As touring artists, we spend a lot of time in the vast expanses between big cities, driving along those major interstates that completely bypass any small towns and the trade routes they once served. Truck stops and travel plazas are the norm, and even a grocery store feels like a luxury. It's hard to make good choices out there, so here are the top 10 better road snacks for the health-conscious touring musician:
TOP 10 HEALTHY VAN SNACKS
10. Sugar Snap Peas - a crunchy, fiberful alternative to chips. Plus, they can usually be found pre-washed in bags at any supermarket, even Target and Walmart. They don't keep too well, so you might have to get others on board to help finish before the day is done. Best served cold. 10x tastier than baby carrots, and 1/4 the choking hazard.
9. Kale Chips - greens that won't wilt and require no refrigeration. Granted, they ain't cheap, but they are delicious and nutritious when you can find them. If you're touring close to home, you can make a baked version yourself (though they'll never compare to the hippie crack dehydrated raw vegan ones you can buy at fancy natural food stores, and they know this, so they charge you $7 - $10 for a tiny bag.)
8. An Apple - apples keep well in the van, have lots of fiber, and are ergonomically designed for eating easily while driving. Bananas are ergonomic too, but do not keep so well in the van and have a pesky quick-rotting, smelly peel, so apples win.
7. Oatmeal - obviously, oatmeal packets are dirt cheap and hot water can be found at any gas station, but even Starbucks and Panera have started offering steel cut oats now (vastly more healthy than instant or rolled oats), with fruit and nuts to mix in. Hot cereal is a great fiberful breakfast option if your body is just not excited about another breakfast sandwich or burrito this morning.
6. String Cheese - can be hit or miss depending on the brand (I mean, is it really too much to ask that string cheese actually STRINGS?!) but a little protein, fat and calcium never hurt. If you are looking for a convenience store snack that is low carb, and ergonomic for driving, most gas stations have single sticks of string cheese in the fridge.
5. Bars - some are healthier than others. Here's a basic guide for what to look for in a better bar choice. Low-sugar and high-protein are the two main things and high-fiber is a plus (but watch out for added fiber bars - like Fiber One - as they can cause, eh hem, unintentional discomfort.)
4. Yogurt - single-serving yogurt is usually loaded with added sugar, but luckily, less sweet Greek varieties have started popping up in truck stops everywhere (still, make sure you check the date). Bonus, probiotics can correct imbalances of bacteria in our bodies and aid in digesting all the other bad things we eat on the road. Pro-tip: if you like it less sweet, get the fruit-on-the-bottom kind and only mix halfway.
3. Fruit Juices / Smoothie Drinks - We're talking gas station variety, not health food store fresh-squeezed. These are a secret sugar bomb of an option (FYI most Odwalla and Naked juice products contain more sugar than a Coke!) , but as a treat they are maaaybe somewhat better for you than candy (at least they have vitamins and some fiber). Consume in moderation, and get the real stuff when you can.
2. Chocolate - the darker the better. Higher than 80% dark chocolate has very little sugar, and also melts a lot less easily when left in the van. The mood elevating properties of chocolate are the most important thing here - but it also has antioxidants, so, that's kind of like health food, right?
1. ALMONDS! - a handful of these sweet little protein and healthyfat-rich energy bombs can magically hold off the "hanger" until the next available meal. #1 Lifesaver, and they take many months to ever spoil or go stale. Best if you can get them raw and unsalted. Mix with chocolate chips in a mason jar for even more energy boost.
0. Water - plain old water is the best thing you can drink on the road. It is a vocalist's best friend, and is tied to better body function overall. It's hard to hydrate like a hoss when it means more pee stops, but it's worth it. Remember - 8 glasses a day!
Did we miss anything? What's your favorite healthy van snack? Comment below and contribute to the list!