When you’re in the car and hunger hits, a convenience store is probably the last place you’d think of for a healthy snack or meal. But between the chips, candy and beef jerky, many chains are now stocking some surprisingly nutritious - and fresh - choices. Here’s a guide to the most pit stop-worthy eats:
Fresh fruit – Bananas have been convenience store staples for years. Now they have plenty of good company. Swing by the refrigerator section and you’ll find containers of precut pineapple, grapes, and seasonal fresh fruit. Grab one and you’ll rack up a couple of produce servings in one shot.
Clever combos – Many stores are taking fresh cut produce one step further, pairing sliced apples with peanut butter or cheddar cheese. The result? A satisfying trio of carbs, protein and fiber that’s guaranteed to keep you full for hours.
Dairy (and lots of it) – If you’re having trouble squeezing in your three daily servings of dairy, you’re in luck. In addition to single-serve containers of low-fat milk you’ll also find reduced-fat string cheese, yogurt (both regular and Greek), and even cottage cheese.
Whole grain cereal – Breakfast on the go doesn’t have to mean a donut or pop tart. Pair a to-go cup of whole grain cereal with some low-fat milk and a fruit cup and you’ll nail three different food groups in one shot. For the healthiest picks go with cereals that contain less than 4 grams of added sugar per serving.
Sandwiches – Move over hot dogs, wings and taquitos. Good-for-you sandwiches like turkey on whole wheat with tomato or grilled chicken wraps make it easy to score some lean protein. In addition to keeping you full, (new research reveals that protein can also help you stay alert on the road.)
Salads – One of the biggest convenience store surprises are fresh salads. And not just anemic iceberg lettuce with a couple of cucumbers and tomatoes, either. Several chains are now serving up chicken Caesar, chef, and Greek salads, making it a cinch to make half your plate produce.
Hard-boiled eggs – Not only are these packed with protein they’re surprisingly low in calories with just 70 calories per large egg. Plus they pack a healthy dose of vitamin D for strong bones, choline for memory, and zeaxanthin and lutein for healthy eyes. And if you’re worried about cholesterol, you’ll be happy to know that today’s eggs have 14% less cholesterol than they did a decade ago (today's eggs have 14% less cholesterol than they did a decade ago.
100% vegetable juice – No time to chew your veggies? No problem. 12-ounce bottles of 100% vegetable juice contain an impressive 3 servings of vegetables plus plenty of heart-healthy potassium and vitamins A and C.
Nuts and seeds – Loaded with heart-healthy fats, plant protein and fiber, single servings of nuts and seeds are a no-brainer if you’re looking for a healthy nibble. Just beware that many of these “single servings” often pack enough for two. If yours contains more than an ounce, share it with a friend.
Before you head out the door, don’t forget to about grab a bottle of water for the road. Healthy hydration is key to helping you stay alert and focused at the wheel.
Karen Ansel, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. is a nutrition consultant, journalist and author specializing in nutrition. She is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a contributing editor for Woman’s Day magazine. Her work has been published in magazines such as Cooking Light, EatingWell, Prevention, Fitness, Women’s Health, Woman’s Day and Oprah.