The holiday season is a busy time. There are so many moving parts that it can be hard to continue healthy eating habits, especially while traveling. We have all been there: we are driving to a family member’s house for the holidays and we need to stop for gas. The kids are hungry, you’re hungry, and everyone is about to turn from Santa’s elves into the Grinch if they don’t eat soon. Typically, when walking into a convenience store, you’re faced with the option of junk or…junk. But that isn’t the case any longer. All across the country, convenience stores have started an initiative to provide healthy snacks and meals instead of just candy bars, chips, and soda.
5 Reasons Why Convenience Stores Should be Your Go-To Stop while Traveling
When we were kids, convenience stores were known for having all the best food – at least in our eyes. Hotdogs, slushies, candy, chips, unnecessarily large cups of soda. It was like Christmas every time we walked inside because there was an unending array of junk food without a healthy thing in sight. Our parents couldn’t force us to choose the grapes over the candy bar because there were no grapes.
However, in recent years, convenience stores have stepped up their game. And now that we are parents, we couldn’t be more thankful for that. In partnership with a few nation-wide programs, many convenience stores have started healthy food initiatives in order to offer healthy snacks and meals to their customers. As you get ready to make your road trip plans for this holiday season, be sure not to count out convenience stores for your snacks and meals along the way. Here’s why:
- One-Stop Shop– Stopping for meals and snacks can easily be planned out when you are using gas stations as your stopping points. Here you can get your snacks, use the restroom, and fill up your tank all in one fell swoop. No more stopping at the gas station and then driving 8 more miles to the next fast food joint. Everything you need is in one place.
- Healthy Food Initiative- Convenience stores across the country are offering healthy food options and snacks for their customers. The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) has partnered with Partnership for a Healthier America which is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that focuses on reducing rates of obesity across the nation. Together they will be providing resources to participating convenience store partners to offer healthier options as well as campaign for the Drink Up program, which encourages staying hydrated with water rather than unhealthy alternatives.
- It is the Healthiest Food Joint in Town – If your goal over the holidays is to stay as healthy as possible, then convenience stores may be the healthiest spot to grab a quick bite to eat while on the road. Most of the food joints that are right off the highway are fast food places, making it difficult to make a better choice for your family. But now, that gas station off the side of the road may have healthier options for you for both snacks and meals. So say goodbye to fat-filled cheeseburgers and little plastic toys that seem to be strategically placed right where your bare feet are walking, and say hello to healthy foods.
- They are More than Just Convenience Stores – The NACS encourages all their partners to reach out to their local communities. The Keep America Beautiful campaign is a directive to instill community outreach programs and green living initiatives in convenience stores across the country. There are programs for promoting recycling or offering re-usable cups instead of disposable ones. They encourage their members to participate in programs like National Safe Place – where youth in crisis can find safe harbor- and CSAT (Convenience Stores Against Trafficking). These programs and initiatives set out by the NACS are all part of making America cleaner, safer, and healthier.
- Last Minute Christmas Gifts– One of the best things about stopping at a convenience store versus a fast food joint to grab a bite to eat is that it gives you a break from the long car ride. You can walk around the store, admiring all the quirky and weird items that are often stocked on the shelves. Convenience stores are the perfect place to stock up on last minute gag gifts, stocking stuffers, or just an odd knick knack that you won’t find anywhere else. It gives parents and kids a few minutes to walk around and take their mind off the long car ride instead of just sitting in a booth eating not-so-healthy food.
Best Healthy Snacks and Treats You Can Find at Convenience Stores
Most convenience stores now have some sort of healthy options available for customers. Fresh fruits and vegetables, usually served in convenient packaging, is located near the cash register or in refrigerated case. Nuts and dried fruits are also a popular snack among health nuts (pun intended), and are quick to grab and easy to eat on the go. However, several companies are starting to see the trend of healthy, convenient snacks and are beginning to create items for patrons that are good for you. So grab your staples like fruit or veggies, and then a little something extra to keep you going like some of these healthy snacks, treats, and drinks that you can find at your local convenience stores:
- Oikos Nonfat Yogurt Drinks
- PowerBar® Plant Protein Bar is made with protein from plant-based ingredients and nuts, with no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners.
- ThinkThin Protein Cakes- Each cake has 12 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar, and they are gluten- and GMO-free.
- ZonePerfect® Revitalize Bar a protein bar with energizing green tea extract, choline and caffeine.
To quench your thirst and get a quick boost of energy, there are:
- Celsius® is a fitness drink that accelerates metabolism, burns body fat, and provides healthy energy made with green tea, EGCG, Guarana, Ginger, Calcium, B Vitamins and Vitamin C.
- Pedialyte Powder Packets are perfect to to help prevent dehydration from an illness, travel, or heat exhaustion.
- Vitamin Water Active Nutrient Enhanced Performance Drinks offer 100% RDA of vitamins B5, B6 and B12 to support energy metabolism and electrolytes from natural sources like coconut water and sea salt.
- Heyday Cold-Brew Coffee is a perfect boost of caffeine that is cool and refreshing
If you are looking for a sweet treat to satisfy that sweet tooth, but still want to stay on track, you can try:
- Pearson Ranch introduces exciting and fun Character Bags of savory Elk, Buffalo, Venison and Wild Boar Jerky. Each resealable bag includes 2.1 ounces of bite-size pieces of jerky, which is made with premium quality lean meats and contain no gluten, nitrites or MSG.
- SmashMallow is a sweet-tooth satisfying pick-me-up made with organic cane sugar and simple naturally sourced ingredients. It’s a guilt-free indulgence at around 80 calories and less than 1 gram of fat on average per serving.
Although there are plenty of junk food options in a convenience store, you can still easily find healthy options in most convenience stores. Start off by grabbing a piece of fruit, a package of veggies, and a bottle of water. Then get a few little extras like some of the options above to keep you motivated for the rest of your trip without hitting that sugar low or going off your healthy habits.
Although not traditionally thought of as a place to get all your healthy snacks and meals during the holiday travel, convenience stores are now a place where you can find better options for you and your families. With new programs and initiatives, your gas station stops are becoming a place where you can refuel your vehicle and your body, all while knowing that the stores are engaging and providing for the local community.