The Surprisingly Healthy Chip Alternative You Can Buy At A Gas Station

Chips are usually the go-to when you stop at a gas station, looking to use the restroom, top up on gas, stretch your legs, and buy some snacks before heading out on your long journey again. 

But if you've done any research on this tasty and crunchy treat that comes in all shapes, sizes, and flavors, you'd know that they are very high sources of carbohydrates (and not the good kind). According to registered dietitian Trista Best (via Yahoo Life), "Potato chips are made with refined oils and processed carbohydrates, which are highly inflammatory." And the fact that chips usually come in big bags makes it so that you've eaten a nice large helping of refined carbs before you even know it. 

Surprisingly, there's a healthy alternative to chips that you can find at gas station stores that packs just as much crunch: pork rinds. Often touted as a food that's healthier than you think, especially by proponents of low-carb diets like keto, paleo, or the Atkins diet, pork rinds offer a good source of protein while still being crispy to satisfy your need for chip-like snacks. "Pork rinds, or pork scratchings, are made from rendered pig skin that has been boiled, dehydrated, and deep-fried, resulting in a puffed and crispy texture," shared board-certified chiropractor Dr. Eric Berg, who also has a passion for nutrition and healthy eating. 

Pork rinds have zero carbs and sugar

A 0.5-ounce serving of plain pork rinds contains 0 carbs and 0 sugar content, per WebMD. They're also a good source of healthy fats and collagen. "Pork rinds are an excellent source of collagen, a protein crucial for forming and maintaining healthy bone, muscle, and tendons," shared Dr. Berg.

Still, it's important to note that pork rinds don't contain any beneficial vitamins or minerals (via Healthline), so calling them a perfectly healthy snack is a stretch by all means. They might be a healthier alternative to potato chips, but that doesn't mean you should be consuming big amounts of this fried meat. 

Pork rinds contain high amounts of saturated fat, which means that they can increase your bad cholesterol levels (LDL). They also offer no nutritional fiber, and since they still fall under the category of processed foods, you have to be mindful of sodium and other preservatives that could be going into the snack before it's packaged. A salty snack might taste great for those times when you want extra flavor in your mouth, but there are health concerns to think of, like increased blood pressure, for starters. A tw-ounce serving of pork rinds could contain as much as 50% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of sodium, per WebMD. 

Moderation is key with most gas station snacks

Just like eating too many chips can be detrimental to your health, the same can be said for pork rinds. Unless you're going for fruit, Greek yogurt, hummus and vegetables, or nuts when you stop for gas, moderation is key, even with this high-protein, low-carb crunchy snack. But according to certified nutritional coach and personal trainer Jordan Riding on TikTok, the protein richness of pork rinds make even small amounts surprisingly filling. "Unlike when you snack on chips — when you snack on chips, you want to keep eating, making it easy to overeat — pork rinds are actually filling," he explained. 

Read the labels and look for minimally processed varieties with clean ingredients. You want to choose one that's low in sodium and free of artificial preservatives or colors. The EPIC Pink Himalayan Salt Pork Rinds are a good option, as are the 4505 Meats chicharrones. And did you know that pork rinds make excellent toppings on salads or even when paired with rice and curries for some extra crunch? That's why it might not hurt to have some bags of this tasty treat sitting in your pantry. 

Ultimately, gas station snacks offer only so much when it comes to variety and health-conscious eating. If you're really worried about fueling your body the right way, you might be better off packing your favorite vegetables, fruits, or home-made healthy treats. You'll avoid anything that's processed while attending to mid-travel hunger pangs.