These days there really isn’t any excuse to eat unhealthy. Every major supermarket in Dubai stocks wholesome products, health food concepts are sprouting up everywhere, there’s plenty of fresh delivery options and most restaurants have conscious choices or are happy to make customizations. But what about those days where you just don’t have the time to grab lunch, or are on-the-go driving between meetings? Haven’t we all run into a gas station and flung the nearest yoghurt bar at the cashier yelling: ‘I’m in a hurry, just this and 5 pieces of Extra gum please’?
I know I have. Not proud.
There are actually clean eats to be found at most major gas stations in Dubai so you can eat consciously even while you’re on the go! Here are my 16 picks…
Fruit Ice Lolly
Chilly Billy is a brand of pure fruit frozen ices that are sugar free and free from nasty preservatives too. You’ll find them right by the Haagen Dazs and other such temptations. Go for Billy.
Plain yoghurt – full or non fat can be found in most gas stations. Eaten with a banana it’s an easy breakfast you can eat in the car. You’ll even find our favourite Greek yoghurt Fage which is the creamiest yoghurt on Earth. Ask the deli counter to give you a plastic spoon to go so you can dip right in.
Your best bet is an apple or banana. There are also fresh fruit boxes in the refrigerated section – avoid the mixed fruit ones as these can sometimes have added sugar syrup but the mono fruit boxes such as the pomegranate or pineapple are a safe bet.
Look for the plain, unsalted kind. Completely avoid any mixed nuts tins or bags with exciting sounding flavourings. Unless it’s Sahale Snacks cashew and pomegranate glazed nuts or Country House coconut & nut mixes of course – calorific but healthy treats that you can find at Eppco stations’ Zoom Market.
Pumpkin seeds are a popular regional snack. Look for an unsalted version.
Freshly squeezed juice
Barakat stocks most gas stations with it’s freshly squeezed juices. Stick with the vegetable and fruit juices as the date shakes and other blends contain sugar.
Look for Sun Maid raisin boxes – if they don’t sell individual mini boxes buy a bigger box and throw a few mini boxes in your handbag for future snack attacks.
Chia Seed Pods
Some gas stations have started to stock chia seed pods in the refrigerated section. These are a complete meal and perfect to tag along with you for a busy day.
You’ll also find bottles of soy milk in most gas stations. With 7 grams of protein this is a good post-workout drink if you haven’t other choices. They are loaded with sugar but if you’ve had a big workout it’s passable.
Peanut butter eaten with an apple is a gorgeous portable snack. And if you’re like me, you’d be happy to eat the peanut butter all it’s own too. The gas station variety isn’t organic or palm oil free but if you’re eating at a gas station I doubt that’s going to keep you up at night. Choose full fat rather than reduced fat to get more satisfaction from a single spoonful.
You’ll find dates everywhere. They’re the perfect pick-me up and are a nutrient-dense powerhouse that’ll keep you going for hours.
Fruit & Nut Bars
Not all fruit and nut bars are created equal. Avoid the Atkins, Weight Watchers, PureFit, Detour, Supreme, Nature Valley and other ‘diet’ bars and reach for a Kind Bar, Oskri Bar, Nature’s Way bar, vegan RooBar, Oh My Goodness bars, Green LineTropic Probiotic bars, Amazing Grass’ Green SuperFood bars or a ProBar. Bear in mind these come in at around 250 calories per bar (other than the RooBar and Nature’s Way bars at 110 calories each) and are intended as meal replacements rather than a snack. Only the RooBar, Oskri Bar, Green Superfoods bars and Nature’s Way bars are sugar free, dairy free and vegan and sweetened with natural sweeteners. All of the brands mentioned here are gluten free.
These are my Kryptonite. Look for individually packed string cheese – each piece is around 80 calories and are a satisfying savoury fix.
Read the labels on coconut water brands – a lot of them have added sugar or flavourants. Our favourite brands are Celebes, Aqua Coco, Jax Coco and Vita Coco.
If you need something a little more substantial a lot of gas stations now stock gluten free crackers and rice cakes. The brands to look for are: Kii Naturals ‘Craquelins’, Mediterranean Crisps and Date & Walnut Crisps, Fiorentini rice cakes, rice snacks and rye cakes, Play Mais, and Kamut Cakes that we’ve found at Eppco and Emarat gas stations in Dubai. Eaten with a lick of peanut butter this is the perfect pick-me-up.
You’ll even find vegetable crisps (or chips if that’s what you call them) at the gas station. Cassava Republic & Roots Co. do some great cassava crisps that are great dipped into hummus (if the gas station has any) or eaten on their own (just portion control). You’ll also find Veggie Sticks by The Daily Crave and Chicca Chips made from chick peas. Needless to say these are all gluten-free and come from sustainable sources.
What if you’re on a high-protein, low carb diet and there seems to be no other option but beef jerky (put it down, more on that in a minute)? Fear not, Salatuna by Rio Mare is a complete high-protein meal made from high-quality tuna, vegetables and olive oil. Steal a plastic fork and some napkins from the deli area of the gas station and this portable meal is ready to hit the road.
And here’s what to avoid…
There are a lot of seemingly healthy choices at the gas station, be sure not to succumb to:
Beef jerky – these are loaded with sugar, sodium and MSGs. This is a total no-no that’ll make you bloat for days.
Anything labeled ‘healthy’ -I assure you it’s probably not. Scrutinize the labels and always choose whole foods over packaged ones.
Obviously the entire deli section…as well as the cookies, crisps, soft drinks, ice creams and confectionary sections.
Pre-packaged sandwiches and salads in the refrigerated section – who knows when it was made, with what, and how it’s been transported and stored.
Last minute chocolate grabs at the till.
Any fast food other than a Subway. Subway is the only fast food restaurant to accurately cite it’s calorie claims according to this documentary short by Casey Neistat. Get a turkey Subway on wholemeal bread with plenty of greens and plain mustard instead of sauces. Skip the accompanying bag of crisps and soda in favour of a bottle of water and you’re gold.
Have you discovered any healthy things to eat and drink at the gas station? Let us know in the comments section below!