Remember when gas stations only sold gas, oil and tires? To some of us born before 1970, refueling was the main reason to stop unless you had to get a key and run around the back to use the restroom.

Prior to taking a long trip, a snack bag was packed full of nutrient-rich food and drinks for the drive. We don’t do this anymore.

Besides gasoline, today’s gas stations sell everything from souvenirs to gourmet coffee. They are packed with excess calories, sugar, salt and questionable ingredients. The temptation toward salty snacks, candy, cookies, and soda can lead to highs and lows in blood sugar and blood pressure that can lead to feeling very distracted and sleepy. That can be dangerous if you are the driver and need to stay alert.

Smart snacks can help you feel energized and full while on the road. Fruit or vegetables chips can be a healthy choice. Steer away from the greasy, salty kind and choose freeze-dried or dehydrated fruits and vegetables. They provide a light crunch without added fat and sodium.

Hand-held finger fruits and vegetables crunch, and are easy to eat on the go. Apples, bananas, and precut fresh vegetables are less messy and are nutrient rich.

For quick protein, buy a yogurt. Greek yogurt contains up to three times as much protein as the traditional kind. Protein helps keep you full and sustains your energy levels.

Beware of the power bars that are sold in gas stations. Some are candy bars in disguise. To make a smart choice, check the ingredient label. Search for things that are real, whole foods that you recognize like nuts, seeds, fruit, eggs or beans. Look for a bar with at least 10 grams of protein and at least 5 grams of fiber.

The problem with buying nuts while traveling is that the cylinder of nuts usually contains more than one serving and are loaded with salt. Honey roasted nuts replace the salt with a candy coating that make downing the entire bag of nuts even more enticing. They are loaded with protein and healthy fats, but portion control is can be tricky.

The orange packs of crackers with cheese or peanut butter are high in fat and salt but low in protein. Before the days of standard air conditioning in every car, travelers sweat more than they do now. They needed to replace the salt in their bodies. Not so much these days.

Beef jerky is an excellent source of protein and is low in carbohydrates, so it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels. Be cautious with beef jerky brands that are loaded with sodium, preservatives and MSG. Look for a jerky with less than 400 mg sodium per serving.

Don’t forget water. It may not be as filling as a snack, but without it, you can start to feel drowsy, tired, headachy and unable to concentrate. Some people refrain from drinking water because it would require more restroom breaks. Stopping every two to three hours while traveling stretches muscles and increases stamina. Happy trails and snack smart.


Bobbie Randall

Contributing columnist

Bobbie Randall is a certified diabetes educator, registered, licensed dietitian. She supervises a Diabetes Self-Management Training Program at Dunlap Community Hospital, Orrville, Ohio. Contact her at [email protected].