Are you traveling for the holidays? Chances are high that you are—AAA reports that 93.3 million Americans will be traveling between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which is a 1.6 percent increase from last year. And when you're traveling, you'll surely need road snacks to keep your hunger at bay. When you’re pressed for time on the road, you might stop by a gas station to grab a quick bite to eat. But beware—gas stations are home to many foods that are packed with sodium, trans fats and preservatives. However, if you look closely, you can find some decent options to meet your needs in a pinch. If you were to choose between a package of trail mix and a stick of beef jerky at a gas station, which is the better choice to refuel you on your trip?
The Winner: Read Your Labels to Find Out!
In general, trail mix and beef jerky are going to be two of your best bets for gas station fare (unless fresh fruit is available!). Both of these choices are packed with protein and contain a reasonable amount of calories (when using portion control, of course). But since calories, preservatives, and sugar vary so much by brand for both of these snacks, the key is to read your labels to make the best choice.
Trail mix often packs in a filling mix of protein, healthy fats and fiber, but watch out—the calories can add up quickly, and there is usually more than one serving in a small package. When selecting trail mix, make sure to find one that has no sugar added (which can be a surprisingly difficult task), and don’t spring for the kind with candies or yogurt-coated raisins in it. Stick to a mix that only contains fruit and nuts. A serving of trail mix is generally anywhere from 150-200 calories.
Beef jerky can be an excellent source of protein, but it can also be packed with sodium and preservatives. If possible, find an all-natural kind that’s low in sodium. Even better, see if you can find a nitrite and nitrate-free option. A serving of beef jerky is usually around 80 calories.
The bottom line? If your gas station offers a no-sugar-added fruit and nut trail mix, go with the trail mix over the preservative-packed beef jerky. If your gas station only has trail mix that’s loaded with added sugar, but you manage to find a jerky that’s reasonably low in sodium and preservatives, choose the jerky. Sometimes, you just have to do your best with what you have available.
But better yet, don’t rely on gas stations for your road snacks! Pack a cooler to take with you in the car that’s full of fruits, veggies, hummus, whole-grain crackers, and any of your other favorite healthy snacks. If you plan ahead, you don’t have to be at the mercy of whatever the gas station is offering—and you can feel confident in sticking with your healthy lifestyle while on the road.
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What's your go-to healthy snack to take with you on the road? Do you ever buy snacks at gas stations?