How to stay slim and satisfied when gas stations and fast food are your only options
Believe it or not, there are some healthy snacks at most gas stations, says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist, eating strategist, and owner of Essential Nutrition for You.
KIND Cranberry Almond + Antioxidants Bar
Steer clear of candy and granola bars and grab this tangy, satisfying snack instead. At only 190 calories, each bar contains 50 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamins A, C, and E, which fight free radicals and help maintain the immune system and healthy skin, Batayneh says. And while it does have 13 grams of fat per serving, all of it comes from heart-healthy nuts.
Most gas stations now sell fresh fruit (usually near the register). Batayneh recommends grabbing an apple and or a banana for a snack that's a natural source of energy and fiber (so important for staying regular on the road).
While I wouldn't recommend eating this high-sodium snack every day, beef, turkey, or venison jerky is a relatively lower-calorie, higher-protein snack option, Batayneh says. It's also a very car-friendly snack that doesn't require any clean up!
A vending machine doesn't always mean your diet is doomed. Just avoid the packaged pastries and candy bars, and use your spare change to buy any of these options.
With only 200 calories for two cookies, these are your best bet when it comes to a vending machine treat, Batayneh says. Fig Newtons contain slightly more fiber (2 grams) and less fat (4 grams) per package than most cookies, making these your best option for satisfying your sweet tooth.
Batayneh likes this snack because its full of heart-healthy fats, protein, and fiber to help keep you full. We like it because it's salty, crunchy, and easy to eat in the car! Stick with a ¬º-cup serving (most bags contain three servings each, so be sure to share this snack) to stay under 200 calories.
Pirate's Booty in Aged White Cheddar
If you are lucky enough to find a vending machine that carries Pirate's Booty, type in its code for a super delicious (and gluten-free) snack, Batayneh says. "Baked, all-natural Pirate's Booty is a great option since it has half the fat and fewer calories (130 for 1 ounce) of greasy fried potato chips."
Chili is a popular pick at Wendy's, and it's a pretty healthy one too, Batayneh says. "Not only is it cheap and filling; it's also one of the healthiest choices on the menu. With only 210 calories, 17g protein, and 6g fiber (per small serving size), this will keep you full till your next pit stop!"
Junior Vanilla Frosty
It's hard to resist a creamy cool treat in the summer heat, especially if the rest of the car is enjoying one too! You can indulge without guilt by ordering a junior size vanilla frosty, Batayneh says. For 190 calories and 5g fat, this sweet treat also packs in a respectable 5g protein per serving, she says. Not bad for ice cream!
Fruit-Topped Maple Quaker Oatmeal
If it's still early enough, order up some heart-healthy oatmeal for a sweet treat that is also satisfying. For only 270 calories, and 5g protein, this healthy snack is topped with maple and brown sugar and dried fruit for a well-balanced bite, Batayneh says.
If you need a more filling snack, grab a Whopper Junior, Batayneh says. Order it sans mayo and this sandwich clocks in at only 290 calories but packs a hearty punch of flavor and protein (16 grams). Again, not an every day kind of snack, but it will do at the drive-thru!
Apple Dippers with Low-Fat Caramel Dip
"For only 100 calories, one serving provides 517 percent of your daily recommended value of Vitamin C," says Mary Hartley, a registered dietitian and nutrition communications expert with an online practice at AskMaryRD.com.
Everyone has room for a child-size kiddie cone at McDonald's, Hartley says. It's only 45 calories for a one-ounce serving! The downside: It's not very filling, so enjoy this as a post-meal treat or close to your next meal to avoid major hunger pains.
Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap (Grilled)
Looking for something a little zestier and more satisfying? Grab the conveniently packaged Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap. "Besides the great taste, the best part of McDonald's Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap is its low calorie count: only 260 calories," Hartley says.
Fresco Bean Burrito
Running for the border isn't the lowest calorie choice you can make, but sometimes it's your only option. Hartley recommends ordering a fresco burrito, a soft flour tortilla wrapped around beans with diced onions, red sauce, and salsa. At 350 calories, it's almost a meal on its own, but it's packed with lots of filling fiber (11 grams) and protein (12 grams) so it's guaranteed to get rid of hunger and hold you over until your next meal.
Again, not a light snack, but with 330 calories, 6g dietary fiber, and only 7g saturated fat (25 percent less than the usual steak sandwich), this protein-packed sammy zaps away hunger, Hartley says. Just make sure it's only an occasional snack since its high in sodium (1,110mg sodium to be exact), she says.
Egg White Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap
Hartley loves this healthy breakfast item any time of day! For only 180 calories and 4g saturated fat, Dunkin Donuts' Egg White Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap is a much better choice than the fat-filled sausage egg and cheese croissant or high-sugar doughnuts.
Wheat Bagel with Lite Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese
"With only 280 calories, the wheat bagel is the lowest calorie baked option at Dunkin' Donuts," Hartley says. The good news is that whole-wheat flour is listed as the first ingredient. The bad news? Each bagel contains 56g carbohydrates, as much three or four slices of bread! Hartley recommends pairing it with a 2-ounce serving of DD's lite garden vegetable cream cheese for another 100 calories to help round out this snack.