When your stomach starts growling during a lengthy road trip, or you're on the go running from errand to errand to errand... reverting to food from a convenience store might be your best option. The problem with most convenient stops is their hard-to-avoid, front-and-center display of doughnuts, pizza bites, and taquitos that glow through a glass case. Yeah, don’t eat that.
Instead, we worked with Registered Dietitian Jessica Pearl, to hunt down the top healthy snacks you can find at most convenience stores. “You want to look for snacks with more protein and fiber and less sugar,” says Pearl, “This will provide a more efficient energy source and sufficiently satisfy your hunger.” Not only are the following goods affordable—they taste just as good as the sweet (or salty) stuff, and they provide necessary micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and macronutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) that should be included in every man's diet. Just be sure to pair the snack of your choice with water to stay hydrated.
We’re not talking about the assortments that are littered with M&Ms. The trail mixes that consist of seeds, (minimal) dried fruit, and nuts, are just as tasty as the candy coated ones and are packed with protein, fiber, and healthy unsaturated fats, to ensure satiety. Keep an eye on portion size because the sugar and fat content adds up quickly and try to pick around some of the dried fruit—it can also pack tons of sugar.
Put this superfruit at the top of your list—new research discovered the compounds in an apple peel can help build muscle mass (and strength) at an old age, and this new research found apples can turn excess white fat into calorie-burning brown fat. What's more, apples are full of vitamin and minerals, and are high in fiber to keep your appetite feeling content. Plus, "They're also filled with antioxidants called flavonoids which can help lower the risk of developing diabetes and asthma,” says Pearl. (Even though you may have to buy a weirdly saran-wrapped apple, at least you know it's not picking up the filth of the gas station counter!)
Out of all the nuts, pistachios have the lowest calorie count per serving—but they’re also an excellent source of fiber so you’ll satisfy your hunger. Research has also shown that eating a handful of pistachios everyday will help lower cholesterol and decrease your chances of getting heart disease.
Most convenient stores offer two packaged-up hard-boiled eggs for under $2.00 and only 70 calories each—a cheap source of healthy protein to say the least. Eggs—especially the yolk—are also filled with essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D and all the B vitamins, says Pearl.
Sunflower seeds are a filling snack filled with protein and healthy unsaturated fats. They also have additional health benefits including lowering cholesterol and preventing cancer, says Pearl. Just be mindful of portion, as it’s easy to scarf down several serving servings in minimal time.
If you’re going for fresh fruit, head for the basket of bananas. This fruit is ideal for when you're on-the-go as its easy to hold and requires you to peel it open so you don’t have to worry about washing it. Bananas are also high in potassium which lowers blood pressure, are naturally fat free, and include a high carbohydrate content which, though not always what you want, provides energy for the body (helpful if you're zoning out behind the wheel or about to work out), per Pearl.
Whether eaten alone or added to a meal, almonds are a good grab-and-go snack high in protein, fiber, and healthy omega-3 fats. Just stick to the recommended serving size, as it’s tempting to haul several handfuls in your mouth. And if the raw type doesn’t do it for you, feel free to go with roasted, lightly salted, or even dark-chocolate. “The chocolate could help promote satiety, which in turn would curb over-eating,” says Pearl.
Consuming a celery stick alone is like drinking water—it has virutally no calories. But when you dip it in a creamy spread like peanut butter or hummus it adds flavor and makes for a satisfying snack. Plus, “celery helps decrease oxidative stress and inflammation in the body,” adds Pearl.
Carrots are another healthy, portable option which are low in calories and zero fat but can be dipped in a spread for added protein and fiber. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin A, which is beneficial for eye health, as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants, adds Pearl.
Pick up peanuts in the shell for a nutrient-dense snack. Peanuts are packed with protein, fiber, and healthy monounsaturated fats that will satisfy any growling gut—and they’re completely cholesterol-free. You’ll also have more control over how much you consume since you have to crack open the shell each time.
Cereal doesn’t just have to be solely a breakfast staple, especially when it’s a whole grain option low in sugar with moderate fiber. Pearl suggests mixing it with non-fat Greek yogurt instead of pouring milk to avoid any mess and to ensure it’s still a big enough meal to fill you up.
Speaking of non-fat Greek yogurt... it's also great on it's own. It's rich in calcium and protein, plus “yogurt contains probiotics that aid digestion,” says Pearl. Search for Greek yogurt that’s non-fat and low in sugar.
Easy to eat when on the move and available in a wide variety of flavors means this bar a great convenience store grab—but go for a bar with minimal processed ingredients like KIND, Think Thin, or Kashi which are higher in protein and lower in sugar. “Kashi bars are made from whole grains and can pack as much as 6 g protein and 4 g fiber, while other brands are higher in sugar and fat,” says Pearl. “Think Thin bars are one of the best options available, with a specialized whey protein and fiber blend providing 10 g protein, 5 g fiber, and only 5 g sugar."
When you get the air-popped kind, popcorn is actually a healthy snack that you can munch on guilt-free because it's low in calories, fat, and cholesterol. Try brands like Skinny Pop that has few other ingredients.