Updated: May 27
Not only are most Americans' refrigerators and cupboards full of junk food, but so are our highways. While driving the highways across the country, how many signs do you see for healthy food options? Probably not many if at all! Truck stops are full of McDonalds, Chick-fil-As, and Taco Bells among others. Not only are most of the food options full of empty calories that cause weight gain, they are mainly comprised of carbohydrates and sugars. Carbohydrates and sugar aren’t entirely bad for you if you consume them within reason. However, if your afternoon snack consists of a Twinkie, bag of potato chips and a soda then you might have more problems than just your expanding waistline!
A diet full of too much carbohydrates and sugar can lead to many health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Too much sugar can also lead to sleepiness, which is obviously not good for you if you still have a 5 hour drive to your next off-load. When we feel tired and need a little mid-afternoon pick up, we have a tendency to reach for a can of soda or candy bar. The sugar gives us a quick burst of energy, but then it fizzles as quickly as it came, leaving us more tired than before. Several studies have indicated that protein-rich foods can increase cognitive performance and leave us feeling full longer.
But how can I carry steak and fish with me while on the road? Protein can be found in a wide range of food products, not just animal meats. You’d be surprised what you can actually snack on while driving that doesn’t need a grill and freezer to stay fresh. Just grab a small cooler and fill it with ice and whatever might be your fancy from the below list of healthy, protein-rich snacks!
1. Fruit with Nut Butter
No one can go wrong with the classic apple and peanut butter snack. Peanut butter contains about 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoon serving. When buying peanut butter look for brands with little to no sugar. If peanut butter isn’t your thing or you’re allergic, almond butter is a great alternative. Nut butter also goes great with other fruit such as pears and bananas.
2. Veggies with Hummus or Nut Butter
Hummus and vegetables go together just like apples and peanut butter. Want a super-easy way to eat vegetables and hummus? Place about 2 tablespoons of hummus in the bottom of a travel mug (preferably one without coffee as that might not taste so good!), and put a handful of vegetable sticks (carrots, celery, etc.) vertically into the hummus. Hummus contains protein, heart-healthy fats and lots of dietary fiber.
3. Hard Boiled Eggs
The “incredible-edible egg” is an excellent source of protein and very easy to munch on while driving. One egg has about 5-6 grams of protein and is only about 70 calories. Many truck stops and variety stores offer hard boiled eggs in pouches or you can make your own at home and keep them on ice.
Nuts make great portable snacks, but make sure you eat them in moderation as their calorie count can add up quickly. One ounce of almonds, or about 12 nuts, has 184 calories and contains healthy omega-9 fatty acids. Other great options are walnuts and pistachios (the nut not the ice cream).
5. Trail Mix
Trail mix is another easy to eat and healthy option. Grocery stores sell a wide variety of types and you can often make your own by combining your favorite nuts, granola, and dried fruits. If you buy prepackaged trail mix, just make sure to read the nutrition labels. What you may think is healthy, might not be. Go for a trail mix with lots of natural or lightly salted nuts and dried fruit.
6. Yogurt (or Cottage Cheese) with Granola and/or Berries
Are you looking to get your protein fix fast? A cup of Greek yogurt contains upwards of 17 grams of protein! Choose plain (way less sugar) and add a little granola and/or some fresh or frozen berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are all low-glycemic fruit and contain many vitamins. Not a fan of yogurt? Try cottage cheese!
7. Deli Roll Ups or Veggie Wraps
Deli meats and cheeses are easy to purchase at a grocery store and can be stored in a cooler with ice. Sandwiches no longer need to be made with bread. Just pick one or two meats (turkey, chicken or ham work great) with one slice of cheese and roll it up and eat it. If you want to add a little color to the sandwich, roll it up in a piece of lettuce and add a slice of tomato or your favorite veggies. Alternately, you can fill a mini-pita pocket or wrap with a bunch of your favorite veggies for a nutrient-packed sandwich option. You can prep for this snack in advance by buying precut veggies or cut them up yourself prior to leaving your home or truck stop.
8. Beef or Turkey Jerky
Beef or Turkey Jerky can actually be healthy for you! Plus it’s super easy to buy on the road and doesn’t need to be kept cool. Just make sure to avoid the sodium and sugar heavy brands as those can become rather unhealthy quickly. The low-sodium and natural brands are a great source of protein with a one ounce serving containing 9 grams of protein!
9. Tuna Pouch
Tuna now comes in easy-to-eat portable pouches. You don’t need to drain the excessive water and each pouch packs about 16 grams of protein. The healthy Omega-3 fatty acids in the tuna fish may reduce coronary heart disease too.
10. Mini Cheese Plates
Cut up a small piece of cheddar cheese or even a sting cheese stick and put it in a small cup or bowl. Add in a few almonds or walnuts and a few slices of apple or berries and you have yourself a quick and healthy snack. Cheddar cheese is high in protein and calcium.
Eating healthy on the road shouldn’t be hard. With a little prep work and a cooler of ice, you can bring along a few healthy and delicious snacks, that are good for your heart, friendly to your waistline, and will help keep you alert longer.