An extension of the ideal hadron resonance gas (HRG) model is constructed which includes the attractive and repulsive van der Waals (VDW) interactions between baryons. This VDW-HRG model yields the nuclear liquid-gas transition at low temperatures and high baryon densities. The VDW parameters a and b are fixed by the ground state properties of nuclear matter, and the temperature dependence of various thermodynamic observables at zero chemical potential are calculated within the VDW-HRG model. Compared to the ideal HRG model, the inclusion of VDW interactions between baryons leads to a qualitatively different behavior of second and higher moments of fluctuations of conserved charges, in particular in the so-called crossover region T∼140-190 MeV. For many observables this behavior resembles closely the results obtained from lattice QCD simulations. This hadronic model also predicts nontrivial behavior of net-baryon fluctuations in the region of phase diagram probed by heavy-ion collision experiments. These results imply that VDW interactions play a crucial role in the thermodynamics of hadron gas. Thus, the commonly performed comparisons of the ideal HRG model with the lattice and heavy-ion data may lead to misconceptions and misleading conclusions.