by Matt Weik
You’ve been driving for what seems like an eternity and your stomach is telling you that it better get something in it soon. The road trip seems to be taking longer than expected and you’re going to need some quick food if you want to make it to your destination on time. Heavy traffic has you behind schedule but your stomach is growling like a pitbull who just locked eyes with a home intruder. You don’t have time to sit down at a restaurant and you definitely don’t want fast food. So what do you do? Stop at a gas station and grab a hotdog and a bag of chips? Actually, that’s partially correct—just skip every food item that was just mentioned and follow along with where we’re going with this.
Pull into the nearest gas station and take a walk around. I’m willing to bet that any gas station you stop in will have the three amazing choices below that you should definitely consider purchasing in a pinch. The best option would have been to pack a healthy snack for the road, but you didn’t plan that far ahead, nor did you think traffic would be bumper to bumper most of your trip. Therefore, use the three choices below as your saving grace during your journey.
1. Protein Bars
While not all protein bars are created equal, it’s safe to say that if you are looking to crush your hunger, this is a great way to do so. There are really three different bars that I would toss into this category. You have protein bars, nutritional bars, and meal replacement bars.
Protein bars will generally have a good amount of protein in them while being moderate in fats and carbs. Nutritional bars will have a lower protein content and a moderate to high amount of carbohydrates. Last but not least would be your meal replacement bars. These are going to yield you around 400 calories and have a high protein, carbohydrate, and fat content. Most of the time the meal replacement bars are not your best choice and are full of terrible carb/fat sources.
Overall, you need to be aware of the nutritionals though—many protein bars are disguised as candy bars and if you aren’t paying attention you could end up with way more sugar and fat (unhealthy fat) than you wanted. If you find the protein bar you chose is full of sugars and fats, put it back on the shelf and keep looking for a better alternative. If that’s the best you can find, then consider one of the other options below. Most of the protein bars you will find at gas stations will have anywhere from 10g to 40g of protein in them. Find one that sounds appealing and tasty to you yet still allows you to hit your macros for the day.
2. Beef Jerky
This grab and go option is great for people who are looking to stay low carb or low fat with their macros. Beef jerky is slam-packed with protein but you need to look at the label before scarfing it down. Check the label for nitrates, MSG, and extremely high sodium levels. If you see any of them, keep looking at the other jerky options or choose a different item from this list.
While beef jerky will satisfy your hunger as well as giving you more protein in your diet, if the wrong brand is chosen, you might be left feeling bloated due to water retention—caused by the excessive amount of sodium found in some jerky products. This is not a good feeling when you’re behind the steering wheel for several hours.
3. Trail Mix
There are several trail mix varieties you can find at gas stations in a pinch, but not all of them are good choices if you are trying to watch what you eat. Similar to protein bars, you have some really great options to choose from and then you have some terrible options that will make you feel uncomfortable after eating and even a crash later in the day due to the sugar content.
Take a peek at the label and look at the ingredients. If you find candy pieces or pretzels you’re generally going to want to put that item back. They will leave you with unwanted sugars and fats. Look for trail mixes that have no added sugars to them and are comprised of nuts and dried fruit. Those will be your best option if you can find them. That style of trail mix will give you protein, fiber, and healthy fats but make sure you check the serving size before inhaling the whole bag as it might be multiple servings without you even thinking about it.