There’s no getting around it, at some point you’ll need to stop and pick up a bite to eat on the road. No, gas station food isn’t the ideal source for healthy meals. However, when left with no choice can you still make healthier choices aside from a Slurpee, bag of chips, and a hotdog? Surprisingly, yes!
Not everyone is into calorie and macro counting but if you are then use this to help get you started when building your gas station diet:
Protein + Fiber + Healthy Fat = 550 calories (men)/350 calories (women)
Protein should be the base of your meal to ensure 2 actions: satiation and thermic effect. Dense protein sources help subdue the hunger hormone called ghrelin and prevent you from overeating. Also, protein has the highest thermic effect compared to carbs and fats. This means your body burns more calories in the digestion of protein. Yay protein! The best sources will come from hardboiled eggs, beef jerky (watch out for the sodium!), yogurt, cottage cheese, canned tuna, and protein bars. Most popular gas stations carry some variety of these proteins. Always choose the sources with the least amount of sugar.
Fiber, like protein, helps make you feel full. In addition, fiber promotes healthy bowel movements (good thing gas stations have bathrooms!). Most of your fiber sources are going to come from fruit such as apples, pears, and bananas (usually at the register) and whole grain packaged items. Gas station fruit is still fruit. Just give it a good rinse and you’re all set (bananas already good so just peel and eat). Most of your whole grain items are going to be moderately-to-highly process. When it doubt, look for the whole grain items with the fewest ingredients. Sources of whole grain fiber are crackers, oatmeal bars, oatmeal, and popcorn. This will be the hardest category to fix as many “grain” products will have processed white flour, but do your best.
While fat has the highest calorie count of any macro (9 calories for every 1 gram) it is important to consume fat for a well-balanced and fully functioning endocrine system. Everything from brain health to heart health are heavily effected by fat, both good and bad. Fat can become a complex issue so to keep it simple just avoid TRANS fat. Most food companies today have begun using less and less trans fat due to having zero health benefits and has been directly linked to heart disease. Fortunately, many gas stations have a multitude of healthier fat sources such as cheese sticks, repacked guacamole, various packages of nuts, trail mix, and nut bars. Again, be careful with the serving portions like trail mix. The calories add up fast.
One final note: gas station food is a substitute when all else fails. If you are on the road daily or weekly then I recommend investing in a sturdy, large cooler to keep in your trunk or back seat. Load it up with all the meals and snacks you’ll need for the trip and refill with ice as needed (gas stations have those too). This requires you to MEAL PREP the weekend before your road trip. Finally, don’t forget to stretch your legs! While filling up do a few jumping jacks and/or stretches. Sure, you’ll look goofy but it’s your body. Take care of it. Besides, you won’t see those people at the gas station ever again…hopefully haha.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!