When you’re on the road – especially for long hauls – it’s hard to keep health in mind. Getting the job done and getting home is a priority. The quickest ways to do your work and get home, however, can contribute to poor health. Fast food and truck stops meals are quicker than sit-down dinners, and time stopped to move the body means less time on the road.
It’s a common issue among those in the industry, and it can be an uphill battle for many truckers.
Hours on the road are out of your control, but you can take some of these steps to stay healthier while you are out there.
#1: Plan Ahead
Before you hit the road, plan where you are going to eat your meals, what you will snack on, and what you will drink. Planning will enable you to pack healthy food items, set goals for your trip, and avoid last-minute stops at fast food restaurants. Stock up on travel-friendly foods that are good for you before you leave your home, rather than stocking up at gas stations where there are fewer healthy options. Fill reusable plastic containers with food items and pack plenty of bottled water to avoid making soda or sweet-tea stops.
#2: Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand
When you are driving, it can sometimes help to grab something sweet; the sugar rush can keep you alert. The trouble is that it’s a temporary fix. Thirty minutes later, the rush is gone and you’re likely to crash again, which may make you reach for another treat. It’s a tough cycle to break.
Instead of avoiding sweets completely, try to break the cycle. When you need a treat, start with an apple or some dried fruit. If you still need a pick-me-up, treat yourself with something sweet. By doing this, you begin training your body and mind to choose something healthy first, and you won’t suffer from that post-sugar crash. You may find you need fewer unhealthy snacks to sustain you.
For munching, keep these healthy snacks close by:
- All-natural turkey jerky
- Bagged popcorn
- Bottled water
- Coconut water
- Dried fruit
- Grapes or carrot sticks
- High-protein energy bars
- Natural fruit snacks
- Snap peas
- Squeezable apple sauce
- String cheese
- Sunflower seeds
- Trail mix
- Whole grain cookies
We all know that healthy choices are better, but making them isn’t always easy. Try to balance what you eat. Just mixing these into your diet on the road will improve your health.
#3: Know What to Order at Restaurants
When fitness gurus talk about getting healthy, one of their first pieces of advice is to eat at home rather than on the road. For truckers, that’s impossible. Most of the food truckers eat comes from restaurants, so knowing how to find the best choices on a menu can vastly improve your health. When you must eat out on the road, keep these healthy ordering tips in mind:
- Drink water with lemon instead of soda or iced tea.
- Order a salad as an appetizer.
- Opt for no croutons or cheese on salads.
- Choose vinaigrette salad dressing instead of creamy dressings.
- Scout for options on a “lighter” or “reduced calorie” menu.
- Ask for burgers without the bun (use for a lettuce wrap instead).
- Avoid foods in sauces, as they are often full of sodium and fats (red sauces are usually healthier than cream sauces).
- Ask for whole grain instead of white pasta.
- Find healthy main dishes, such as chicken, turkey, or fish (not fried).
- Choose veggies as a side dish.
- Split the meal in half and bring leftovers with you.
Changing the way you order and eat at restaurants can make a significant difference when you have to eat out for the majority of your roadside meals. Many restaurants are more health-conscious than they used to be and now offer healthier menu options and food substitutions.
Ask your server for help and advice if you are not sure what the healthiest food options are at a particular venue. A few general rules of thumb are to stick to real, unprocessed foods (think grilled fish instead of fish sticks), leafy greens, fruits, veggies, and water.
#4: Eat Every Two to Three Hours
Truck drivers are often tethered to tight deadlines and do not have time to stop every few hours for breaks. This can create issues with eating schedules, causing many truckers to eat two or three large meals instead of five to six smaller meals. Yet spacing your snacks and meals out during the day can improve your health and reduce hunger pangs. Do your best to eat every two to three hours, even if it is something small like a handful of almonds or dried fruit. Eating more often reduces the need to overeat when you finally sit down with a full meal.
Long-haul driving means you are at the whim of the road, but better health doesn’t just help you in in the long run; it increases day-to-day productivity, making you more alert for the drive ahead. Without sugar rushes and crashes, it may also increase your mood!