Almost all of us have stopped for some gas station food at one point or another. Maybe you’re in the middle of a long drive and can’t take the time to stop for a meal. Perhaps you’ve just had a busy day running errands and realize your stomach is rumbling.
No matter how you got there, you now find yourself browsing the gas station for some food. But you’ll find that not all choices are equal regarding your health.
Let’s go shopping and find the few foods you should skip on your next trip to the gas station convenience store.
Why Is Gas Station Food So Unhealthy?
The answer to this question is apparent when looking around most gas stations. Most food is prepackaged, shelf-stable items crammed with salt, sugar, and other unhealthy additives. When hot food is available, it’s typically grease- and salt-heavy items that also pack a surprising amount of calories.
Add a sugary soda or slushie, and you have a combination that can make for some of the least healthful foods. Only rarely are healthy, fresh foods available since they cost more and go bad faster, making the gas station lose more money on them.
Therefore, you’ll likely see only a few sad, days-old prepackaged salads or past-ripe fruit as your health options. Under these conditions, you can see how even the most dedicated healthy eaters might indulge a bit.
Is Gas Station Food Better Than Fast Food?
As usual, it all comes down to what you order. For example, a breakfast of a gas station granola bar and a juice might be healthier than a fast food breakfast sandwich paired with a flavored coffee drink.
On the flip side, many fast food restaurants offer salads or other more nutritious meals for those concerned about their diet. Some would prefer this compared to a gas station hot dog and soda. No matter where you eat, you can almost always make healthier choices.
Pro Tip: Going on a road trip? Make sure to Avoid These Foods on Your Travel Day.
5 Gas Station Foods to Avoid
It would be hard to call just about any gas station food healthy. But these five take the cake regarding the worst health impacts of any food available while filling up your tank.
Nachos may be tasty, but there’s not much to like from a health perspective. Overall, the dish is typically a sodium bomb, from salty chips to artificially flavored cheese and other toppings. Plus, the amount of oil, fat, and preservatives are less than ideal for healthy eating. All of this can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and more.
2. Hot Dogs
It doesn’t get more processed than hot dogs, another delicious but very unhealthy gas station food choice. Aside from the sometimes low-quality meat and other ingredients, they come full of saturated fat and sodium.
Cured or heavily processed meats like hot dogs can also raise your risk of certain cancers. Some ingredients have even been labeled carcinogenic.
Donuts may be tasty, but that delicious flavor comes from a heavy combination of sugar and fat. It should be obvious, considering they’re fried, heavily sweetened dough balls.
Plus, consider the many toppings and flavorings, from powdered sugar to chocolate icing. Regular consumption can lead to diabetes, obesity, or heart disease. In the short term, you’ll experience a blood sugar spike that can lead to an unpleasant crash shortly after.
Few things have less nutritional benefit than a slushie. They have nothing more than ice and sugar, often in the highly unhealthy version of corn syrup or other processed sweeteners. Some versions even contain caffeine, which can add less-than-desirable ingredients to the cocktail.
Like other sugary items, too many slushies can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and other serious health issues.
5. Snack Cakes
Snack cakes have many of the same pitfalls as donuts and other sugar- and carb-heavy snacks. To remain shelf-stable and edible for the longest time.
With obesity, high blood sugar, and other health issues, it’s better to leave them on the shelf.
What Are the Healthiest Gas Station Foods?
The answer will depend on the exact gas station you visit. But try to think fresh and natural. Many fresh options, from salads or sandwiches to fruit and veggie platters, will be better than processed items like jerky, chips, or hot dogs.
Lots of gas stations also offer things like nuts and cheese, a relatively straightforward combination that can fit into a healthy and balanced diet. For drinks, stick to water, low-sugar natural juices, and milk. Certain sports drinks can also be helpful for hydration, even if they may include a lot of added sugar.
Pro Tip: Avoid committing any of these 7 Deadly Sins of Gas Stations on your trip.
Is Eating From a Gas Station Worth It?
Without a doubt, these foods and others available at gas stations can be extremely unhealthy. However, for most of us, gas station food isn’t a personal favorite that we seek out. A gas station can save the day for those moments when you desperately need some food while on the road. You don’t always have the time to stop for more nutritious options.
Still, consume any food, especially greasy convenience store ones, in moderation. You wouldn’t put poor quality fuel in your vehicle, so don’t make a habit of doing it to your body, either!
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