Eating healthy is not often the first thing most truck drivers are thinking about, and they are suffering as a result. Driving a truck is a rigorous job that requires a high level of physical and mental fortitude. And, it rarely leaves extra time in the day to focus on healthy eating. Yet, nutrition is a key factor that influences a trucker’s performance and quality of life.

A driver’s eating habits tremendously affect his/her ability to remain diligent and energetic from behind the wheel, which directly affects safety. Driver fatigue is the culprit of thousands of accidents each year, accounting for roughly 20% of vehicle collisions.

Is your diet (or lack thereof) resulting in poor health and low energy levels, or is it fueling you for success? Join us as we dive into four dietary habits that can improve your health, safety, and quality of life as a trucker.

1. Ditch the Soda

Are you in the habit of downing a soda (or two) every day? You probably don’t want to hear it, but soda is absolutely terrible for your health. As tasty as that ice-cold Dr. Pepper may be, it’s far less hydrating than water and it does little to fuel you. Sodas, along with many sports drinks, are incredibly high in added sugar and increase your risk of Type II diabetes.

The best thing you can do for your body is to drink water throughout the day. Doing so will have a plethora of benefits, such as increased alertness, healthier skin, and fewer headaches. If you can’t get past the lack of flavor, try adding a lemon or lime. Also, keep in mind that carbonated sodas are generally full of caffeine. If consumed in the evening, these beverages could compromise the quality of your sleep, opening a cycle of drowsy driving and poor safety.

PRO TIP: “Diet” sodas are not necessarily healthier than standard sodas. Diet sodas have been associated with type 2 diabetes risk, weight gain, addiction, and dental damage.

2. Snack Smartly

Being constantly on the move, many drivers may find themselves relying on snacks throughout the day as opposed to traditional meals. And while a bag of chips here and a candy bar there may seem harmless, they could actually be your nutritional undoing. Processed snacks like potato chips, albeit delicious, are counterproductive to any diet. They may satisfy a craving, but they offer little in the way of nourishment or energy.

Instead, snack on natural, single ingredient foods. This will give your body the nutrients and energy it needs between meals. Some of your best options include fruit (fresh or dried), raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Eating these whole foods rather than processed snacks will yield rapid improvements in your energy and overall wellness.

PRO TIP: Keep in mind that eating straight out of the bag/box often results in overeating. To prevent this, fill Ziploc bags or containers with portioned servings of your snacks.

3. Focus on Quality

Most of us are familiar with the idea of “burning more calories that we consume” to lose weight. It’s a straightforward concept, especially for someone who is always on the go. This ideology can be quite misleading, however. According to this logic, 100 calories of birthday cake is nutritionally equivalent to 100 calories of green beans. Obviously, this is not the case, especially when your long-term health is taken into consideration.

Instead of just counting your calories on the road, focus on the quality of the food that you are eating. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients, the better. Natural, single ingredient foods are almost always a healthier option than their highly processed counterparts. Be mindful when you’re browsing the snack aisle at the truck stop – just because the total calorie count is relatively low does not mean that the food is good for you.

PRO TIP: Watch out for “2 servings per container” labels. If not careful, you might accidentally consume twice the calories!

4. Prepare Meals

Meal prepping requires dedication and discipline, which is why most people shy away from it. However, truck drivers who prepare their meals set themselves up for nutritional success. Failure to do so often results in meals from the nearest fast-food restaurant, which isn’t doing your body any favors. Meal prepping gives you tremendous control over what you eat, how much you eat, and how much money you spend.

Meal prepping might be somewhat limited for over-the-road drivers, who have fewer options for personal storage and refrigeration – but it can certainly be done! A local driver, on the other hand, could realistically prepare a week’s worth of lunches each weekend. If large scale meal prepping intimidates you, start small! Even just packing a healthy lunch each morning will have a positive impact on your nutrition. Not to mention, it could save you a lot of money!

PRO TIP: Use microwavable plastic containers with dividers to easily portion your meals.

In Summary

  • Reduce intake of harmful sodas and sugary drinks. Drink water throughout your day to stay hydrated and energetic.
  • Snack on nutritious, single ingredient foods instead of processed snacks.
  • Not all calories are created equal. Focus on the quality of the food.
  • Prepare your meals in advance instead of going through the drive-thru.

Obviously, maintaining healthy dietary habits as a truck driver is no small task. But, it can certainly be done. With these four strategies, you can take control of your nutrition, which will in turn make you a healthier, happier, and safer truck driver.

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