer section of your grocery store and you can find fat-free creamer versions of your favorite coffee house selections.
Aquaify with H2O or low-sugar juices: You maybe have heard stories of weight loss when someone simply gives up their daily soda. These drinks can pack lots of hidden calories, so just skip them. Many people opt for juices instead, but also look at the nutrition value on these. Many juices have added sugar or high fructose corn syrup to make them extra sweet. Look for juices that say “100% juice” or “no sugar added”. The best choice to quench your thirst is simply water, but if you need some more flavor in the day, try bringing a jug of your favorite low-cal drink and leave it in the fridge to fight soda machine temptations. I always left a jug of diet green tea in the fridge at work instead of going to the soda machine. Crystal Light also makes low-cal favor packet singles to flavor just one cup of water too.
Prepare for snacking: When you need a little pick-me-up at work, instead of turning to the vending machine snacks, plan ahead with healthier alternatives at your desk. Keep a stash of healthy snacks like pretzels, crackers, fiber bars, or fat-free puddings in your desk. The Snack-Pack Sugar-Free chocolate or caramel puddings are my favorite at only 80 calories for a rich, sweet, healthy, and cheap ($1 for 4 cups) snack.
Step 3: Move during the day
Meet face-to-face: Instead of calling a coworker, emailing, or sending an instant message, why not get up and meet face-to-face? Some things are better said in person anyway. This is an easy way to put a few more steps into your day and unchain you from your desk, and make your face known more around the office.Make trips away from the desk: Send that document to a farther printer to get a few more steps in your day. Use a farther copier. Use a small water cup or coffee mug so you have to make trips to fill it. Don’t use a trash can in your office; force yourself to get up and use a central one.
Stand when you can: Your body burns approximately 100 calories as hour just by standing! Going to be on a long phone call? Why not stand! Better yet, add some steps and pace a bit. If you like to make notes to yourself, position a white board up high so you have to stand up to write on it. Same with your calendar. When visiting with coworkers, stand as well. In a big meeting with not enough chairs? Don’t fight to grab a chair, offer it to a co-worker and stand for the presentation.
Fidget: There have been numerous studies on the benefits of fidgeting. The simple act of fidgeting can burn up to 350 calories a day! So tap your pen, swing your chair back and forth and tap your toes. These little movements add up over time making you a healthier person.
Use your lunch break: Instead of just staying seated during your lunch break, use this time to move freely. Is there a gym close by? Consider joining and using the machines on your lunch break. You can also go for a nice walk or run during lunch. Increasing your time outside in the fresh air will also improve your mood versus staying inside all day. If you are going out to eat, why not recommend somewhere everyone can walk to?
Studies have shown that just increasing your activity at work with these simple ways can significantly improve your long-term health.
Step 4: Stretch at work
1. Grab and Leans (Sitting upper trap stretch): Sitting in your chair in good posture, hold onto the bottom of the seat and lean your body away. You should feel the stretch on the side of your neck of the arm that is holding on.
Step 5: Perform sitting exercise
Step 6: Wrap up
The research concerning the effects of having a sedentary desk job is frightening. But there is definitely hope: make your sedentary job less sedentary . An interesting study performed by Mayo Clinic studied the effects of inactivity with increased calorie intake. Surprisingly, not all subjects gained weight. Those who did not pack on the pounds unconsciously moved around more during the day than those who did. And those little movements added up.What about those who exercise regularly outside of work? Good. Keep it up. But even 3-5 hours a week of exercising is hard to combat ~40 hours of inactivity, don’t you agree? Active people still need to employ these tips because it is the prolonged inactivity that is so dangerous.Regarding what I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Won’t I look silly stretching and moving around during the day?”. Maybe. But the research is out there: looking silly is a lot better than the scary effects of inactivity. If one of your co-workers asks what is up, share with them what you learned. Invite them to join you in your quest to be more active at work. Share this instructable with your coworkers so you can fight the effects of inactivity together. It’s better than being dead , right?
Image Sources in order
For anyone working from their car and traveling all day, you will often find yourself making your car your kitchen. Although our office on wheels does not have the luxury of a stocked workplace kitchen, that doesn’t mean we can’t nourish ourselves on 4 wheels! These tips are also great for travelers who spend a lot of time in their cars on road trips or anyone with a long commute too.
1. Keeping Hot Drinks Hot
For many of us, coffee is more than a beverage; it is a life force. Others prefer tea as a way to pamper ourselves and relax. Whichever your choice, keeping it hot on the road is a struggle. We do not have the luxury of a microwave to reheat or brew a fresh pot. Although there are many ways to keep a liquid hot on the go, the consensus is that a metal vacuum flask is the way to go.
Science time: heat is a form of kinetic energy. According to the First Law of Thermodynamics energy is constant, it is not created or destroyed. When a hot liquid is poured in a regular mug the heat energy escapes to the mug and surrounding air until the liquid is the same as the room’s temperature. A vacuum sealed flask creates a closed system so the heat cannot escape, therefore keeping your drink hotter for longer.
Enough science, which flask is best? I’ve gone through my fair share of various travel coffee mugs and one definitely stands out: Thermos 16oz Raya Travel Mug . The link is for 2 at $15 each with free shipping and believe me, you will want 2. I’ve had this mug (in a pink version which I cannot find anywhere) for 5 years and it is still going strong. It easily keeps coffee piping hot for at least 4 hours and still warm at 6 hours. What I really like about this mug particularly is the rubbery grips which are essential for sipping and driving. The bottom is non-slip as well so the mug won’t flail around in your cup holder. There is a simple slide lock mechanism to access the spout which is easily done with one hand, but tough enough to prevent accidental spills. It is very easy to clean, although I wouldn’t recommend putting it in the dishwasher. One down side is you must leave about 3/4″ air clearance from the top or else too much steam can push the lid up, although you just have to push it back down if that happens.
Although I haven’t tried it, the Thermos 16-Ounce Drink Bottle with Tea Infuser seems like a good upgrade from the Raya. It has great reviews, boasts 12 hours of heat and 24 hours of cold and has a loose leaf tea infuser! It’s a little on the expensive side at $25.26, but is dishwasher safe. The average American worker spends $28.80 on coffee in just 2 weeks, so the savings of getting one of these is incredible!
Other devices exist to keep your drinks toasty, but I have not tried them yet. I’m interested in the RoadPro RPBH-012 12V Beverage Heater. It plugs into the car’s power socket and reports heating in 2-3 minutes, which reviewers confirm. Instructions report it can only be used in glass or ceramic cups, but does not mention metal. I believe it would be fine since the concern is burning through a paper, plastic or Styrofoam cub.
2. Keeping Cold Drinks Cold
A nice thing about the vacuum flasks is that they keep cold drinks frosty too, for even longer times, so when you are done with your coffee you can fill it up at a water fountain and it will stay cool. If you would prefer a separate cold drink container I would go with Thermos Vacuum Insulated 18-Ounce Stainless-Steel Hydration Bottle. It has the same vacuum sealed technology which reports keeping drinks cool for up to 24 hours. It also has the rubbery grip which is perfect for handling on the road and a wide spout, perfect for big cool gulps.
A cheap, but not as environmentally friendly, option are packs of plastic water bottles sold in stores. I just bought a 24 pack of Walmart brand water for $2! You can freeze a whole bottle or just freeze a little and fill the rest with water depending how fast the ice will melt in your climate. The safety factor of reusing these types of bottles is controversial. It is not recommended by the manufacturers as repeated use will cause thinning or cracks in the surface which can harbor bacteria in a bottle meant to only be used once or twice. Leaving these types of bottles in a hot car for an extended period of time can leach harmful phthalates into the water. BPA (bisphenol A) is also a hotly debated substance found in many plastic water bottles. To summarize the current knowledge: BPA is not good for you and exposing it to heat is really bad. I am usually skeptical of all “chemicals are evil” granola babe scares, but I do think in the future we will see heating plastics like we see tobacco now. They didn’t know it was bad for them for years and it took tons pressure to see a change.
So if you want a reusable water bottle, go for one that is BPA free. My favorite alternative is the Ello 20-oz Glass Water Bottle with Flip Lid. Many people, including myself, swear that water from a glass bottle tastes better than from metal or plastic. The Ello brand typically has a colorful silicone sleeve to improve grip and protect against being dropped. They also have wide mouths which are great for adding ice cubes and easy cleaning, plus they are dishwasher safe! I like this model because of the one-touch flip lid perfect for driving.
Once you have your container, you need to make the drink cold. Unlike heating, there are no harmful effects from freezing water, just be aware that when water freezes as it expands. To prevent your bottle from breaking leave air space at the top, at least 2 inches and keep lids off or loosely unscrewed. Using a wide mouth bottle allows you to put regular ice cubes straight in. If yours is too small for that, there are many tube-shaped ice cube molds. My favorite is Good Old Values’ 4 Ice Tube Making Trays for Water Bottles – 2pc Sets. Unlike silicone, they are rigid and wont flop around as you take it from sink to freezer, but are still easy to pop out.
3. Keeping Cold Foods Cold and Fresh
Working on the road is tough when lunchtime rolls around. You can find yourself spending a lot of your hard earned money on fast food versus bringing food from home. Keeping food cool and fresh can be a challenge, but not with the right tools.
It all starts with a good lunchbox. There are oodles of great insulated lunch holders out there, but I have friends who swear by the Coleman 9 Can Soft Cooler. It’s a steal at $13.99 for the gray one, but can be a little big for some people. The Coleman 9 Can Cooler Satchel is a smaller and stylish alternative and at only $8.88. My personal choice would be Picnic Plus Outdoor Portable Travel Savoy Lunch Bag. It comes with a plastic food container and has a little pocket, but what really attracted me to it are the variety of fun patterns and colors.
Regarding ice packs, I recommend using a flexible sheet like Flexi Freeze Refreezable Ice Sheets. They come in a large 19×15.5″ sheet and you can cut them to a custom size. This allows you to place one on the bottom of your lunch container and wrap the sheet around the walls of your tote and one on top so coolness is distributed evenly versus one single ice pack.
A lot of people love salad for lunch. The best product for on the go salad container I’ve seen is Ramini Brands Fresh Salad To Go Serving Cup . It holds the dressing in a little cup so the salad doesn’t get soggy and comes with a fork. Once you pour the dressing on the salad you can close the lid and shake to distribute evenly. Best of all, it fits in a cup holder! Perfect to eat in your car on the run.
Using the same concept as the salad cups, a mason jar is the perfect cold food container for the car. They are BPA-free and fit in most cup holders. They are perfect for a pasta, Asian noodle or quinoa salad, also yogurt granola parfaits and even oatmeal. The diameter of a wide mouth jar is 3″ and the average car cup holder is 3″. If you can’t find one to fit your car’s cup holder you may need a cup holder adapter. Since mason jars usually come in large quantities, it is easy for you to just make a bunch of these at the beginning of the week and grab them from the fridge when you need them. Although they are sold online, mason jars are usually cheapest at your grocery store.
If you are going to be using mason jars as food storage a lot, you ,may want to invest in upgrading from those complicated mason jar lids. I recommend Tulid Silicone Mason Jar Lids. They are also BPA-free and have a rubberized grip so it’s easy to open. The lid can be written on with wet erase markers so you don’t forget what you made.
Sandwiches have always been the quintessential lunch to bring from home. Putting them in a baggie leaves the sandwich vulnerable to being damaged, so hard sandwich containers were made. My choice is the Sistema Klip It Sandwich Box Set. The box easily flips open for easy use while driving and is BPA-free, unlike many plastic sandwich boxes. These boxes are large enough to fit most types of bread. Using a box also helps manage crumbs so they fall into the open box as you eat.
On the subject of sandwiches, here is my little trick: to keep sliced bread fresh longer I keep it in the freezer. I use the frozen bread to make my sandwich and by lunch time it is the perfect temperature. This keeps the sandwich contents fresh as well like meats and cheeses which can spoil if not kept cold. Spreading condiments on frozen bread is much easier as well.
I also just found out about Snackeez Travel Drink/Snack Cup. It holds 16 oz of drink and 4 oz of snack in one cup! A great idea.
4. Keeping/Making Food Hot
This is truly my biggest food dilemma working from my car. I crave warm food, but there are plenty of devices and tricks to having a warm meal on the go. Using the same vacuum sealed technology as the coffee mugs, food sized containers also exist and keep food hot for hours. There are many of these thermal food jars that range in size from 10 oz to 24 oz and come in a variety of colors and styles and even cute owls! If I had to pick one favorite I would go with Thermos Stainless King 16-Ounce Food Jar. I feel that 16 oz is a good size and this Thermos boasts keeping food hot 7 hours, which multiple reviews confirm. Something I love about this model is that it has a metal spoon built into it. Dealing with cutlery in the car is a hassle, so this is a great feature.
There are many devices that work off your vehicle’s 12 V plug to heat food including a grill, sauce pan/popcorn maker, slow cooker, and even a frying pan, but the most versatile item to have would be an oven. There are two portable stoves that are the same in size, price and ratings. They are RoadPro 12-Volt Portable Stove and Koolatron LBS-01 Black 12 Volt Lunch Box Stove. Both heat to 300 degrees F, are 11x8x8″ and people rave about both. The cooking area is equal to an aluminum loaf pan which can be found at dollar stores or bought in bulk $37.17 for 200 pans, which is 19 cents per pan. There are reports of the Koolatron heating faster than the RoadPro, 30 min vs 90 minutes.
It is possible to access a microwave even if you work from your car. Many employees have a main office they report to which probably has a microwave they can use. Considering having lunch with a friend or spouse at their office and use the microwave there. Perhaps you are friendly with a certain business and they may let you use theirs. Many gas stations have one for customers to use, but you probably have to buy gas or something else before they would let you use it and they are probably kinda nasty. College cafeterias have them, but good luck finding parking near the cafeteria around lunch. Some hotels have one in their breakfast area, but try not to draw attention to the fact that you aren’t staying there. Truly the best bet is apartment leasing offices and HOA clubhouses which frequently have one for anyone to use, often in a community kitchen. Using it isn’t too suspicious, especially if your work took you to someone who lives in that community.
If you are going to use a microwave, you need to have a microwave safe container. Many leftover-style containers you have at home may release dangerous chemicals when heated in the microwave or cleaned in the dishwasher. My faves are the double-stacked bento-style boxes Bentgo and Effiliv. Both come is several stylish colors, are almost the same in price and, my favorite feature, have built in cutlery!. The Effiliv is slightly larger and snaps together versus Bentgo‘s elastic strap, plus Effiliv claims to be spill proof, while Bentgo does not. Bentgo offers an Bentgo%20Bag – Insulated Lunch Box Bag Keeps Food Cold On The Go – Purpleinsulated bag for $7.99 as an add on as well. If you want something a little more spartan, Rubbermaid%2042-Piece Easy Find Lid Food Storage SetRubbermaid and Pyrex make microwave safe containers as well. Avoid being like your grandmother and reusing margarine or yogurt containers; they are definitely not microwave safe and are meant for single use only. Regarding take out containers, follow their instructions. Some Styrofoam is microwave safe while some isn’t, same with plastic.
5. Dealing with Trash
If you are spending a lot of time in your car you are bound to have trash. Having a designated trash receptacle is a must. I like a model that hangs on the headrest of the passenger seat like the High Road TrashStash Leakproof Car Litter Bag or Mas27 Trash Keeper. Some models hang off the A/C vents or sit on the floor taking up valuable car space and are more likely to spill. The Mas27 is a little bigger, but also more expensive. Both are leak proof which is essential for keeping those last few drops of soda off of your upholstery. Both Velcro closed for keeping anything stinky from smelling up your car.
If you have a lot of trash the best place to dispose of it on the road are gas stations. They are very convenient next to the pumps and are rarely full, unlike fast food restaurants who also might look at you weird taking for your trash in their store.
6. Utensils and Napkins
I have such a high opinion of food containers with built-in utensils for a reason. You do not want to be missing pieces in your once-perfect set of designer silverware because they’re lost in your car somewhere. After they are used they are messy and require a place to be stored where they won’t get anything else dirty, but not forgotten and thrown away. There are many reusable cutlery sets out there, but my fave is Ikea’s colorful 16-piece set. There are 6 complete fork, spoon and knife sets. Great for 5 days of the workweek and one extra! What I recommend doing is keep these all in a Ziploc baggie and have another Ziploc baggie to collect the dirty ones. At the end of the week take the dirty baggie and wash the utensils and you’re ready for next week! Keep this in your glove compartment or center console and you’ll never be stuck without silverware again. Of course you could also by disposable plastic cutlery for single use, but reusable will save you over time and save the Earth.
If you are eating in your car, you’re going to need napkins. I see a lot of people have a roll of paper towels rolling around somewhere in their car, but that takes up precious space and isn’t the most handy. I recommend a visor clip tissue/napkin holder to keep them close. They also make cute ones that strap on to the seat. From there it’s up to you if you want to fill it with actual napkins or tissues that can double as napkins.
7. Good Travel Foods and Snacks
Working on the road, you definitely need to keeps some snacks handy. When it comes to munching in the car, portion control is key. Individual sized servings of muchies are great. Chips, crackers, granola bars, jerky, and cookies are all foods you can keep a stash of in your car for snack-mergencies. Save money by buying in bulk and making your own snack sized portions with Ziploc baggies. Using plastic cups with a lid is a great way to store snacks so they easily fit in the cup holder. You can use reusable or single use cups for this. Be careful of any snack that can melt or get mushy on a hot day like chocolate, peanut butter, caramel and yogurt coatings. (I live in Texas where 100 degrees in summer is a cool day).
There are oodles of great travel foods, but my favorite car snack is almonds. They contain a lot of protein which is great for making you feel full. They are also a good source of many of vitamins and minerals and good fats to lower cholesterol. Blue Diamond makes a ton of awesome flavors; savory ones like habenero barbeque, wasabi and soy sauce and smokehouse and sweet flavors like butter toffee, vanilla and even apple pie! Many varieties come in canisters with a twist off lid that fit perfectly in a cup holder and minimize spill chances. My favorite is the dark chocolate; it isn’t actually covered in chocolate, just cocoa powder, but it still satisfies my inner chocoholic without the guilt. A big plus for almonds is almost no crumbs – something you really appreciate after eating in your car a few times. I’ve linked Amazon for these, but check your local supermarket to see if they are cheaper there.
Another one of my favorite car snacks is string cheese. They come in many flavors, even pizza! They typically have 4-6g of protein and 50-60 calories a piece making them a great healthy snack. They can apparently last 2 to 4 hours at room temperature, but keeping them cool in an insulated container is recommended for freshness. I love the Babybel cheese wheels too, but the little wax packaging can leave a mess in your car on a hot day, so be careful of that.
I’m often in a rush in the morning and need something simple to grab for the day. A great choice is Starkist Tuna Creations. They come in Sweet & Spicy, Hickory Smoked, Herb & Garlic, Ranch, Lemon Pepper and unflavored. The 74g pouches range from 60 to 110 calories and average about 30% of your daily protein requirement which is great for keeping you feeling full. They do not require refrigeration, but I prefer to eat them chilled. There are a lot of recipe ideas to do with these, but I like to just eat them from the packet with a fork. When you are done you’ll want to dispose of the empty packet quickly as it can stink up your car.
You can never have enough fruits and veggies in your diet, so why not take them along for the ride? A banana is a perfect travel companion on it’s own, (although you can buy a special banana case, should you feel so inclined to protect it). Baby carrots and celery sticks are ideal finger foods and pair well with a cup of ranch dressing; either in a prepackaged cup or one brought from home. My favorite fruit is an apple. They need no prep, but if you prefer cut apple slices have you heard of the rubber band trick to keep your slices fresh? Oranges require a hefty time investment for preparation to eat, unless you learn the right way to peel/eat an orange! Fruit leathers and ropes are delicious treat on the go as well; you can even make your own!
Most people’s ideal on-the-go nutrition comes in liquid form. Protein/meal shakes are a very popular, convenient style of nourishment. They come in handy pre-mixed shakes or powders that you add water to. There are so many brands and flavors of these out there I really have a hard time recommending one over another. It truly depends on your personal tastes. To keep you full you’ll want a drink that is high in protein and fiber. If you choose a powder, I recommend the Blender Bottle to mix it well on the go.
8. Where to Eat
Just because you’re on the road doesn’t mean you are limited to eating in your car. Here are some ideas of locations to eat your home-packed food:
- Grocery stores’ tables and seating area- Most Targets have a big area at the front with tables and chairs for anyone to use, as do many other grocery stores like Wegmans, Randalls, Publix and Kroger to name a few.
- Join a friend/spouse at their company’s break room
- Apartment leasing offices/ housing community clubhouses- these often have nice indoor eating areas; most people won’t question you or throw you out because they want to represent their community favorably to you
- Hotel lobbies- again, they probably won’t question you
- Hospital cafeterias
- Mall food courts
- College cafeterias
- Coffee/ smoothie/juice/bubble tea shops-as long as you buy something and they don’t serve their own food
- Office building lobbies
- At a company’s break room that you do business with frequently-call it networking
- Church kitchen, but you should probably actually belong to that church
- Some gyms/fitness centers have eating areas, provided you belong
- Nursing home/assisted living center, but only if your work takes you there anyways
- Parks’ picnic tables
- Highway rest stop picnic tables
- College campuses often have outdoor eating areas
- Tables and chairs outside a fast food restaurant – they probably won’t come out and question you for eating there
- Keep a folding chair in your car and eat anywhere scenic you find!
I personally eat in the car while driving as much as I can. It makes the best use of my time by dual-tasking, but safety remains key. Some important points if you are going to do this:
- Do not eat while driving unless you know the road well and don’t have to use GPS or maps
- Choose foods that only need one hand to be eaten
- Pull over or take advantage of red lights to handle more complicated food tasks like opening pthings
- Avoid messy foods- place a napkin on your lap just in case
- Utilize your cup holders to securely hold things or the passenger seat
- Do not multitask beyond eating- no playing with your iPod, texting or phone calls, even on Bluetooth; your brain can only focus on so many things safely at once
This article has featured a lot of products for making eating on the road easier which some people may find expensive or unnecessary. Two thirds of American workers don’t pack their lunch. In 2013 the average worker who did not pack a lunch spent $7.23 per day, definitely on the cheap side of most meals out in my opinion. But that $7.23 becomes $36.16 a week, $144.60 a month and $1,735.20 per year and $8,676 after 5 years! I assume people who work from their car probably spend even more than the $7.23 average. Plus snacks and drinks from home versus gas stations? Big savings. Also, think of the nutritional value of that food you’re getting out. Your homemade lunch is probably a lot healthier too. The average fast food lunch contains 836 calories. A bagged lunch of a diet soda, turkey and cheese sandwich, an apple, bag of chips and a whole Hershey’s chocolate bar (gotta have my chocolate) only clocks in at 615 calories. After a year that 221 calorie difference equals 15 extra pounds. Consider time spent as well. Let’s say you drive 2 minutes out of the way to get fast food and spend 5 minutes from when you get in line to the food in your hands; that’s 9 minutes a day. That becomes 45 minutes a week, 3 hours a month and a day and a half (36 hours) a year! If you are safely able to eat in your car instead of taking time out of your work day to eat you can save 20-30 minutes a day; that’s an extra 1.5-2.5 hours a week! So, bringing your own food saves you time, money and your health.
Well, that’s it folks! Please share any other tips you have in the comments and happy travels; bon appetit! ❤
Don’t just keep all this great info to yourself, share with your coworkers, friends and on social media!