The road beckons, but your stomach is grumbling. Your best bet for food is the closest gas station, but why sabotage your dieting efforts? Candy bars, ice cream and soft drinks may be what comes to mind at first, but there are actually multiple alternatives. No need to stay “hangry” when there are wholesome, healthy options available at gas station vendors. Any of these snacks are sure to satisfy your hunger without weighing you down.
If you’ve ever had a case of “the munchies,” you know that popcorn is often the way to go. One serving of popcorn (about 3 cups) can be as little as 100 calories and contain 3g of fiber, which will help fill you up in no time. Popcorn is versatile, so keep it as low calorie and low fat as possible by choosing a plain, sea salt popcorn with the least total grams of fat. Unless you have a party going on in the backseat of your car, forgo the party size bag. Stick to a portion controlled bag for a diet-friendly snack outcome.
Fresh fruit, fruit cups, dried fruit, and fruit crisps
Fruit is generally available in a few different forms in most gas stations. Fresh fruit is incredibly hydrating and it’s a great option for those who forget to drink when they’re on the road. If fresh fruit is not one of the options available to you, opt for a fruit cup, dried fruit, or fruit crisps. Just make sure to check the ingredients for any unwanted hidden added sugars. Sugary “fruit snacks” and fruit leathers do not fall into this category!
You may be surprised, but beef jerky can actually be a protein packed, low fat, convenient snack for on-the-go. The key is to avoid products with added nitrites, MSG and excessive sodium. First, take a moment to look over the ingredient list and take a pass if there are unnatural ingredients that you don’t recognize. Next, compare similar jerky side by side and opt for the lowest sodium option. Choosing a low sodium option will prevent you from retaining water and feeling uncomfortably bloated.
Duh? We don’t think so. Trail mix can be a great healthy snack, but watch out for unwanted add-ins and sugars. M & M’s and pretzels mixed in will add unwanted sugars and fats. Even without those, double check the ingredient list to make sure that there are no other added sugars. Trail mix consisting of nuts and dried fruit alone is chock full of healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and fiber. Just remember to check out the serving size before you chow down trail mix by the handful. Better yet, purchase a portion controlled package.
The protein bar aisle is a slippery slope, but one worth navigating. Protein bars can be a convenient meal or snack for travelers, and can contain anywhere from 9g to over 25g of protein. Some things to look out for when selecting the healthiest protein bar is a low calorie count, a high fiber content and the least sugar and fat possible. After selecting a protein bar of your choice, take the time to savor each bite as you eat it. Although these bars are small in size, they contain enough calories and macronutrients for an entire meal or filling snack and should be treated as such.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.