How many of you have ever found yourself out on the road and suddenly you realized in the hustle and bustle of getting your things ready that you forgot to pack a veg-friendly, healthy snack with you? We’ve all been there, whether we thought we’d only be out for a bit or we just assumed we’d pass a veg-friendly restaurant. Whatever the case, all of us have likely found ourselves at one of the most dreaded places a plant-based eater (or anyone) has to choose to eat from — the gas station. Sure, their coffee isn’t THAT bad, they have all kinds of drinks including glass-bottled water, and they even have some cool magazines and tacky travel souvenirs to marvel at, but high-quality food? Not so much, at least for majority of them anyway.
Well good news Green Monsters! Aside from beverages of all kinds, there are a small handful of foods you can find at most gas stations that aren’t just veg-friendly, but not too bad on the taste buds or wallet either. These eats might not all be organic and certified non-GMO (because Whole Foods doesn’t have their own gas stations … yet!), however, you can still find some decent eats while on the road and in a pinch.
Remember, sometimes we have to hang our health halos up the moment we enter a gas station and just do the best we can.
Here are 10 to choose whether you eat vegan just to avoid animal products, or you’re looking for some clean options too:
Hands down, one of the easiest to find eats at a gas station is fruit. You may even find an organic mix in there, but for the most part you’ll find conventional bananas, apples, oranges, applesauce, raisins, and many stations even have fruit cups and chopped pineapple and melon. Not too shabby, right? Fruit is a good source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a much better way to satisfy those sugar cravings instead of the Oreo’s!
2. Select Protein Bars
While some varieties of protein bars are not vegan, many are, such as certain Clif Bars (Crunchy Peanut Butter, Nuts and Seeds, Berry Pomegranate Chia, and Oatmeal Raisin Walnut being some of the most popular), along with Clif Kids and Clif Mojo bars. Another bar option that features vegan protein is Luna Bars, which are also now gluten-free. The only variety that’s not vegan is the Honey Salted Peanut. Again, while bars may not be the cleanest option, sometimes a bar just holds you over when you’re tired of fruit or nuts. In that case, don’t beat yourself up and choose the best option you can in the moment. If in doubt, turn over the label and look under the nutrition panel where it lists any allergens to be sure it doesn’t say milk to verify it’s vegan.
3. Nuts or Trail Mix
Nuts make an easy, grab and go snack that you don’t have to worry about reading the label with. If they have raw options, you’re in for a real healthy treat, but even the roasted will do in a pinch. Grab almonds, cashews, whatever you fancy. These have beneficial fatty acids that will fuel your brain, keep your blood sugar stable, and settle much better with your stomach than a sugary “technically vegan” candy bar. Plus, they’re a natural source of amino acids if you’re worried about missing out on your protein while on the road! Trail mix is also a good option, just be sure it doesn’t have yogurt-coated pieces like many do which contain dairy.
3. Whole Grain Crackers or To-Go Packs of Oatmeal
If you need a cracker fix and like Triscuits or Wheat Thins, (the original, multi-grain, and reduced fat options), then feel safe that these are vegan. Grab some peanut butter if you see some (choose the best brand they have available) and you’ve got yourself a healthy snack. Or, just eat the crackers with an apple or banana and be done with it. You can also find plain to-go packs of oatmeal that you can mix with some hot water they have on hand located at the coffee sections of the store and add some fruit, nuts, and maybe some applesauce for sweetness. This makes for an easy meal that’s better than processed chips and cookies.
4. Pre-Made Salads
While the idea of eating salads at a gas station might sound pretty gross, some of these are actually okay in very clean facilities and many are also affordable. Choose those that are plain like chef’s salads and avoid those with meat, cheese, and eggs. Remember, these don’t get packaged in the gas station, but at a food preparation site where they’re shipped and sent in just like they are to your grocery store. So if you see one that looks good, check it out. Be sure to choose an oil and vinegar dressing versus creamy options that have dairy, or just add some tossed nuts instead. You can also add crackers, fruit, or whatever else you want. This is a great option if you’re not able to get in a meal elsewhere and are tired of drier snack foods.
5. Green Juice
I almost died the last time I went to a gas station and saw green juice — and it was organic! While I didn’t buy any, I did make a mental note to stop by a QT if I’m ever out on the road and need a fix! Sure, it’s bottled and pasteurized and all that jazz, but it’s a much cleaner option that Gatorade and other chemical-laden drinks. If you see this one, take advantage of it; it’s a sign we have arrived Green Monsters!
6. Non-Dairy Yogurt
Non-dairy yogurts are becoming more and more popular, even at convenient stores. Silk soy yogurt is one of the most readily available in most gas stations right next to the other dairy-based varieties, but you might be able to spot some other brands as well. You can even find almond milk at some gas stations now, so be on the lookout for almond yogurt if you enjoy that too. Paired with some fruit and nuts, you’ve got yourself a nice, healthy snack that’s also a great source of protein.
8. Whole Grain Sandwich
In a pinch, grab yourself one of those overly priced loaves of 100 percent whole grain bread on the shelf, some nut butter, and a banana to make yourself a sandwich. Once again, not the most terrible option and better than a fried donut they might be offering up!
9. Dark Chocolate … Some Varieties
Many brands of dark chocolate are also vegan. One of the most you’ll likely find at gas stations being Ghiradelli Twilight Delight Intense Dark Chocolate. If you’re a real chocolate addict like myself, go for straight up unsweetened baking chocolate bars (100 percent cacao) from Bakers brand that’s available at most supermarkets. Because sometimes, absolutely nothing will do but chocolate — it’s a natural brain booster too!
9. To-Go Veggies With Hummus or Salsa
You can also easily find portable veggies like carrots and cucumber slices (and even pickles) at most all grocery stores. If you’re a clean eater, pick these up and grab some to-go hummus or even a jar of salsa, which all gas stations have. This is one of the best filling snacks you can eat. Don’t worry if these are organic, etc. because in a small amount, these are much better off than processed options you’ll have to choose from.
10. Plain Pretzels and Popcorn
Pretzels are naturally vegan (unless they are honey, bacon, or cheese flavored), so pick up a bag of these salty treats and you’re set! Pretzels are also easy-to-digest, which makes them a great travel-friendly snack, and even come in gluten-free varieties for those that have a gluten sensitivity or gluten allergy. They’re also easy to dunk into salsa, hummus, or even non-dairy yogurt for a complete snack. Look for whole grain varieties if you can, and feel free to pair them with something more substantial like fruit if you’re especially hungry. Popcorn is another easy go-to snack if it’s not flavored with butter. If plain popcorn doesn’t sound good to you, pair it with trail mix and toss it in a baggie to add more sweet and salty flavor!
What About …. ?
If you’re wondering about items like smoothies and fancy coffee drinks, stay away. Most are made with a tons of sugar and artificial sweeteners or preservatives. Smoothies are also normally made with fruit concentrates instead of real fruit and come out of machines with a deep based that you can never be sure were cleaned properly. Fancy coffee drinks often contain milk products or milk powder, but if you grab a cup of black coffee and they have portable soy or almond milk containers, you’re good to go! Or, just drink it black and call it a day. Some whole grain cereals at gas stations are also vegan, (such as Chex), along with some snack mixes.
Vegan road trips aren’t impossible, and if you want to know more about what dry snacks and beverages on the road are veg-friendly, you can check out this list for more info and see these portable snacks to bring with you so you’re prepared next time!
What’s your favorite vegan road-trip snack?
Lead Image Source: Heather McClees