Posted by: thehungryrunner | September 1, 2009

Finding Healthy Meals and Snacks at….the Gas Station

We’ve all been there.  You’re on a long drive or road trip, you’re hungry, and the only options looming before you are either the vending machines at the next rest stop (which doesn’t always mean total disaster, but that’s a subject for another post) or….the dreaded gas station store.  Some of the most frightening concoctions on the planet can be found there, begging the question, “Who actually EATS this stuff????”  Sure, the obvious solution is, make sure you pack a cooler or a stash of non-perishable safe foods in your car, so that you need never encounter this scenario.  But sometimes, for whatever reason, you still find yourself singing the Gas Station Store Blues.

Ah, but if you’re willing to make more than one round through the sugar- and fat-saturated aisles, you’ll often be surprised at the healthy (or, if not truly “healthy,” at least either “neutral” or…”minimally unhealthy”) diamonds buried in the rough.  Behold, some examples (you might want to print this and keep it in your glove compartment for the next time you find yourself in this predicament!)…..

Whoops, one quick suggestion before we begin:   I highly recommend you keep an “emergency kit” of the following items in your car:  a can opener, a package of plastic cutlery (knives, forks, spoons), a roll of paper towels, and a microwavable bowl, plate, and mug.

Assuming the above is in place, I now give you the list:

–Protein bars:  This was an easy one.  More and more gas stations are stocking their shelves with Balance Bars, Power Bars, and other reasonably clean “sport snacks.”  The only catches:  you often have to look hard for them, and be watchful of how long they’ve been there (sadly, they seem to be much more apt to collect dust than, say, those godawful marshmallow-chocolate bombs).

–PB&J Sandwich (buy a loaf of bread, a jar each of peanut butter and jelly):  This is also an easy one, though it might not be immediately obvious.  Particularly good if you have a cooler, as you can store and keep fresh the unused portion of the peanut butter and jelly.  If you’re lucky, the gas station’s store will have gift items that include local “gourmet” artisan jams!

–Breakfast cereal, with either skim milk or orange juice and any of the following options on top:  banana (many gas stations now sell some basic fresh fruit), raisins or almonds

–Yogurt, topped with a crumbled granola bar or a small amount of trail mix

–Graham crackers and skim milk, eaten together the way you would breakfast cereal

–Cottage cheese, topped with a can of plain tuna or WELL-drained canned fruit (drained because most canned fruit at a gas station will be syrup-packed)

–Tuna “salad”:  buy a can or two of tuna, a small container each of mustard (or mayo) and relish, mix to taste, and eat with some multi-grain crackers

–Fresh apple (again, some gas stations do offer them) with peanut butter

–Animal crackers, string cheese, and a small bottle of fruit juice or V-8 (an odd combination, yes, but still better than a greasy hot dog!)

–If you have access to a microwave, chicken noodle soup is often a safe bet.  If that’s not available, consider a can of green beans, a can of tuna, and a SMALL amount of cream-based or other rich soup (more for flavoring than the main part of the meal).

–Again, if you have access to a microwave, quick-cooking or instant oatmeal is a quick and safe bet.  If you can’t bear eating it plain, consider buying a package of instant hot cocoa.  No, it’s not the most nutritious option, but a little bit goes a long way, and it’s easy to stash and store the rest without making a mess of the car!

There are plenty of other options, so hopefully this list gave your creative juices a kick start.  It’s good to know that a decent (if a bit improvised) meal can be had almost anywhere, if you’re only willing to look for it!



  1. I really didn’t think gas stations ever offered healthy food

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