As you know—or, as I hope is pretty obvious—something I try to use my blog for is helping people see how simple low carb and ketogenic diets can be. When we stick with basic principles and get out of our own way, these ways of eating are very straightforward and uncomplicated. There’s not a whole lot of weighing, measuring, tracking, and rules involved. Yes, you can fall down all those rabbit holes and make yourself as fully neurotic as your heart desires, but for those of us who have bigger concerns in our lives than how many grams of omega-6 fat a chicken leg contains, the beauty of low carb and keto is their simplicity.
Awhile back, I offered some . Today, let’s take that a step further and talk about how to stay keto while you’re on the road or on the go. What if you’re in the car for a few hours, or maybe even just a short trip, and the hunger monster attacks?
One approach is to think of it as an opportunity to skip a meal or two. I don’t consider skipping meals to be “fasting,” but if thinking of it as intermittent fasting makes you feel like you have special superpowers, then go right ahead. Going longer between meals is a nice way to keep insulin low and “eat” your own stored body fat more than you might if you immediately chowed down on something as soon as a few mild hunger pangs hit.
However, if you’re having a “hangry” moment—and let’s face it, folks, sometimes these still happen even when you’re a “fat burning beast” and are fat- or keto-adapted—then maybe you’re better off pulling into the nearest gas station or convenience store and foraging for some low-carb provisions. (What, you don’t feel hangry on keto? Like, ever? Okay, maybe it’s just me.)
Here are my suggestions for low carb and keto-friendly foods you can grab in a hurry from gas stations and convenience stores. (We’ll get to supermarkets in a bit, since there are more choices there.) These apply to North America…I’m not sure if convenience stores like this exist on other continents, but I’m guessing you have something similar in other parts of the world. I’ll also tack on suggestions for things to keep in your desk or cubicle if you have an office job and have a place nearby to stash non-perishables.
Food purists, avert your eyes. If you can’t imagine letting anything past your lips that isn’t grass-fed, organic, pastured, small-batch, or biodynamic, this post isn’t for you. (In fact, my entire blog probably isn’t for you, but you’re welcome to stick around anyway.) We’re talking about foods to grab in a pinch, when the highest quality and ethically unassailable stuff might not be available. I’m totally okay with that. If you’re not, that’s fine; I still like ya!
Gas Stations or Convenience Stores
- Pork rinds (plain might be best, but if you’re not a purist, hot & spicy or salt & vinegar flavors are fine; they typically contain little to no sugar but might be seasoned with MSG, yeast extract, maltodextrin, etc. Even so, the carb count is usually 0g per serving.)
- Beef jerky or meat sticks (stick to original or peppered flavors; teriyaki and BBQ are typically higher in sugar)
- String cheese; cheese sticks
- Salami or pepperoni slices or sticks
- Hard boiled eggs
- Nuts (avoid honey-roasted and nut mixes that include dried fruit)
- Dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa percentage, the lower the sugar content, usually)
Beverages: water, diet sodas, hot or iced tea (unsweetened or diet with artificial sweetener), coffee (hot or iced, unsweetened or diet with artificial sweetener—be careful with pre-made iced coffee; it’s usually sweetened with sugar). Pretty much anything that’s sugar-free. This isn’t rocket science, people!
If you have time to go up an aisle or two in a supermarket, you’ll have a wider selection to choose from. Here are some great go-tos from a supermarket run on the road:
- Pork rinds (with or without sour cream dip or guacamole)
- Beef jerky
- Sliced pepperoni, salami, or dry sausage sticks
- Nuts or nut butter
- Pre-cooked bacon (yes, this is a thing!)
- Deli meats and/or cheese: roast beef, corned beef, and pastrami are probably the lowest in sugar, but baked or roasted turkey is fine; avoid or go easy on “honey baked” or “brown sugar” ham or turkey. Salami, prosciutto, mortadella, and other cured meats are great.
- Pre-made egg salad or tuna salad from the deli (ask about ingredients and sugar content)
- Rotisserie chicken
- Canned tuna, salmon, sardines, or mackerel – be sure to buy ones with a pop-top unless you have a can opener handy
- Hard boiled eggs
- Bagged salad greens
- Raspberries or strawberries (and maybe a small container of sour cream or plain yogurt for dipping)
- Salad bar, olive or antipasto bar – many supermarkets now have salad or antipasto bars stocked with fabulous low-carb fare: olives, cheese, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, marinated mushrooms, sliced or chopped hard boiled egg, turkey, grilled chicken, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, radishes, etc.
If you like to live on the edge and are not afraid of eating unwashed produce, you can hit up the produce section and get low-carb vegetables like a cucumber, green bell pepper, radishes, button mushrooms, celery, etc., and just eat them raw. There is zero wrong with this!
Desk Drawer or Cubicle
Lots of flexibility here! You can practically have a supermarket of nonperishables at your fingertips if you have room to store a few things. Keep in mind, however, that if you’re prone to snacking when food is in your immediate vicinity even if you’re not hungry, you might be better off not keeping a keto stash handy. Do what’s right for you.
For those of you who want to have a keto cache at your disposal during the workday, consider the following:
- Pork rinds
- Beef jerky
- Pepperoni or any other cured meats that don’t require refrigeration until opened
- Nuts and/or nut butters (careful here if these are trigger foods for you)
- Jar of coconut, olive, or avocado oil
- Canned tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel
- Dessicated/dried coconut flakes or chips (unsweetened)
- Your favorite vinegars (can be combined with the oils to make a vinaigrette for a lunch salad)
- Hot sauce (doesn’t need to be refrigerated, since it’s vinegar-based)
- Dark chocolate
Depending on your level of “keto purity,” consider keeping Quest bars, , or other low and low-ish carb products on hand.
If you’re a salesperson, company rep, parent, or someone else who spends a lot of time in the car, consider keeping a supply of the following essentials in your trunk. (Also good to keep at the office.) It does no good to buy some of the foods above to eat on the go if you have no way of eating them without making a mess. Tuck a small box in the trunk and stock it with:
- Can opener
- Plastic or metal utensils
- Napkins or paper towels
- Paper plates or bowls (or use plastic containers, wash them at home or in your hotel room, and reuse)
Did I miss anything you consider a staple for when you’re on the go? (Besides, of course, a container of homemade food or leftovers! To be honest, this is really the best way to go if you're a cook. Always make enough to have some left over to spare for another meal or snack. [Tips on that here.])
Disclaimer: Amy Berger, MS, CNS, NTP, is not a physician and Tuit Nutrition, LLC, is not a medical practice. The information contained on this site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any medical condition and is not to be used as a substitute for the care and guidance of a physician. Links in this post and all others may direct you to amazon.com, where I will receive a small amount of the purchase price of any items you buy through my affiliate links.