The Absolute Healthiest Foods You Can Eat At Gas Stations

Road trips can often be an excuse for eating poorly. After all, there might not be a well-stocked grocery store on the way, and there is only so much food you can pack before you run out of ice. As surprising as it may sound, you can still eat a healthy meal with nothing but gas station snacks. By prioritizing ingredients that are high in protein and fiber and low in sugar and saturated fats, you can make a multitude of combinations to keep your hunger satisfied. And, let's not forget the drinks. There is no reason to sip on unhealthy sugar and artificially sweetened beverages when you have healthier options to choose from at any gas station you'll inevitably be stopping by.

Better yet, take this list with you when you're on the road. It's easier to stick to a healthy routine when you have a plan and already know what you're looking for. Without one, you might be tempted to reach for familiar high-fat sugary foods, setting the tone for the rest of your trip.

Fresh fruit

Fresh fruits are a powerhouse of vitamins wrapped in the ultimate compostable packaging: their own peel. But even though many of them are affordable (bananas retail for less than $0.70 per pound, per Statista) only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits and vegetables according to the CDC. This is unfortunate because a 1998 study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine found that eating more fruit can mean better lung function and fewer respiratory diseases. And that's just one of the many benefits of including fruit in your diet.

Typically, gas stations sell at least bananas, oranges, and apples. You can combine fresh fruits with other gas station items like dark chocolate, nuts, and nut butter. Try almond or peanut butter with an apple, a square of dark chocolate with a banana, or yogurt and an orange. Available at most gas stations, fresh fruits make for a convenient and inexpensive snack. If you know you won't be able to stop for a while, remember that most fruit will stay fresh for a while even without refrigeration, so don't be afraid to buy more than you can eat in a day.

Dark chocolate

Is dark chocolate really a healthy option? The research out there shows that it is. According to a 2015 study published in Vascular Pharmacology, cocoa improves blood pressure, and the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that consuming dark chocolate, cocoa, and almonds in moderation could contribute to a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Dark chocolate and almonds? Two items you can easily find at gas stations, even if your options are limited.

You can combine dark chocolate with fruits (bananas are a great choice here with their sweet flavor and creamy texture) or lightly salted nuts. Don't hesitate to try nuts and seeds other than almonds, like pistachios or walnuts. Some gas stations might even have chocolate almond butter (in jars or convenient little single-serving packets) which combines both and makes for a delicious treat served with sliced apples. Or just eat it plain! Not only is chocolate a favorite treat for many, but it is also good for you (as long as you pick the dark kind rather than a candy bar loaded with sugar and additives).

Hummus and veggies

A beloved food for vegans and meat-eaters alike, hummus (made from chickpeas, sesame paste, garlic, lemon, and a little salt) is a convenient snack that has made its way into grocery stores and gas stations across the country. With a nutritional profile boasting healthy fats and good amounts of protein, researchers report that incorporating hummus into the average diet could benefit its overall quality (via Nutrients). The study even found that hummus improves fasting lipids, appetite control, and overall daily food intake. Ultimately, the researchers suggest that enjoying hummus as a snack leads to feelings of fullness and appetite control. This is especially important on road trips when you might be less active than usual.

You can eat hummus as is, but if it comes with a side of baby carrots or other vegetables for dipping, it's even better. Add a container of Greek yogurt and you have a snack that will keep you full for quite a while. Or, end your meal with some dark chocolate and a piece of fruit to keep it healthy and sweet.

Greek yogurt and other high protein yogurts

The refrigerated section of gas stations can be a minefield. Skip the high fructose corn syrup laden drinks, ice cream, and other sugary foods and look for plain Greek yogurt. According to a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, Greek yogurt was more effective at increasing fat-free mass, strength, and bone formation when paired with exercise compared to carbohydrates. If you can get some exercise during your road trip, consuming more protein will lead to better results.

Not into plain Greek yogurt, or tired of having it over and over throughout your trip? Try mixing in small squares of dark chocolate or chopped fruit. Greek yogurt is thick enough that you can use it as a dip, so don't hesitate to liven it up with apples, bananas, almonds, or even a drizzle of nut butter. Another option is to look for blended yogurt drinks, but be aware that some of them are very high in sugar. When in doubt, go for the least processed version.

Beef jerky and other types of jerky

You can't easily cook up meat on a road trip, and most ready-to-buy options tend to be greasy burgers that are high in calories, not to mention additives. But in 2018, a study published in Molecules determined that snacks made with dried ostrich, beef, and chicken meat were nutritionally dense and high in proteins and minerals. Not bad for gas station food!

So, next time you're looking for a snack while you fill-up the tank, walk past the hot dogs and colorful donut display and head for the beef jerky. Look for low sodium options made with minimal ingredients. The best brands are generally labeled as paleo or grass-fed. And depending on your location, you might not have to limit yourself to beef. Other popular jerky meats include bison, chicken, turkey, and salmon. Paired with a piece of fruit, jerky is a high-protein snack that will keep you full for a long time.

Protein bars

What's easier than tearing the wrapper off of a protein bar and taking a bite? Not much. With no need for refrigeration and a high nutrient load in a small package, protein bars are a good snack and have become popular enough in recent years to be found everywhere. There are many reasons why protein is pushed as a healthy addition to any diet. 

In 2012, the British Journal of Nutrition reported that including protein in the diet could counteract obesity by increasing feelings of fullness. If your hunger is satiated, you are less likely to snack on high-fat high-sugar foods that will derail your diet. On top of that, a 2015 study published in Current Opinions in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care showed a positive relationship between protein consumption and the creation of muscle mass and strength. Body builders everywhere were right. Healthy sources of protein do lead to bigger muscles.

That's enough to have you reaching for a protein bar at every meal! However, it's important to check the labels and stay away from bars containing an excessive amount of sugar and additives. As a rule, the fewer the ingredients, the healthier the bar will be. And, be sure to balance out your snack with a hydrating food like fresh fruit and water.

Minimally processed snacks

Chickpeas are not only useful for making hummus. They can also be roasted for a crunchy, satisfying snack with a long shelf life. Healthline indicates that garbanzo beans are high in protein and fiber, ultimately allowing you to feel full which can assist in healthier snack choices throughout the day. And of course, you get the crunch and salt that you might feel you're missing out on when you walk past the potato chips aisle.

When gas station foods are your only choice, look for snacks that contain very few ingredients and are as close to their natural state as possible. Roasted chickpeas are now available in an increasingly large amount of stores, and they pair well with Greek yogurt or some dark chocolate. And don't hesitate to double up. Adding roasted chickpeas to hummus will provide added flavor and the textural variation that you might be missing on a diet of fruit, yogurt, and protein bars.

Nuts and nut butters

Nuts and nut butters are a popular gas station food in part because of their long shelf life, but there's so much more to them than convenience. They are also a nutritious and healthy addition to any diet. In 2018, a study published in Nutrients found that although nuts are high in calories, they are beneficial thanks to the specific fatty acids, protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found within. Yes, nuts contain fat, but it's the healthy kind that comes with whole unrefined foods. 

Most gas stations will offer a wide selection of nuts including roasted sunflower seeds, almonds, mixed nuts, and pistachios. Ideally, avoid heavily salted nuts with plenty of added oil and choose raw nuts if possible. Whatever you pick, nuts are a great option that you can enjoy on their own, combined with dark chocolate, or mixed in with Greek yogurt for a quick and delicious snack.

String cheese

Registered dietitian Gillian Culbertson tells WebMD that string cheese is a suitable source of calcium and vitamin C, and it provides a notable amount of protein and fiber. Meanwhile, nutrition educator Michael Joseph of Nutrition Advances points out that string cheese is generally on the healthier end of the spectrum when it comes to quick and convenient snacks.

Although it is certainly more processed than artisanal cheeses, it is still a good gas station option. One stick contains about 6 grams of protein, only 7% of your sodium allowance for the day, and less than 4 grams of saturated fat. Plus, cheese is carb-free which makes it suitable if you're following a keto diet.

Because protein assists with keeping you full, string cheese can help you avoid the usual gas station pitfalls like gorging on donuts or salty hot dogs full of additives. A quick snack of string cheese with nuts and fresh fruit provides protein, fat, vitamins, and flavor, and it can be enjoyed on the go.


Yes, gas stations have entire fridges dedicated to drinks, but unfortunately, most of them are to be avoided. A 2017 study published in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine found a noticeable association between both sugar and artificially sweetened soda consumption and obesity. While it's typically understood that consuming loads of sugar isn't healthy, many people are under the false impression that replacing regular soda with diet alternatives is a quick fix. Unfortunately, it is not.

So what alternatives do you have if the entire soda section is off-limits? While there are several other drinks to choose from, ordinary water should not be overlooked just because it isn't colorful and exciting. It's no secret that water is essential to health, as it's basically our source of life. When you are feeling thirsty, reach for water before anything else for maximum hydration with zero calories and additives.

Unsweetened iced tea

According to National Geographic, after water, tea is the most-consumed beverage in the world. It turns out that's a good thing thanks to all of tea's benefits, some of which are due to the polyphenol content which is associated with decreased risk of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular and neurological disease, per a 2018 study published in Nutrients

That's pretty good for an inexpensive drink you can find at most gas stations, both chilled and hot. For the best options, look for labels featuring only tea and at most, a little citric acid. Avoid versions with a lot of sugar or high fructose corn syrup and unnecessary flavorings. Brands to look for will prominently display that they are unsweetened on the front of the bottle. Black tea and green tea are both perfectly acceptable, and picking one or the other will entirely depend on your taste. Just be aware that black tea often contains more caffeine than green tea.

Black, unsweetened coffee

If you can tolerate caffeine, then black coffee is a good option that's widely available at every gas station. It might even be beneficial to drink it when you have to spend many hours driving, as long as you are also getting adequate rest and sleep. 

Research published in Nutrients in 2018 found that coffee increased alertness, reduced exhaustion, and decreased reaction time. Plus, Harvard Health reports that coffee consumption is linked to a longer lifespan and countless health benefits. However, on the flip side, too much caffeine can leave you feeling overly wired and jittery, which isn't ideal if you have to sit and drive for hours. Be sure to monitor your consumption to avoid these unwanted effects.

As with other drinks, try to stick with unsweetened versions and avoid overdoing it on artificial sweeteners, creamers, flavorings, and other additives that counter the benefits of coffee.