The Scary Statistics
Statistics from the National Institute of Health say that over 50 percent of truck drivers are obese, 54 percent smoke cigarettes and only a whopping 8 percent exercise regularly. With the reality that truckers sit for the majority of their day, often times eat fast food for meal options and don’t prioritize exercise, it’s no surprise that a large percent of drivers suffer from diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease, among other issues.
As the daughter of a truck driver, those statistics scare me. I don’t want to see my dad fall into these categories, and thankfully, I’m not alone. Many trucking companies now require employees to pass a health test each year. Depending on the company rules, if a driver fails to pass the test, they could be put on probation or even lose their job.
From My Family To Yours
My dad’s been driving a truck for 40 years and loves what he does, so it’s a no brainer this test is a big deal for him. It’s also no surprise he tends to lack motivation when it comes to changing his habits of 60+ years. To hold him accountable, my family has started pitching in to keep him healthy, not just for the sake of the test, but because we want to see him improve his quality of life. We help him plan his meals, sometimes pack his cooler and often check in on his eating habits.
Whether you’re a truck driver looking for helpful advice, or a concerned family member, here are a few tips from my family to yours.
Breakfast on the go
Studies show that how you begin your day can impact the rest of it. Let’s kick the morning off right and make our first decision of the day a healthy one.
- Fruit: Fruits like bananas, apples and berries make it easy to eat while driving.
- Granola: If fruit doesn’t sound filling enough, pair it with granola and you’ve got yourself a meal!
- Peanut Butter on Whole Wheat Bread: Get your protein and fiber with this simple, easy-to-make meal. This doesn’t have to be toasted and you can add banana pieces for an even tastier option.
Be sure to mix things up so you don’t get tired of your healthy foods. Take a different piece of fruit each day and alternate between granola and peanut butter bread.
Lunches don’t have to be a truck stop at a gas station, but it is good to get out and walk around throughout your trip. Instead of taking your break at the nearest fast food chain, park at a more scenic area and take a quick walk around. Enjoy a picnic (if you will) with these great options:
Homemade sandwiches: You can alternate between turkey and cheese, ALT (avocado, lettuce and tomato), peanut butter and jelly (no, it’s not just for kids) and a veggie supreme (hummus, cucumber, carrot, tomato and avocado). Go light on the condiments and if you can avoid them altogether, even better!
Salads: Now, I realize salads don’t sound nearly as good as the greasy burger down the road, but they don’t have to be tasteless, boring leafs. You can choose a cold pasta salad, a traditional green salad, a Greek chopped salad or even a delicious taco salad. Choose your favorite dressing, but use it sparingly for best results. You’ll need to keep these in a cooler on your longer trips.
We all know you’ll get a craving for chips, sweets and sodas along the road. Instead of stopping off for a convenient snack, prepare your own healthy bites!
Trail mix and/or nuts: Trail mix with chocolate can be especially helpful when you need something filling or have a sweet tooth. Be sure to choose an option low in sodium and sugar and eat in moderation.
Salted plantains: I use these as a substitute for chips when I’m craving something salty. Only eat a handful at a time and go light on the salt with other meals and snacks.
Fruit, fruit, fruit!: If you’re fighting hunger, have a banana or apple. If you’re beating off your craving for sweets, try strawberries or pineapple.
Crackers: This isn’t my first choice, but it’s better than stopping for fries. Crackers can help tie you over until the next meal and are particularly great when you’re looking for something salty. Choose a pack low in sodium and sugar and make sure you get crackers, not cookies.
Treats: This is a dangerous one to mention. It’s OK to indulge in a little treat, as long as it’s—you guessed it— in moderation. Try to cut down to only one or two candy bars a week (maybe on the days you have a layover) and choose dark chocolate. My favorite candy bar is the Hershey’s Special Dark (mini chocolates with almonds).
Drinks: Water is key. Dress it up with different fruits or drink it plain, but make sure you’re getting your good ‘ole H2O. Tea (unsweetened) is a great option if you really do need a caffeine boost. Different flavors (like mint, peach, orange and sweet spice) give it a nice taste and you can enjoy it hot or cold. If you must have a stronger drink, choose black coffee without the sweeteners.
Although our lunch options also work for dinner, you may want a more hearty meal to end the day. Here are a couple of good choices, but you’ll need access to a microwave.
Easy Homemade Tortilla Soup:
One 16 oz can of low-sodium black beans
One 16 oz can of low-sodium corn
One 16 oz can of low-sodium diced tomatoes
One 10 oz can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 small box of chicken broth (low sodium)
Combine all ingredients (except chicken broth and water) in a pot. Pour chicken broth into the pot until the veggies are half covered. Fill the rest with water until the veggies are completely covered (with a little water at the top). Heat until it comes to a boil.
Choose a nice, whole wheat bread and fill with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, lettuce and pesto. Heat it in a microwave and enjoy!
You can get creative with the soups and paninis by looking up other healthy recipes or creating your own!
Pre-planning is the key to having healthy food options on the road. If you don’t make it ahead of time, convenience will get the best of you and you’ll be at the nearest food chain in no time. Have your meals and snacks ready, and enjoy a healthier you!