How to Choose Healthy Gas Station Snacks
You might be surprised to discover that there are plenty of healthy gas station snacks available to help you stay on track with your sports nutrition and game day goals.
Fueling your body with the right nutrients to perform your best can be a challenging task during road trips.
Often when you’re traveling, a gas station or convenience store is the only option for food. But you shouldn’t feel like that limits your options.
Generally, these healthy snacks will keep you feeling full and energized throughout your busy day.
Make smart choices to prioritize your sports nutrition plan. This will also ensure that even when you’re on the go, you’ll have healthy and satisfying snack options. This helps to support your sports nutrition performance plan.
Read on for some of the best options and tip to make the healthiest snack choices.
What is the healthiest snack at a gas station
Believe it or not, some of the healthiest snacks at gas stations are foods we recommend our other snack posts. There are plenty of healthy snack options available at gas stations. Here are some of our top picks:
1. Nuts and seeds: Generally most gas station aisles have a section with nuts in cans or in bags. Healthiest options include almonds, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.
These provide great sources of protein, healthy fats and key minerals. They’re a healthy snack to keep you feeling full and satisfied. Choose sunflower seeds or pistachios which have shells which can keep you busy on a long drive.
2. Fresh fruit: Many gas stations have begun to offer fresh fruit options like apples, bananas and oranges. Additionally, some stores have a cooler in the front where they sell berries and other fruits.
These are great choices for athletes because they’re packed with vitamins and minerals, fiber and have anti inflammation effects. But don’t discount the individual fruit cups on the shelves since they are good options too.
3. Greek yogurt: Check out the cooler where you’ll find single-serving containers of low fat greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is high in protein and calcium, but regular yogurts can also be great options as well.
Sometimes these yogurts also come with a small cup of granola which boosts fiber and add carbs for energy.
4. Protein bars: While there are many options for protein bars, look for the bars that have whole food ingredients like nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
Depending on whether you’re pairing the bar with another snack, you’ll want to look for a bar with a good balance of protein and carbohydrates to fill you up and keep you full.
Check out our recommendations for gluten free protein bars.
5. Beef, turkey and plant based jerky: Beef jerky and other options like salmon, turkey, and plant based jerky are a great source of protein, and can be a satisfying snack for athletes who want to add a boost of protein to their snack.
6. Whole grain crackers and hummus: Look for whole-grain crackers and pre-packaged hummus cups, which can provide a satisfying snack that’s high in protein and fiber.
Also, if you can’t find this snack paired already, check out the refrigerated section. You may find mini hummus cups there, and also whole grain crackers on the shelves.
7. Tuna packets: Look for pre-packaged tuna packets, which can be a great option for athletes who need a quick source of protein. Tuna packets are available in a variety of flavors and are easy to pack and eat on the go.
Look for options that are packed in water or olive oil for healthiest choices.Fatty fish is a lean protein rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Studies show these healthy fats can reduce inflammation in your body and support brain health. (1)
8. Fresh vegetable packs cups: You might find cups of fresh veggies like baby carrots, celery sticks and grape tomatoes in the cooler section at the gas station. These provide fiber, anti inflammatory benefits, essential vitamins and minerals.
9. Peanut butter and banana: Many gas stations sell single-serving packets of peanut butter or nut butters, which can be paired with a fresh banana for a satisfying snack that’s high in protein and healthy fats.
10. Roasted chickpeas: Look for pre-packaged single serving size roasted chickpeas, soy nuts or fava beans which are a great source of protein and fiber. These snacks satisfy a salty and crunch craving.
11. Crackers with almond butter: Whole grain crackers can be paired with almond butter for a satisfying snack that’s high in protein and healthy fats.
12. Dark chocolate squares: If you’re in need of a sweet treat, look for dark chocolate bars. Chocolates high in cocoa content contain antioxidant rich flavonoids. (2)
13. Hard-boiled eggs: Pre-packaged hard-boiled eggs, provide protein, choline and healthy fats and can be a quick and easy snack.
14. String cheese: String cheese has a good balance of protein, calcium and healthy fats. This makes it a great choice for refueling and recovering after a workout or activity.
It’s an especially well balanced snack paired with whole grain crackers or pretzels.
15. Protein shakes: Look for pre-made protein shakes that can be an easy grab and go snack. Protein shakes provide a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in an easy drinkable option.
Tips for choosing healthy gas station snacks
When you’re hungry and at the gas station, it can be tempting to grab the first thing you see. But with a little bit of planning and awareness, you can make healthier choices that will benefit your body and your performance.
- Read the labels: Look for snacks have complex carbohydrates, moderate protein, fiber and healthy fats.
- Opt for fresh options: When available, choose fresh fruit and veggies to boost your fiber intake.
- Plan ahead: If you know you’ll be stopping at a gas station on a long road trip or after a game, pick up a couple extra snacks to tide you over until you can eat a regular meal.
How can I make a healthy meal from a gas station
You can make a healthy meal from food options at the gas station. Here are a few tips to help you put together a nutritious meal:
- Start with a base: Look for complex carbohydrate options. Choices like whole grain crackers, pretzels, pita chips, bagel, or microwave rice bowls as a base for your meal.
- Add protein: Choose options like hard-boiled eggs, pre packaged nuts or jerky or pre made protein shakes to add protein to your meal.
- Add color (vegetables and color): Look for pre-packaged vegetable and fruit cups or pre-made salads that include a variety of vegetables to add fiber and nutrients to your meal.
- Choose healthy fats: Consider options like single serving guacamole, hummus or single-serving packets of nut butter to add healthy fats to your meal.
- Add a sweet treat: Dark chocolate, trail mix with dried fruit and nuts satisfy a sweet craving and provide anti inflammatory benefits.
Making a healthy meal at a gas station may require a bit more effort and attention, But, healthy options help you stay on track with your nutrition goals, even when you’re on the go.
What to eat from gas station for energy
Athletes should focus on carbohydrates as the provide the primary source of fuel for your body during exercise.
When looking to create a healthy meal from a gas station, choose options that include complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Good carbohydrate-rich options you might find at a gas station include pre-packaged fruit cups, whole-grain wraps, pretzels, animal crackers, graham crackers, high fiber cereal, popcorn or granola bars.
By including healthy carbohydrates, along with a source of protein and healthy fats, you’ll fuel your body to perform at its best. Even when your food options are limited to a gas station.
Next time you’re traveling to tournaments or training sessions use our tips to make healthy choices. When the only food option on a long day is a gas station, don’t skip a meal or snack.
Instead, use our recommendations above to keep your body fueled. Choose a high carbohydrate, moderate protein option especially if you’re fueling before or after a game.
You’ll want your muscles fueled so you can perform at your best.
What snack combination will you try?
Let us know in the comments.
Steph Magill, MS, RD, CD, FAND has over 20 years in public health and nutrition experience. As a performance nutritionist, Stephanie specializes in sports nutrition and provides simple and actionable information so that athletes can be well fueled for high performance on and off the field. Stephanie has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.