Quick guess of where the photos were taken …
Wrong again. Last chance.
(Insert loud buzzer noise here)
AHHHHH, now it makes sense, right? Cause, you know, all that healthy, fresh food gas stations are famous for, like the enormous produce section pictured on the left. Seriously, I didn’t plan that. That was all the produce they had, which actually worked out quite well because I was really jones’n for a bunch of lemons.
So how does one make lemonade out of situation like this? Well, the most important thing is to be intentional. Gas stations should be on nobody’s regular stops for meals. If you’re in a pinch, you might find a halfway decent protein bar, or maybe some chocolate milk after a nice long run. But for the most part, you should avoid gas station food.
So you don’t eat at gas stations often? Good. But I have some bad news. As much as marketers would like you to believe it, fresh does not equal healthy. I’ll say it again: fresh does not equal healthy.
Take for example, the fast-casual “Mediterranean-inspired” Zoe’s Kitchen. Their slogan is “Simple. Tasty. Fresh.” The atmosphere is a modern, clean feeling and most of their food is made to order, on the spot. All good things and I’m a fan. But that doesn’t mean their food is good for you. Check out Zoe’s nutritional calculator on their pimento cheese sandwhich. I don’t care if the grass-fed cow was milked seconds before you ordered, hard to see too much good about a 37 fat gram sandwich with nearly 1,000 milligrams of sodium. Chicken pita pizza sound better? It’s not. 50% more calories and 2.5 times the sodium as their cheese sandwich.
And because I’m an equal-opportunity offender, let’s take a look at my beloved Qdoba. I’m a Mexican food super fan. I’ve written a manifesto on how to eat healthy at Mexican restaurants. And the same rules would apply to Qdoba because even though it’s made right before your eyes (aka “fresh”), one look at the nutritional calculator and you’ll be running for rice cakes and alfalfa sprouts. 3-cheese nachos rang in at 60 grams of fat and over 1,000 calories. A chicken quesadilla came in at nearly an equally appalling 940 calories and 53 grams of fat. No bueno!
And don’t get me started on Subway.
Now my point of all this isn’t to dream squash the occasional pile of nachos or chicken pita pizza you’ve planned for as a cheat meal. In fact, I even encourage cheat meals. Nor am I saying that these examples are worse than your standard McWhopfila. They’re probably much better…. probably. And furthermore, to their credit, Zoe’s, Qdoba, and many other restaurants do offer some legitimately healthy meals, as well as give you access to nutritional calculators, allergen information, and more.
My point of all this is to encourage you to double down on your nutrition intentionality. Be aware of your environment. And make ZERO assumptions about your food, regardless of where you’re getting it (that includes Trader Joes, Earth Fare, and the like… I constantly see out of shape people at such stores… perhaps they’re in better shape than they use to be… or perhaps they’re eating too much of a good thing… or perhaps what they’re eating isn’t as good as they think, it’s just better than alternative items at traditional grocery chains).
You see, it’s a marketer’s job to make money for his clients. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s your job to be aware of his job while making smart food choices, which includes going easy on all that chocolate milk he’s now marketing you.