Staying healthy is a challenge for everyone, but especially truck drivers. According to a survey by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), over two-thirds of America’s truck drivers (67%) are obese, with 17% classifying as morbidly obese (a BMI of 40 or greater). Researchers have associated sedentary behavior with approximately 35 chronic diseases and conditions, The Wall Street Journal reported in 2015. Many of these issues are linked to obesity. Sitting for hours every day contributes heavily to these issues making eating healthy even more important. Changing to healthier habits is a process and even small changes to our overall diet will help combat those more serious health issues.
The biggest downfall for drivers is eating at truck stops however there has been some effort made to provide healthier options. The three companies listed below are not the only ones, but they have made the most changes:
Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores provides fresh fruit at its 500-plus stores. Love’s offers a fresh salad option as well as protein-packed .to-go items. They are neatly labeled with a Fresh to Go label.
TA Stations also have a line of healthy items labels Stay Fit.
Flying J has a tree symbol on their healthier items.
Even if the healthier items are not clearly labeled there are still better options. Every healthier choice made really does impact overall health. Packing our meals every day gives us total control over what we eat, but it isn’t always an option. When you do have eat on the road here are some best practices:
Hard Boiled Eggs -these are a fantastic option. Low in calories, low in fat, high in protein eggs are easy to make ahead of time at home or grab on the go.
Oatmeal is nutrient rich and can lower the risk of heart disease and aid in weight loss. Many truck stops are paired up with McDonalds and they offer oatmeal with fruit topping. This is a fantastic alternative to the other fast food breakfast options.
Yogurt with Granola-Yogurt can be a great source of calcium and B-12 but can also be a source of sugar. Pairing a plain yogurt with a little bit of granola and fresh fruit keep this choice healthy.
Lunch and Dinner
Tuna Pouches- Every pouch packs in the protein and omega-3 fatty acids. The fatty acids can reduce depression and heart disease. The pouches are easy to transport making them a perfect lunch choice. If you’re not ready to have a breadless sandwich you can always use a low-calorie wrap.
Salad-this one seems like a “no-brainer” but not all salads hold the same value. The lighter in color the lettuce is, the less nutrients there are. Many salads have high calorie count dressings and more cheese than vegetables. Look for salads with dark green leafy lettuce or spinach and add some extra veggies.
Restaurants can pose a challenge when it comes to healthy choices. Making even subtle changes can improve overall health, most restaurants will swap out fries with veggies if asked. This is also an opportunity to think about portion sizes, try cutting a sandwich or burger in half and save the rest for a snack later.
Fruits and veggies – They are another one to look at more carefully. Packaged fruits and vegetables tend to come with sugar filled sauces or dressings that add additional calories. Even with the extra calories they are still a better choice.
Nuts- This high protein snack is a healthy choice in moderation. Nuts are high in nutrients but can also be high in fat and sodium. Choosing salt-free pre-portioned nuts help you reap the benefits without the downfalls.
Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds- These do not have the fat factor but can fall into the same trap as nuts with the salt. There are many flavored options that omit the sodium. Sunflower seeds have vitamin E and pumpkin seeds help improve insulin regulation which can lower the risk of diabetes.
Beef or varied meat jerky- Just like all salad is not the same, neither are all jerkies. Some are filled with sugar and preservatives, but there are multiple brands now made with all-natural ingredients.
Water is not only the best choice when it comes to calories, it also helps reduce hunger. Adding a little fruit to your water gives it a little flavor and adds extra nutrients.
Most beverages found in truck stops are not the best choices but focusing on what to have vs what not to have really makes change more sustainable.
Your health is worth the dedication to making healthier choices. If a slightly better option is made every day, every meal, the results will speak for themselves! Eating right is only part of the equation, our next feature will highlight the exercise aspect of fitness and the resources available on the road. Until then make the best choices you can and keep driving safely!