In last week’s Trucker Tuesday post, I talked about being at risk for two common health problems facing truckers: Diabetes and Sleep Apnea.
Both can attack as a result of being overweight and not eating healthy, and both can have serious consequences to your health, as well as to your ability to drive a truck. So it’s not only important to get yourself checked, but to also take steps to avoid getting these trucker health problems in the first place.
The good news is, lowering your risk is not that difficult and doesn’t require expensive medications and doctor visits. The not so good news? It does require a change in habits and lifestyle that may be, let’s just say, unpleasant for some.
Why would it be unpleasant? Because it requires giving up some of the things we love: greasy foods at truck stops, combo meals at fast food places, sugary, empty calorie snacks on the road and gallons of sugar-laden coffee and sodas to “help keep us awake.” All these goods can be habit forming. But they can also be spare-tire-around-your-middle forming.
So what can you do when you’re on the road and food choices are limited? Easy: expand your choices. Well, saying “expand your choices” was the easy part. Actually expanding your choices takes a little bit of work and planning, along with some willpower and restraint.
But if you’re diligent, you can keep the extra pounds from creeping on, and keep Diabetes and Sleep Apnea at bay. To help, here are 3 tips for healthier eating, and for snacking better on the road:
Healthier Eating Tip 1: There’s Always a Better Alternative
Everywhere you look there is a low-fat, lower calorie alternative on the menu. Even at truck stops and fast food joints. Go for the grilled chicken instead of the deep fried. Swap out the French fries and get the rice. Or even better, go for the salad. That’s right, I said salad. Greens and veggies are essential in anyone’s diet. Even a truck driver’s.
Healthier Eating Tip 2: Skip the Soda
Soda is a staple on the road. Stop off and get yourself a JurassiGulp, and you’re good for the day. Quenches thirst and the caffeine keeps you awake. Perfect, right? Wrong. Just look at the sugar content.
The average 12-ounce can of soda has about 40 grams of sugar. Which seems ok, until you put in perspective. One teaspoon or packet of sugar is about 4 grams. That means the can of soda you’re holding has roughly 10 packets of sugar in it. Would you buy a medium-sized coffee and dump 10 packets of sugar in it? Probably not. Most of us would consider it undrinkable after more than two or three.
For more perspective, a quick online search reveals the sugar content of other common snacks. Two cookies give you 1 teaspoon of sugar. A doughnut delivers two. A slice of frosted cake or fruit pie? Six. So you’d have to eat 20 cookies, 5 doughnuts or almost two slices of cake to equal one can of soda. Now think how many cans you drink every day. Still wondering where those extra pounds are coming from?
Healthier Eating Tip 3: Snack Wisely
Long stretches on the road make a necessity to snack. The easiest snacks to grab are usually the most sugar and calorie-laden. Candy bars. Bags of chips. They taste great, but they aren’t helping your health.
So what can you pack that’ll survive a day on the road without needing refrigeration? According to an article I read on Discovery.com giving the 7 best foods for sustaining energy on the trail, there are a number of great choices that are great tasting, nutritious and most importantly, are shelf stable. Meaning they won’t spoil sitting in your truck all day. Here are some snacks they recommend:
Nuts. They are an excellent source of protein and also pack some energy-supporting carbs. Plus an ounce of nuts averages 200 calories.
Trail Mix. Add some more power to those nuts by mixing in dried fruits like raisins (a good source of iron that can help you feel energized) and seeds, like pumpkin or sunflower. Need a little sweetness? Add in some good dark chocolate bits. All these ingredients also deliver disease-fighting antioxidants.
Dry Cereal and Cereal Bars. Not just for breakfast, they bring whole grains and many essential vitamins and minerals. Look for those with dried fruits and nuts for more nutrition, and watch out for ones with high sugar content.
Peanut Butter. And other nut butters too. Smear some on whole wheat crackers or bread and you’ll get the same benefits as whole nuts.
Portable Fruit. That means grab-and-go without having to peel or slice with a knife in order to get at it. Think apples, oranges, bananas and pears. They bring essential nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. Some also pack Vitamin C and potassium.
Beef Jerky. High in protein, low in fat and can survive long periods without going bad. Some can be high in sodium too, so read your labels.
With a little planning and a little care you can see it’s really not that hard to eat healthier on the road. And keep yourself from becoming a high-risk for diabetes and sleep apnea. Time to repack that lunch box.