How to Have a Healthier Road Trip

A dietitian breaks down how to survive the convenience store and still eat healthy.

Convenience store image via shutterstock

Convenience store image via shutterstock

The holiday season is upon us and many of us will hit the road to visit friends and family. This means stopping for gas (and snacks) at the convenience stores and rest stops that line the highways. Instead of letting these pit stops wreck your healthy intentions this holiday season, chose the “healthiest” foods they have available. If you don’t see the food item that you’re debating on the list below, skip it. It’s as simple as that. Here’s what to choose:

Sparkling water: If you love the carbonation of soda, but not the added sugar, then sparkling water is a great alternative. You’ll trade the 250 calories in a standard soda for the 0 calories of water. And now that you can choose from flavors like blackberry and peach, flavored water is far from boring and will keep you hydrated for the road ahead.

Vegetables: If you’re lucky enough to have stopped in a convenience store that serves vegetables, then you just might have hit the road-trip jackpot (from a dietitian’s perspective that is). Pick up a single-serve size bag of carrots or celery sticks for a healthy and crunchy snack. Pair with a cheese stick or a single-serve size container of peanut butter for a source of protein.

Whole fruit or fruit cups without added sugar: Whole fruits are perfectly packaged for snacking on-the-go and most convenience stores have bananas or apples conveniently located next to the checkout. If you don’t see whole fruit then look for fruit cups packaged in their own juice. Pair with a yogurt or string cheese to satisfy a sweet tooth while also benefiting from the fiber to keep you full until your next meal.

Low-fat yogurt: Whether you choose Greek or regular yogurt, this is a healthy option that’s low in calories. While Greek yogurt has more protein than regular, both will give you at least 9 grams which is more protein than a single egg. Yogurt also contains probiotics which contribute to a healthy digestive system.

String cheese: Cheese is another source of protein that pairs well with fruit. Many convenience stores have individual packages of string cheese so you can snack right away. A single stick of string cheese typically has between 50 and 100 calories and about 6 grams of protein. It also contains about half the calcium as in a glass of milk.

Whole grain cereal: An excellent source of fiber and low in calories, whole grain cereal makes for a tasty addition to yogurt or on its own with low-fat milk. Look for the whole grains cereal cups, but avoid those that are high in sugar.

Granola bar: Choose wisely when picking a granola bar for the road. Some bars have as much sugar as a candy bar, so it’s important to check the label for bars with 10 grams of sugar or less. Also, be sure to look at the ingredient list and avoid bars that have sugar listed as one of the top two ingredients.

Low-fat chocolate milk: Milk is a good source of protein and the chocolate flavor will satisfy your craving for something sweet. Look for the small containers (8 oz) versus the “chug” (16 oz) and you’ll save 150 calories and more than 20 grams of sugar.

Popped or baked chips: Those regular barbecue flavored chips might be tempting, but even the smallest bag has more than 200 calories and up to 15 grams of fat. Baked or popped chips have all the flavor, but with fewer calories and significantly less fat. A small bag of baked chips averages 140 calories and about 3 grams of fat whereas a small bag of popped chips comes in at around 100 calories.

Trail mix: Trail mix is a good combination of sweet and salty with healthy ingredients like dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. But, think small (around 1 – 1.5 oz) when choosing a trail mix for the road. Since trail mix averages about 150 calories per ounce, the calories can add up quickly.