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Fuel Up: On-the-Go Convenience Snacks

For many of us, trying to balance life, a workout regimen AND good eating habits is tough. Throwing in a business trip, or a quick family getaway, can easily break us from our healthy routines.

I frequently have to travel between San Antonio, Houston and Austin for business. One of the biggest challenges I face while on the road is avoiding the pitfalls in the snack aisles of the gas stations and convenience stores. Let’s face it-- it’s almost second nature to pick up a soda, candy bar, bag of chips or other unhealthy snack that neither satisfies our hunger nor provides any nutritional value. In fact, many of us think that’s all that gas stations carry!

“But c’mon,” you think. “Does it really matter if I splurge on chips and soda while I’m on the road?” Well, if you stop to consider the amount of sodium, saturated fats and calories that are in those snacks, coupled with the fact that you are sitting in a car for a long period of time, then yes, it does. In fact, it’s a recipe for disaster! You work so hard to eat well on the days you aren’t traveling, why blow it while you’re cruising down Interstate 10?

During my last couple of trips, I made a point to stop at several gas stations and see what they REALLY had to offer! Fortunately, I discovered that gas stations have evolved over the past several years into something resembling neighborhood grocery stores. And with brands like Bucee’s and Valero making their marks along the highway corridors of Texas, our snack options are looking better!

So keep walking past the cookie aisle, and ignore the homemade pralines at checkout! Instead, try some of my picks for quick and healthy snacks that will keep you energized and feeling good for miles!

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Snack #1: Vegetable Cups & Yogurt Parfaits

Convenience is important when you have to eat in your car, so why not grab a snack that’s portable and fits in your cup holder? Vegetable cups are great because they are low in calories and filled with nutrients. If you want to be extra healthy, toss the dressing out and eat them raw.

Yogurt Parfaits are another easy-to-eat choice. A quick breakfast option for early bird travelers, this portable snack is high in protein, an excellent source of calcium, and contains probiotics, which aid in digestion. Top with granola for even more nutrients.

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Snack #2: Nuts & Trail Mixes

When it comes to nuts and trial mixes, try not to default to the conventional mass produced brands that could be high in sodium. As an alternative, look for the locally sourced and packaged brands that many gas stations now carry. Some even offer low sodium and gluten free varieties. Nuts are high in protein, low in calories, and filled with good fats (yes there is such a thing) making them a perfect snack!

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Snack #3: Beef Jerky

If you are in the mood for something salty, but don’t want to indulge in chips, beef jerky is the way to go. And, just like trail mixes, many gas station carry locally hunted, dried and packaged meats. Although it can be high in sodium, beef jerky is also high in protein, and serves as an excellent source of vitamins and minerals like Zinc. In fact, many body builders include this high protein snack into their post-workout regimens.

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Snack #4: Nutrition Bars

When searching for the right snack bar, I recommend flipping over the package and reviewing the full list of ingredients. Some of the popular brands we know (like some shown here) are labeled as ‘100% Natural’ but in reality, they are not. They are packed with artificial sweeteners and ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. I prefer KIND bars because they are full of wholesome ingredients, a good source of protein AND are easy to find. Plus, they come in many different, tasty varieties, from Black Truffle Almond & Sea Salt to Roasted Jalapeno. Yum!

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Snack #5: Dried Fruits

If you want to enjoy the benefits of fruits and vegetable without the hassle of trying to eat a mango or tomato while driving, packaged dried fruits/vegetable will have many of the same nutrients. ‘Karen’s Naturals’ does an excellent job of supplying us with a variety of fruit and veggie snacks that have only ONE ingredient. If your gas station does not carry ‘Karen’s Natural’s try to find dried fruits that have little to no added sugars or sweeteners. Finding them in their purest form is key.

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Snack#6: Prepared Salads

If nutritional bars and trail mixes don’t cut if for you, and you have some extra time, create your own salad using ingredients found in the convenience store. Several gas stations provide us with the basic pre-packaged ingredients: spinach or lettuce greens, cheese, and vegetables like onions and tomatoes. Get creative and see what else you can add---chicken breast, pecans or almonds, dried fruit, hard-boiled eggs, etc. You can create a dish that is simple but filled with nutrients and protein.

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Snack #7: Flavored Waters

I always recommend staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water but I know sometimes you need a ‘pick-me-up’ when you’re driving for an extended period of time. Your first thought might be to grab a Diet Coke or bottled sweet tea, but there are choices. My pick? Coconut water. It is low in calories, loaded with potassium and full of electrolytes---a great substitute for sugary sports drinks or sodas.

If you can’t find coconut water at your convenience store, try one of my favorite flavored waters, Cascade Ice. Cascade offers the same benefits of drinking water but with a variety of flavors. According to their website, they eliminate all the extras like sugar, sodium and caffeine. A word of caution: some flavored waters do include artificial dyes and sweeteners like sucralose, so double check the list of ingredients before you make your choice.