If you’re on a diet, the idea of traveling outside of your usual stomping grounds may terrify you a little bit, since you may lose control of healthy options on the road. Even more stressful? Making sure those healthy options fit within a keto way-of-eating so that you don’t fall out of ketosis. Well I’m here to help you reduce some of that stress, because rest assured, there will be options for you, even at the smallest convenience stores. I want to dedicate this post specifically to staying keto on the go with gas station snack purchases.
Since starting keto, I’ve taken 2 cruises, gone on countless road trips, and spent hours at concerts and group hangouts that easily trap you into spending dollars on foods and drinks that don’t make you feel good. One of those traps is found on the journey and not at the destination, and that trap is the gas station. Ah, yes, the utopia of my childhood sweet tooth; the gas station is 50% responsible for my childhood obesity and half a dozen cavities through elementary school. Now that I’m older and I’ve learned that sugar and my body do not mix, I’ve figured out how to navigate these places so that I find what I need quickly without giving the crud a second look.
Navigating the Gas Station
Every gas station has a similar layout. You walk in, and you’re faced with the same 5-10 aisles in roughly the same order. This makes it easy for us to find keto stuff, because the sugary goods usually stay grouped together. The easier it is to walk past those aisles, the simpler it is to make better choices. Here’s that you should keep your eyes peeled for.
Aisles to look for
- Beef jerky
- Protein bars
- Sugar free gum
- Diet drinks
- Sparkling waters
- Pork rinds or cracklins
- Plain coffee/tea
Aisles to avoid
- Candy in any form (yes, you should even sugar free options. more on this in a sec)*
- Regular sodas
- “fresh baked” pizzas and hot dogs/crispitos on the rollers**
- Flavored coffees/lattes
*In my experience, the candy aisle doesn’t usually offer sugar free options. If there are any, it’s usually a Russell Stover creation, which is not the best choice for you right now. If you want to avoid going off-plan, you need to avoid sugar and sugar alcohols that will spike your insulin (like maltitol, which is the main RS sweetener). These “sugar free” candies aren’t much better for you than the real thing. Skip ’em, because there are better things here for you to buy.
**While these sausages and hot dogs might seem like lower-carb options, they’re packed full of preservatives and fillers which most definitely aren’t good for you. Like I said, there are better things to buy here.
Specific Keto/Low Carb Products to Look For
Not in any specific order
1. Quest Cookies
I recommend these in any flavor, but peanut butter is absolutely my favorite. They’re pretty large and definitely filling. While they have a little protein flavor, they really do hit the spot for a sweet and nutritious snack on the road.
2. Quest Bars
Again, I recommend these in any flavor, but my personal favorites are the blueberry muffin and pumpkin flavors (seasonal). Quest bars are best heated up, so leave it on your hot dash for 5 mins before digging in. Who needs a microwave?
3. Low sugar jerky
Ok, there are definitely some high-carb options on the jerky aisle, which is why it just isn’t a free-for-all. Be sure to check the nutrition label for things like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, and grains of any kind. Definitely avoid that teriyaki flavor (even though I know it’s delicious!) because it’s high in carbs. The best options I’ve found here are (almost) any form of bacon jerky and anything frrom Duke’s.
4. Pork rinds
Just like in the beef jerky aisle, you’re going to have to do some ingredient investigation on pork rinds. There are usually no fillers here, but you’re going to find some preservatives like maltodextrin in the flavored kind. The absolute best option is plain or sea salt, which usually lack preservatives. But if you’re ok with a little dirty keto here and there, then I recommend salt n vinegar. It’s SO flavorful that I never finish the bag.
5. Sparkling waters
Check the carbs on these, as some “sparkling waters” have added sugar. I prefer brands like La Croix and Bubly, which never have sweeteners, but you can also check for the 0 carb versions of Perrier, San Pelligrino, and Topo Chico.
6. Gatorade Zero and Powerade Zero
These have a couple carbs and VERY minimal electrolyte content, so I don’t recommend them as a supplement. But dang they sure do taste good.
7. Diet sodas
Not the cleanest, but they’re a better option in my opinion than regular sodas. I usually opt for Coke Zero or Sprite Zero.
8. Boiled peanuts
Peanuts are more “low carb” than “keto,” since they’re legumes. If I buy these, I opt for a small cup, since I can’t ever stop myself once I start. It would be a sin to let them get cold, tbh. This is a go-to of mine for beach trips. The saltiness of these will probably cause a little bloating, though, just as a heads up.
9. Packaged cheese and egg snacks
These are usually more expensive but are a SUPER CLEAN option for you to keep on track. I’ve seen everything from Cracker Barrel slices to string cheese to bags of boiled eggs. Usually these are readily available in a cooler by the register, but only at bourgeois gas stations, like travel stops on the interstate.
10. Roasted almonds
You’re probably going to be able to find single serving packets of mixed nuts and almonds, and if you do, I recommend you grab a Blue Diamond brand bag. All of their almonds are flavorful and taste super fresh. I prefer smokehouse flavor, but if you’re ok with a couple carbs, get the soy wasabi flavor. For whatever reason, that flavor reminds me of pizza flavored Combos.
11. Plain coffee/tea bar
Plain black coffee and hot tea (made with just hot water and a tea bag) is a solid choice. No promises on that coffee being any good, as gas stations are notorious for stale brews. If you need creamer, use a few packages of half and half, and for sweetener, look for stevia (not Splenda).
12. Sunflower seeds
These are pretty low carb, and you’re not going to eat a whole bag in one sitting anyway. I love the ranch flavor, but if you’re trying to keep it clean, get the roasted/salted ones.
13. Mint gum
Mint gum is a really helpful appetite supressant, it helps your breath, and the xylitol in it helps your enamel health. Just make sure the flavor you get is sugar free. My personal favorite is Five Peppermint. Also, keep it safe and hidden from any animals on the trip, as xylitol is toxic to pets (but you’re smart, so you probably already knew that).
Wrapping it up
While there are probably more options depending on the gas station you venture to, these are almost always at every convenience store we go into. These snacks are full of protein, healthy fats, and better-for-you sweeteners than some of the other crap that lurks on those shelves. As you prepare for your trip, try to bring snacks with you so you aren’t paying a premium for some of this stuff (ahem, thanks convenience tax). But if you’re desparate (or just feeling unexpectedly snacky), this list should help you out.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other favorites!
Until next time,