How to Eat Healthy(er) at Truck Stops… Plus a Better Alternative

How to Eat Healthy(er) at Truck Stops… Plus a Better Alternative

I’m on my second month of my great North American road trip, so by now I know something about what can really screw up your plans for healthy eating.

For example, this past weekend when we were driving to Ottawa from Quebec City, for the first time, we literally ran out of anything fresh to eat. This was a combo of poor planning and a little bit of road burnout.

What I really wanted was some greens or cut up veggies to munch on in the car. But all we had was a gas station convenience store. So, what did we end up getting? Tortilla chips and salsa.

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This is my Vegan MOFO #14. It’s Traveling Tuesday!

Not my finest hour, I admit, but it’s actually the first time in the last 40 or so days of travel that I’ve come to that point. If you think it’s funny that I was dreaming of crunching down on a carrot while I settled for a bag of chips, believe me I’m laughing along with you.

I shared this story with you to show you that yes, I am indeed human and hit the same challenges as everyone else. Now, I’m going to help you do what I did the other 39 days of our road trip and avoid that yucky, guilty feeling when you have to settle for eating something you know you shouldn’t.

If you are NOT prepared

Say you didn’t pack a full ice chest like we usually do. (Check out my photolog for days 1-3 of our journey to see the contents of our fridge fit into our coolers.)

The road is definitely not optimal for finding healthy options, at least in the Western states or Canada where there is plenty of space between towns. When we hit lonely stretches like in eastern Wyoming and Montana and along the Trans-Canada Highway between Winnipeg and Toronto, food options were slim and often limited to gas station convenience stores.

If you’re not prepared, you will have to make do with what you find. If you are going through larger towns or cities, you might be able to find a grocery store, but often your options will be pretty limited.

YOUR CHALLENGE: 99% of the “Food” at Truck Stops is Crap

What is available to you at convenience stores along the road is usually not even worth eating as a splurge. Instead of giving you energy and fueling your journey, it will drain you and trigger your appetite to make you want to eat more.

Road trip convenience store selection
My advice: don’t put any of these items in your body. Even the nuts and seeds are usually roasted or they have added ingredients like vegetable oil, salt, or sugar. Avoid the soda – let fresh fruit give you an energy boost.
Road trip convenience store selection with fruit
At least this stop has fruit – I’d go for that!

If you need to purchase something, go for whole foods first. Whole fruits, veggies, legumes, and other plant foods will give you the boost needed to keep you going and stay awake.

But if you really have no options, I’d rather you eat something non-optimal rather than lose energy, fall asleep at the wheel, and crash. In this case, read the packaging and choose something with a small list of ingredients that you recognize.

Healthy(er) Choices

  • Fruit or veggies

    Your number one choice.

  • Plain popcorn

    Simple ingredients listed on the package. Salt and a little oil are acceptable this time, but butter or cheese get the thumbs down as does a long laundry list of unpronounceable ingredients.

  • Raw nuts or seeds

    Try to get that elusive package where the only ingredient is nuts. Failing that, a little salt won’t kill you.

  • Canned beans or vegan soup

    If you brought a can opener, otherwise you’ll be bashing the can around trying to get into it like a monkey. I don’t think boxed soups have entered convenience stores yet…

  • Healthy bars

    At a really good truck stop, you might actually find an acceptable bar that uses primarily whole foods. Just check the ingredients list first because looks can be deceiving.

  • Fruit juice

    If you need to stay awake, go ahead and have some of the pasteurized stuff. First make sure the only ingredient is juice, please.

If you really want to travel in style, try the following:

Stop for Fresh Food at Farm Stands, Farmers Markets, and Roadside Produce Trucks

How about finding fruit and veggies from local farmers while on the road? Take advantage of traveling and sample the local produce! Obviously this is geared towards summer road trips…

We’ve seen produce stands set up along the interstate, farmers markets as we drove through tiny towns, and vendor trucks pulled over in vacant lots in the city.

9. Saschatchewan Fort Qu'Appelle farmers market
We saw the sign for this farmers market and pulled off as we drove through rural Saskatchewan. Purchased tomatoes, green beans, and chard.
8. Wyoming roadside produce stands Gillette
As we drove through Gillette, Wyoming, we stopped at a vacant lot where a couple of farmers’ trucks had set up. We got cherries, corn, cucumbers, and zucchini.

The cool thing about doing this, is you get to purchase local produce and see what’s in season. Some of these crops might have come from farther away – like the Iowa corn in Wyoming, BC fruit stands outside Winnipeg, and Niagra-area blueberries west of Toronto – but it’s still a far cry from what you find at gas stations or even grocery stores!

There. Now you (and I!) have no excuses for eating bad road trip food and feeling like crappola at the end of the day. But really it’s best to plan ahead if you can. For help with that, check out my article Eating Healthy in the Car Without Pulling Over.

Now your turn. Do you have something to add to my healthy(er) food list? Share it in the comments.

I shared this post at Healthy Vegan Fridays.

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