It’s well known that fatigue can affect driving safety. One key factor to help us maximise our alertness on journeys is proper nourishment. We sent nutritionist Susie Kearley to her local motorway service area, on the M40 near Oxford, where she sampled a range of dishes on offer – and passed judgement on just how suitable they were for drivers on long journeys…
Brie, Cranberry and Mushroom Wellington
This was the vegetarian option of the day – sautéed mushrooms, spinach, hazelnut, cranberries and porcini, topped with French brie, encased in puffed pastry, and served with potato and peas. Delicious.
Good points: lots of nutritious vegetables providing antioxidants, cheese for protein and vitamin B12.
Bad points: refined flour and mushrooms cooked in oil which usually (depending on the oil used) creates trans fatty acids which contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Price: £6.99. Susie’s verdict: 8/10
Half a rotisserie Chicken served with chips and peas – a fresh slice of orange drizzling juice on top for a mild kick of sweet flavour. Very tasty.
Good points: white meat is low in fat and provides B12 which improves concentration and memory. Vegetables supply nutrients and antioxidants.
Bad points: chips are high in bad fats which damage the arteries. The huge serving of meat will take a long time to digest (protein takes longer and uses more energy to digest). It could make a driver sleepy if he/she was getting tired anyway.
Price: £7.99 Susie’s verdict: 6/10
Cauliflower cooked in a cheesy sauce, baked in the oven, and served as a side dish. Taste-wise this was disappointing: not very cheesy.
Good points: cauliflowers are high in vitamin C a potent antioxidant, as well as providing good amounts of vitamin K and folic acid. They contain phytoestrogens which protect against some cancers, and even contain some omega 3. The cheesy topping provides some B12 and protein.
Bad points: it is hard to criticise this dish except to say it’s a bit small as a main meal and would be more balanced if combined with other foods and vegetables for a wider range of nutrients.
Price: 99p Susie’s verdict: 9/10
Milky cappuccino with chocolate on top. Delicious! It’s not going to get top marks for nutritional value though, since caffeine is a stimulant which provides a peak in energy which then falls off, leaving you more tired than before.
Good points: Milk provides vitamin B12 which helps you concentrate.
Bad points: Don’t think this cuppa will keep you driving safely all afternoon. You need some carbohydrates in your diet to keep your blood sugar levels stable, and keep you safe and alert on the road.
Price: £2.65 Susie’s verdict: 1/10 as a meal replacement
Fish and chips
The batter is made from refined flour, and would be healthier made from wholemeal. Oily fish such as tuna or mackerel are healthier alternatives to cod or haddock. However, this meal gives you the protein and carbohydrate to keep you going on the road – but it’s a fatty choice which could make you feel groggy and drowsy.
Good points: The fish is fairly healthy – containing protein and vitamin B12.
Bad points: The chips and batter are deep fried, making them a health hazard for your heart!
Price: £6.99 Susie’s verdict: 4/10
If Susie’s motorway food review has caught your attention, then make sure you don’t miss her investigation into nutrition, alertness and driver fatigue in the forthcoming edition of Good Motoring magazine.