Sticking to a healthy diet can feel extra challenging when you’re on the road. You need to refuel but the food sitting in your campervan cooler won’t cut it. It’s tempting to pull into that fast food drive-thru line, but you don’t want the wasted money or empty calories.
Can’t you just get a healthy snack to tide you over until your real dinner?
Enter: healthy gas station snacks
You may think, “is it possible to have healthy snacks at a gas station?” But actually, many gas station chains have upped their game in terms of offering healthy food and clean facilities. You can find most of these snacks at any gas station chain!
Healthy Snacks Quick List
What is a "Healthy" Snack?
A healthy snack option is one that’s low in calories and saturated fat /sugars but high in protein and/or complex sugars. If you aren’t sure if a snack is healthy, keep in mind that less processed snacks will almost always be healthier–opt for fresh, raw products (fresh fruit, vegetables, organic or unprocessed breads).
And yes, you can find healthy foods at most gas stations. Let’s quickly review each healthy bite found at gas stations.
17 of the Healthiest Gas Station Snacks
1. Fresh Fruit
Fresh fruits such as apples and bananas are rich in fiber, which will help you feel full and satiated longer. Apples are also rich in vitamin C and bananas rich in potassium, which are both great for keeping your immune system up to snuff.
Yes, they both have sugar, but it’s naturally-occurring complex sugars that your body will burn more slowly than overly-processed sugars. This also helps avoid getting a sugar high and then crashing.
Oranges, grapes, pears and berries are also fresh fruits that are packed with nutrients your body will thank you for!
2. Tuna Packet
Tuna is insanely rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are the good kinds of fat that help lower cholesterol and improve heart and brain function! They also come in tasty seasoned packets, such as ranch or lemon pepper flavor. Pair tuna with pretzels or pita chips for the healthiest carb options.
Tuna is a popular diet food because it’s very low in “bad” fats, but very high in protein. Protein helps you feel full, so you can get away with feeling fuller on less calories when you eat tuna.
3. Veggie Packet
Of all the healthy gas station snacks, this probably is the healthiest–good ‘ol veggies! Gotta love the crunch of carrots, and they are rich in vitamin C and calcium. Celery is technically a “negative calorie” food because your body burns more calories digesting it than what’s actually in it. This makes celery a great diet food.
You can typically either find baby carrots or vegetable packets like the one shown above at gas stations. All other veggies have health benefits. They help your body get the nutrients it needs–and help keep your digestive track regular.
4. Beef Jerky or Turkey Jerky
Like tuna, beef jerky is super low in fat and very high in protein, making it a power food. But let’s be clear: Slim Jims do NOT count as beef jerky! Turkey jerky is an even lower-fat option than beef jerky and packs a similar protein punch.
Since jerky is just dried meat, you can easily work through a bag of it over the course of a week. No refrigeration needed! Also like tuna, it comes in all sorts of smoked, spiced, or unique flavors.
5. Hard-Boiled Egg
Hard boiled eggs are low-calorie and nutrient-dense. Another great source of protein, they can help you feel satiated for hours after eating. Hard-boiled eggs are healthier than fried or scrambled eggs because they are simply cooked in water, as opposed to oil or butter.
The egg yolk has some healthy fats and the egg white has virtually no fat (and hardly any calories either) while still being protein rich.
6. Dark Chocolate Squares
If you’ve got a sweet tooth and just need chocolate, try opting for dark chocolate over milk or white chocolate. Dark chocolate has MUCH less sugar and is packed with iron–a critical component for your body’s health! Dark chocolate is also a great source of fiber.
The darker the chocolate, the more cocoa it contains (and the less sugar). Cocoa is rich in antioxidants, helping reduce inflammation and improve cholesterol. I usually opt for 60% or 72% dark chocolate.
7. Dried Prunes
Dried prunes are relatively high in calories, but the good kind that will keep you running with consistent energy levels. Prunes are a great source of both insoluble and soluble fiber. While insoluble fiber will keep you poopin’ like a king, soluble fiber is good for digestion and helping the body absorb nutrients.
8. Greek Yogurt
The (much) healthier alternative to regular yogurt is Greek yogurt; it has nearly half the carbs and sugar but twice the protein. If you opt for the unflavored Greek yogurt, you’ll save yourself even more calories and sugar! Add blueberries or raspberries for a burst of flavor and “healthy” complex sugars.
Don’t be fooled by the pre-made yogurt parfaits at gas stations. The yogurt and granola are loaded with carbs and sugars, and not much else.
9. Hummus Packet
Get your veggie servings in a different style by picking up a hummus packet! Hummus is simply ground chickpeas with some flavoring and oil. It’s an excellent source of plant-based protein and goes well with pretzels, carrots, pita chips or celery.
10. Raw Nuts
All nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats! The healthiest nuts are almonds and pistachios, with lower fat content but protein and nutrient-rich.
A bag of roasted, salted mixed nuts will still be lightyears healthier and more filling than a bag of chips, but the healthiest option will be raw nuts. Since raw nuts aren’t baked or roasted, they aren’t coated in oil and haven’t lost nutrients that are literally baked out of them. And if they aren’t salted, then you save yourself a lot of sodium intake, which means less bloating and water retention.
11. String Cheese
Cheese gets a bad rap sometimes, but string cheese is impressively low in fat and insanely high in calcium, vitamin D and protein. Classic string cheese is made of mozzarella cheese, which is one of the healthier cheeses (a relatively low-fat and low-calorie cheese).
While mozzarella cheese sticks will be healthiest snack option, other types of cheese sticks include colby jack and cheddar (still much healthier snack choices than a bag of chips!) Also, string cheese is just fun to eat.
12. Applesauce Cups with No Added Sugar
This snack might be harder to find at gas stations, but it’s a healthier twist to a childhood favorite. Applesauce cups without added sugar are a great source of fiber and vitamin C–just like a regular apple! It’s important to only buy the cups without sugar added, because regular applesauce is loaded with added sugars.
13. Peanut Butter
Not only is good ‘ol peanut butter totally versatile, but it’s also rich in omega-6 (fatty acid) that can help improve heart health! These are healthy fats.
Yes, it’s high in calories (and processed peanut butter contains quite a bit of sugar), but it has high levels of protein which helps you feel full for hours.
You can pair peanut butter with so many different snacks– celery, apples, bananas and pretzel are my go-to! Opt for raw or unprocessed peanut butter if you have the option.
14. Protein Bar / Shake
You’re sure to find a huge variety of protein bars at most gas stations. Protein bars are designed to be protein-dense and low in sugar. If you’re more in the mood for a liquid, protein shakes can pack the same nutritional punch. These protein-filled snacks are also rich in vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Some people don’t like the chalkiness of protein bars or shakes–but they’ve come pretty far in how tasty they can make some of these! Check the number of grams of protein on the protein bars to decide which high protein snack suits you best.
PRO TIP: Granola bars are NOT the same as protein bars. While some granola bars are protein rich snacks, most of them are simply processed sugars and carbs. If you opt for a granola bar, try a minimally processed one like an RX Bar or one with full raw nuts inside of it such as a KIND bar.
If you really need to crush that urge for carbs, try opting for pretzels instead of fried potato chips. Pretzels are baked instead of fried in oil and are essentially just wheat flour! They aren’t as loaded with random chemicals and preservatives as most chips, and they have a healthy amount of iron and B vitamins. They also make a great pairing with peanut butter or hummus–which will help you feel fuller for much longer!
16. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a great healthy snack because they’re rich in vitamins and nutrients such as copper, manganese and selenium, and healthy fats. They also force you to eat them slowly since you have to de-shell each one, which is better for your digestive track.
The only catch with sunflower seeds is that you have to stop yourself from eating the whole bag! Since they are relatively high in calories, try to eat just 1-2 ounces (30-60 grams) per day.
17. Trail Mix
Trail mix offers a variety of nuts that provide all sorts of healthy fats, nutrients, vitamins and minerals–and protein! Sure, there’s some processed sugars in the M&Ms or candy bits in the trail mix, but if you stick to single serving packets, then you don’t need to worry about overdoing it on the sweets.
Combining Healthy with Convenient Snacks
After nearly two years of living full-time van life, I’ve collected this list of healthy gas station snacks in order to save my own waistline and wallet.
After all, you can already be a healthy weight and just looking to maintain–healthy snacks aren’t just for people on diets.
Growing up, road trips meant junk food. It was one of the rare times that my parents would let us kids pick out candy and chips, probably in hopes of keeping us distracted!
But once I entered full-time van life, I quickly realized I had to redefine what my road trip snacks looked like. Otherwise, I was looking at a lot of empty calories, weight gain, and lost money (junk food is expensive!)
So, I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of what I consider the healthiest snacks you can find at just about any gas station chain. Most of them are going to be cheaper than that expensive bag of chips or candy you want to buy, also!
Need some easy cooking recipes for your campervan? Check out three of my favorite meals that all use similar ingredients!