Posted November 20, 2023

Eating Healthily for the Long-Haul

By Gigi Tino

Navigating the roads across the country is only one of the hurdles OTR truckers face on their journeys. Navigating a healthy diet as a truck driver can be challenging due to the nature of the job, long hours on the road, and limited food options. Sometimes you might forget about food until your stomach’s rumbling reminds you, and convenient options such as fast food seem like the best solution. Despite the challenges of being on the road for extended periods, it is crucial for truckers to maintain their health and well-being. Planning, preparation, and making informed choices are key components of a trucking job, and also pair well with developing and maintaining a nutritious diet!

Tip #1: Meal Prep

“Meal prepping” is key for healthy eating on-the-road. Meal prepping involves preparing several servings of a healthy dish, portioning it out, and packing it into individual containers for easy access during your travels. Take some time before your haul to plan your meals. Consider what you can prepare in advance, how long it will last, and what items you might need to purchase along the way. Purchase a good cooler or portable refrigerator for your cab to keep perishable items fresh and store your pre-cooked meals. You’ll also be able to store healthy ingredients like fruits, veggies, and dairy. Not only does meal prepping eliminate the stress of finding food during a trip, it also can end up saving you money on food expenses.

Tip #2: Bring Cooking Equipment

If you aren’t a fan of meal prepping, there are still ways to get a home-cooked meal during your haul. Small appliances in your truck can significantly enhance your ability to prepare meals on the road. These can be microwaves, toaster ovens, hot plates, electric skillets/pans, electric kettles, blenders, and slow cookers. Before adding any of these appliances to your truck, it's essential to check with your employer or the truck's manufacturer to ensure compliance with safety regulations. Additionally, make sure that the appliances are compatible with the power source available in your truck, whether it's a power inverter or another system. Take advantage of grocery stores along your route to pick up fresh produce, dairy, and other items for cooking in your cab. This allows you to adapt your meal plan based on what's available! Cook meals that are quick to prepare or can be eaten without much fuss. For example, whole grain wraps with lean protein, pre-cut vegetables, and hummus can make a nutritious and convenient meal.

Tip #3: Pack Healthy Snacks

Truckers need to stay awake and alert for long periods of time. Snacks between meals are a great way to keep your energy steady through the day, and stocking up on healthy options will eliminate the temptation of less healthy quick options. Foods that are high in protein will boost your energy and make you feel fuller longer. Nuts and seeds offer a quick source of protein, fiber, and antioxidants that will banish hunger for hours and come in a wide variety of seasoned flavors and blends. Granola bars are another convenient snack, but be careful to pick the right ones. Many granola and protein bars are loaded with sugars or sodium, making them more like candy than a healthy source of nutrition. Larabar, Kind, and Aloha are some healthy and high-protein options for granola and meal bars. Other healthy snacks include hummus, sliced veggies, fruit, and yogurt. These snacks are also available at most convenience stores if you ever run out!

Tip #4: Select Stops with Options

The appeal of fast food is in the name; truckers on a tight schedule can get a quick meal without any long stops or detours from their routes. Although it's convenient, fast food is often high in calories, saturated fats, and sodium. If you’re looking to improve your health, do your best to limit your consumption of these options. However, if you need to eat at fast food restaurants, look for healthier options on the menu. Many places now offer salads, grilled chicken, or wraps as alternatives to fried and greasy options. Familiarize yourself with the dining options available at rest stops and truck stops along your route. Some may offer healthier choices than fast food, such as fresh salads, light sandwiches, smoothies, or soups. Investigating these options will better prepare you for healthy decisions.

Tip #5: Drink Lots of Water

Don't forget about staying hydrated. Try to bring a reusable water bottle and aim to drink water throughout the day. Energy drinks, sodas, and coffee are well-known as trucker favorites for their quick energy boosts, but they also can worsen dehydration and often contain excessive amounts of sugar. It might be difficult, but avoiding excessive consumption of sugary drinks and caffeinated beverages can make a massive difference in your health. Opt for water, tea, or other low-calorie beverages to stay hydrated without consuming excess calories. New low-sugar sodas such as Olipop and Poppi are delicious alternatives to regular soda and can help kick a soda habit!

By combining these strategies, truckers can create a sustainable and healthy eating plan that accommodates the unique challenges of life on the road. Remember, adapting a healthy eating lifestyle on the road is about finding what works best for you and making sustainable changes over time. It might take some trial and error, but with dedication, it's certainly possible to prioritize your health as a truck driver.