A Nutritionist’s Take on Healthy Gas-Station Snacks

(Image credit: Samantha Bolton)

So, you’re on the road to somewhere wonderful and you can’t tell if it’s the excitement about reaching your final destination that’s making you dizzy or, wait … nope, it’s actually hunger. In your rush to get out the door and be on your way to the lake, beach, country, mountains — wherever it is, not here — you forgot to pack snacks. Unfortunately, you’re short on options, so the gas station it is. Before you reach for the Big Gulp and a pack of Twizzlers, consider these nutritionist tips on how to eat healthy-ish at your run-of-the-mill Sunoco.

When you’re on the road and trying to eat somewhat healthy, your best bet is to pack your own snacks. But sometimes you take an impromptu trip or the baby just spit up on your favorite shirt or you’re running late or whatever. The point is, it’s not always possible to be completely prepared.

But just because the situation is less than ideal, that doesn’t mean you should just give up completely, which by the way, is a totally normal behavior. “This is one of the things I see very often when my clients are in a situation where they’re hungry and they want to find something they want to eat,” says Ryan D. Andrews, MS, RD, coach at Precision Nutrition. “Since they can’t find the perfect meal, they say, ‘Screw it, I’m just going to get whatever.’ It goes from the perfect meal to just junk.”

So what should you do instead? “Do the best you can with the available options,” says Ryan. “You’re probably not going to find the ideal balanced meal, but you can get something fairly nutritious and satisfying, so you’ll feel good afterwards.”

Here are four healthy gas-station choices to tide you over until your destination.

4 Healthy Gas-Station Snacks

1. Fresh Fruit

As a general rule, the “fresh” foods are probably not the way to go. “They’re not my top choice,” says Ryan. “Gas stations don’t have regular access to fresh foods.” The exception to the rule is fruit. It’s probably not going to be the best fruit you’ve ever had, but most places will have oranges and bananas. “They’re simple, they taste good, and they feel good.”

2. Nutrition Bars

These days, nutrition bars are basically everywhere, and chances are you’ll be able to find a decent one. Ryan’s top pick is a Lara Bar, something that’s primarily fruit and nuts, with not a lot of added sugar. And if you have to reach for a candy bar, opt for something substantial, like a Snickers.

3. Nuts & Trail Mix

Nuts and trail mix are staples of the gas station grocery aisles and always a good option for staving off hunger. If it’s a particularly nice gas station, you might even find some slightly more exciting options, like roasted chickpeas.

4. Unsweetened Tea

When it comes to beverages, your gas station options are limited. “There are very, very few that are a good idea to consume on a regular basis,” says Ryan. He recommends unsweetened teas, which offer a pick-me-up without a ton of sugar. And if you like coffee, that’s another option.

What’s your go-to gas-station snack? Is it one of these?