Gas Station Finds and Fast Food Strategies

We’ve all been rushed to get out the door, either not planning our meals while we are gone for the day or absent-mindedly leaving them at home.

We’ve all been rushed getting out the door, either not planning our meals while we are gone for the day or absent-mindedly leaving it at home.  Hopefully, the latter was left in the fridge and not on the counter.

Another scenario I hear about from our patients:  As they are becoming more consistent with a new exercise routine, training for an upcoming event, race or tournament they become ravenous during the day – typically between lunch and dinner.

Unfortunately either of these leads most people to believe that their only options in a hurry are unhealthy ones from a gas station or from the drive-thru at a nearby fast food restaurant.

There are ways to eat healthy at both without sacrificing the little time you have left before you need to get back to work or your next errand. More and more gas stations are providing diet-specific options.  All you need to do is look beyond the candy and junk.

Gas Station Finds

  • Fresh fruit – Many gas stations have an open refrigerated section with apples, bananas, and oranges.  I recommend the banana or orange if you don’t have access to washing the fruit.  Minimizing ingesting possible contaminants by peeling the fruit may be your priority in the moment.

  • Beef jerky – This is one of my favorite on the go options.  It’s a nutrient dense option loaded with bioavailable protein.  Beef is one of the most caloric friendly options, too.  Choose soy-free if possible.

  • Pickles – Low on electrolytes?  Pickles are one of the best options available.  These zesty cucumbers are still the choice for runners in a pinch.  (Trust me, I know this one personally)

  • Deconstructed sandwiches – Many gas stations have a variety of grab and go sandwiches available.  Chicken salad, tuna salad, egg salad, ham, turkey, roast beef – the options are plentiful.  Whole grains are not for everyone.  Neither is white bread, tortillas, or pita bread.  Simple solution:  grab a fork and eat what is inside. If the sandwiches available don’t have that much meat, buy two!

  • Salami & cheese – This option is often packaged together conveniently.  Look for other meat options like prosciutto, ham, turkey, and pepperoni.  Yes, these choices can be very processed, but in a pinch they can do the trick. If you are sensitive to the preservatives in lunch meats, look for a nearby grocery store where there are healthier grab and go meat options.  Choose brands like Applegate and True Story for preservative-free meat options.  Eating a whole package of pre-sliced meat will often meet your daily protein requirements.

Daily protein requirement = 1 gram of animal protein per pound of ideal body weight

Fast Food Strategies

Basics strategy:  eat the meat, leave the bun/shell.

For all of the fast food options choose water instead of soda.  If you are a soda-lover, please try to limit your intake (& then continue to limit it until you no longer drink soda of any kind at all).

  1. Arby’s – similarly to any burger joint, simply eat the meat.  One thing I found quite interesting is Arby’s created carrot shaped meat while the other big brand fast food burger places were incorporating meatless options.  While those meat-carrot creations are probably not ideal, I loved the proverbial middle finger Arby’s gave to the industry that was following the mainstream sheep.

  2. Burger King – Flame broiling sounds a lot healthier than frying – and this cooking method definitely has that potential.  What you are frying or flame broiling or grilling matters.  Again, same principles apply – skip the bun, bigger sizes, and choose a smaller order of fries (if you must have them).

  3. Carl’s Jr – This is the only fast food joint that offers grass-fed beef (as of the date of this post). YES!  Plus, the burgers tend to be a little bit bigger (& a bit more expensive as a result).

  4. Chick-fil-A – This one is relatively easy:  Order the grilled chicken instead of the breaded.  Ditch the bun, just like the burgers. Skip their signature sweet tea.

  5. Del Taco – They have burgers and tacos and more at Del Taco.  The same principles apply.  Leave the bun or shell and eat the meat.

  6. In N Out – I hold this as the gold standard for fast food.  Gluten-free? Yep!  Low carb?  Yes!  Peanut allergies? They’ve got you covered.  In N Out is the only fast food option on the west coast (that I am aware of) that will cater to your dietary needs so easily.  Sorry east coast people.

  7. Mc Donalds – I found a bit of controversy with the meat on their burgers.  Some sources claim they don’t rot or get mold because the burgers are very thin and just dry out.  I find this highly suspicious, but interesting.  

  8. Taco Bell – The easiest option is to leave off the shell or tortilla.  If you “must” have a tortilla, opt for corn (unless you’re one of our patients and I’ve told you otherwise).  Grab a spork and eat the meat and veggies.

Eating at fast food restaurants should not be your main source of calories. Eating nutrient dense whole foods should be the priority.  We are busy. I get it.  

Sometimes we need something quick to fill our stomachs.

Eating at fast good should be healthier.  But, as a whole, it is not.

At least not the way they package it. See beyond what they serve you.  Pull out the better parts.  Leave the not-so-great parts.  

Even if you are not able to eat at home 7 days a week (but really, who does this 365 days a week anyways?), knowing how to choose better options will help you in the moment.

A Few Extra Tips:

  • Sit down while you are eating (driving doesn’t count)

  • Take a few deep breaths – with the emphasis on a slow exhale – before you dig in

  • Play relaxing music

  • Go outside while you eat

These all help your body produce the right amount of stomach acid at the right time to help you digest your food better. Most of us could use a little bit better digestion.  Take a look at the supplement aisle and take note of all of the acid blockers, antacids, digestive aids and pain relievers.  (If you use any of these – message me – I can help)