When you’re on the road for a long period of time, odds are you’re going to get hungry at some point. But the further you drive, the fewer eating options you’ll notice you have, and when your stomach does start to growl, the nearest gas station may be your only option.
Though gas stations may be famous for their slushies and lukewarm hot dogs, there are actually a number of healthy snacks that they also offer. Lots of registered dietitians spend time on the road for work, so they know the ins and outs of roadside snacking, including which pit stop snacks are worth your time. So whether you’re on a road trip, or you need a bite ASAP and a gas station is just what happens to be nearest, these are your nine best snack options, according to R.D.s.
1. Protein bars
If you’d rather not deal with hunger pangs throughout the rest of your time on the road, you’re best off picking up a protein bar at the nearest gas station. Of the different brands you’ll find at most stores, Lindsey Pine, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D, C.L.T, owner of Tasty Balance Nutrition, tells SELF that RX Bars are a great choice. She says these bars come in a bunch of different delicious flavors (like chocolate sea salt and peanut butter), and they’ll keep you full for longer thanks to all the protein, plant-based fats, and fiber they have from the nuts, dates, and egg whites they’re made with.
2. Air-popped popcorn
Popcorn may be a movie snack, but it also tastes great when you’re driving. Edwina Clark, M.S., R.D., recommends picking up brands like BoomChickaPop if you see them at the gas station, because they’re as satisfying as your favorite salty chip, but with way less sodium. Bonus: She says you’ll get 3 grams of fiber from a 3 cup serving—a good reason to eat more if I ever heard one.
3. Dry-roasted nuts
“Packed with healthy fats and protein, raw or dry-roasted nuts make a great, long-lasting snack when you’re on the road,” says Clark. Which nuts, though? Amy Gorin, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City-area, tells SELF that her favorite is Wonderful Pistachios. “I love that gas stations sell the 5-ounce package of these in-shell nuts,” she explains, “[they] offer a trio of plant-based protein, fiber, and healthy fats…and shelling the nuts makes eating the time pass more quickly in the car!”
4. String cheese
String cheese—not just for kids, according to Pine. “Not only is string cheese fun to eat,” she says, “but it also contains calcium, protein, and is pre-portioned for you. At the gas station, Organic Valley Mozzarella Stringles, which happen to be one of the winners of this year’s SELF Healthy Food Awards.
5. Hard-boiled eggs
Hard-boiled eggs may seem basic, but they can be exactly what you need to feel satisfied, because each egg has about 7 grams of protein, Pine tells SELF.
6. Sunflower seeds
If you want a salty snack with lots of crunch, but you’re allergic to nuts, Pine says sunflower seeds make a great substitute, and you can always find them at gas stations. “Not only are they filling from the fiber, protein, and healthy fats,” she explains, “but the seeds are also rich in vitamin E.” And who doesn’t love spitting sunflower seeds out the car window? (Or is that just me?)
7. Bean chips
“If you love crunchy, salty snacks, you’ll adore chips made from beans,” says Pine. Beanfields are her favorite brand of bean chips, and she can almost always find them at gas stations near her home in LA. She likes them because they have way more protein and fiber than your typical potato chip, but they’re just as satisfyingly salty.
“Bananas are a quick, nutritious, and affordable source of energy,” Clark explains, “With 3 grams of fiber and 422 mg of potassium per serving, bananas can help offset the effects of sodium, and promote digestive health.” So if you’re prone to traveler’s constipation (sitting still on a road trip can make it happen to the best of us), reach for a banana. Pair it with peanut butter for something even more satisfying, she says.
9. Hummus and pita chips
“I’ll often pick up this snack from a gas station while I’m on a road trip,” Gorin explains. She loves Sabra’s Hummus snack packs, because they come with the hummus and the chickpeas all in one convenient package. “You get 11 grams of protein from this snack, which helps to keep you satiated,” she says.