What happens to your eating and nutrition patterns when your schedule and life routine get out of whack? Anything from travel, an intense work project, personal life mayhem or even just missing your Sunday trip to the grocery store due to a busy weekend can result in getting kicked out of your nutrition A-game. The key is to have strategies in place to help you to manage those crazy times of life when your healthy routines get tricky. This will help you to weather the storm and avoid a full collapse of the good nutrition habits you’ve built. Let’s look at 6 tips to follow that will help you to make great nutrition choices even at a 7-Eleven:

TIP #1: Find The Fruit & Veggies - Nobody goes to a gas station to get fruits and veggies but believe it or not most gas stations have a reasonable selection of fresh fruits and veggies. A few common options at most gas stations include apples, bananas, cups of sliced fresh fruit or packs of cut veggies like carrot sticks. Zero in on these items to keep your nutrition game strong in a pinch.

TIP #2: Beware of Beverage Traps - It can be easy to be fooled by the labels on different beverages. Terms like 100% fruit juice, no sugar added or all-natural might sound healthy but don’t get fooled. Items with these terms attached to them can still be filled with sugar substitutes, added sugars or other ambiguous ingredients that can undermine your healthy intentions. Avoid these traps by staying focused on bottled water, plain/black coffee or unsweetened tea.

TIP #3: Choose Healthy Fats- Gas stations are filled with processed foods that need to have a long shelf life. One of the ways that shelf life is increased is through the use of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, aka trans fats, which have been shown to be inflammatory and detrimental to heart and cardiovascular health. To avoid these, read labels and avoid products with trans fats or better yet, stick to less processed foods. Think closer to the farm than the factory. Healthy fat sources you can find at a gas station include whole nuts (without any added oils or sugar), eggs, or avocados.

TIP #4: Steer Clear of Lengthy Ingredient Lists - A quick glance at the ingredient list will tell you a ton of great information. If you see a massive list of ingredients and many have lengthy names that are unfamiliar then you’ll want to keep shopping. Simple ingredient lists that look mostly familiar are typically a safe bet.

TIP #5: Bend But Don’t Break - Don’t get paralyzed by all of these tips. Let’s be real, you’re grocery shopping at a gas station, so to expect that you can be as ideal as you would be at your usual grocery store and able to stick to all of your typical nutrition habits would be unrealistic. Do the best you can! If you normally buy organic pastured eggs and the gas station only has conventional, no sweat, they’re still a better choice than chips, a candy bar, or a highly processed breakfast sandwich.

TIP #6: Stick to the List - One of the best ways to stick with your habits when you’re shopping at a 7-Eleven is to have a few go-to options from the suggestions below and do your best to stick to these:

  1. Fresh fruit

  2. Fresh veggies

  3. Hard boiled eggs

  4. Cheese stick

  5. Yogurt - go for plain if they have it but fruit on the bottom is a great option in this case.

  6. Water, black coffee or unsweetened tea

  7. Nutrition bar - shoot for brands like RX Bar or Quest Bar.

  8. Jerky - shoot for brands like Epic and flavors that don’t include lots of sugar.

  9. Oatmeal cup - shoot for plain or flavors with less sugar.

  10. Pistachios, almonds or other nuts - shoot for brands without any additional oils or sugar.

Here’s a video of what I found when I got stuck grabbing grub at a 7-Eleven recently:

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Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS spent 6 seasons as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Los Angeles Lakers and is the founder of TD Athletes Edge.  He is nationally renowned for his evidence-based and scientific approach to fitness, training, nutrition, and recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

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