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Gas Station Grabs: Finding Healthier Options at Convenience Stores

Posted by Lisa Peterson -

With the weather cooling down and the holidays creeping up, millions of Americans will be back on the road traveling to see family and friends. Finding healthy meal and snacking options while traveling can be tough. Previously I've blogged about packing healthy snacks similar to packing a suitcase, but sometimes there just is not enough time or space to pack a cooler full of healthy options. Whether it's traveling for holidays, or for work, stopping at the gas station to fuel up the car can lead to impulsively buying munchies filled with empty calories. Is there a way to eat healthier at gas stations while satisfying the need to snack? Check out options and tips below for navigating the gas station without overloading on excess fat, sugar, and salt.

Healthful Options

Craving Something Sweet

  • Go for the whole fruit-bananas, apples, oranges, or see if the gas station has any pre-packaged cut fruit or fruit cups.
  • Want that candy bar? Don't deny yourself just watch portion sizes. Consider buying the regular size bar over the king-size, or splitting the bar with the co-pilot.

Quick Salt Fix

  • Look for chip options in portion sized bags. Read the nutrition facts labels as many packages contain more than one serving. Remember various snacks have 2-3 servings per bag while the label only tells what is in one serving.
  • Choose "baked" options in the chip section. Baked chips have less fat, less calories, and won't make hands as oily-meaning less of a mess in the car.
  • Go for the unsalted almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds and other nuts & seeds. Nuts and seeds are great sustainable foods when traveling because they contain protein and fiber-two types of nutrients that will keep you full longer for long road trips.
  • Grab some popcorn. Popcorn is a whole grain and an easy snack to munch on while on the road.

Check out the Coolers

  • Coolers near the back of convenience stores or around the perimeter often contain more than just beverages. Rather than grabbing chips or snacks with "cheese flavoring" go for the real deal and pick up low fat string cheese.
  • Greek yogurt is also a great snack option for traveling. Greek yogurt typically contains lower amounts of added sugar and higher amounts of protein-helping stay full longer. Can't find a spoon? Wander over near the hot food options, there is often plastic utensils over there.

Breakfast, Energy, Power, and Meal Replacement Bars

  • Read the ingredient labels and look for bars with fewer ingredients. Ingredients are listed by weight with the first being the most present in the bar.
  • An easy rule of thumb when looking for a snack bar, look at the label, and for the entire bar aim for:
    • 150-200 calories with no more than 300 calories
    • Greater than 5 grams fiber
    • 5-10 grams protein and no more than 20 grams. Too much protein can be hard on the kidneys.
    • Less than 5 grams fat with zero trans fat
    • Less than 15 grams sugar
  • Vitamins and minerals do not go above 100% recommended daily value.

Beverages of Choice

  • Water, unsweetened tea, skim milk, and 100% juices are ideal options to quench thirst without overloading on empty calories.

Looking for healthy snacks in the gas station doesn't have to be an additional stress on your travels. Instead of impulsively going for the candy bar and pop, give yourself a few minutes to wander around the gas station and look at all the options. Best of luck traveling this upcoming holiday season and safe and healthy travels!

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