Accompanying my husband Will on our first trip in his 18-wheeler with no time to plan or properly meal prep opened my eyes to the poor food choices available on the road. Even though it was a short trip, I realized healthy options were limited, including restaurants.
Drivers in general, have an increased risk for heart diseases and other health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. Given the fact that drivers experience long and difficult days on the road coupled with unpredictable schedules makes it that much harder to make healthy choices.
While on the road with Will, the truck stops we passed through only offered a very small selection of whole fruit and healthier snacks. It was also pretty pricey, compared to a supermarket.
It’s just one reason why so many drivers tend to reach for the less-than-nutritious and cheaper, unhealthy options.
Here are five tips and tricks to start making healthier choices while on the road.
1. Set a goal and then create real steps to accomplish them
Changing your diet for the better (especially while you’re on the road) is something you should do, but maybe you’re not doing it because you aren’t sure where or how to start.
It’s definitely easier said than done. Being on the road adds an additional layer of difficulty most other people may not face, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.
Set clear goals and make them specific, rather than just stating that you want to “eat healthier.” What exact steps do you need to take in order to actually do that? Doing this gives you a clear understanding of what you want and what you can do to move towards your goal.
For example, you may have specific goals, such as lowering your added sugar or sodium intake or increasing the fiber intake.
Create a few rules for yourself — you can start small. In order to lower your sugar or sodium intake, try replacing your salted peanuts or chips with fruit. Or maybe you can ditch the soda for zero-calorie flavored water or sparkling water.
Here are more healthy food swap options:
- Grilled meats instead of deep fried
- Air-popped popcorn instead of chips
- Olive oil instead of processed dressings
- Greek yogurt instead of sour cream
- Cinnamon instead of sugar
- Quinoa or brown rice instead of white rice
- Steel cut oatmeal instead of instant oatmeal or cereal
- Hard boiled eggs instead of fried
2. Utilize mobile apps
There are several apps that may help keep you on track with any dietary changes and goals you have.
My personal favorite app is MyFitnessPal. It is extremely user-friendly and takes very little time to use. There’s also MyPlate, which is a calorie counter app created by LiveStrong. Both apps are free.
Beyond just counting calories, my favorite thing about them is that it breaks down the nutritional content of the food, including fiber, sugar or sodium. This helps you understand what kinds of foods you’re eating too much of, and conversely, not enough of.
3. Prepare your meal before leaving home
For the most part, Will has his day planned out before he even begins driving. Planning your day may help you save money and time when you are on the road. This part is crucial to your healthy meals.
There’s nothing worse than stopping at a greasy burger joint simply because you were starving, with nothing healthy to reach for in the truck.
Ways you can prep:
- Use portion containers and different-sized Ziploc bags.
- Invest in things like whole unsalted nuts or dehydrated fruit without any added sugar. Use smaller snack size Ziplock bags or small food storage containers to control your portions.
- Take your own unsalted, no sugar added, nut butters, clean protein bars, some fresh fruit or fresh veggies, and a versatile pre-cooked protein source that can be eaten cold.
Healthy protein tip: I like to keep grilled or shredded chicken in the fridge at home at all times, which can be used for sandwiches, wraps or salad—no heating required!
4. Be mindful of what you eat in restaurants, including condiments
The options you get on the road are very limited. The trick is to use all of the available resources that may help you make the best and healthiest choices.
A lot of the restaurants that are attached to truck stops or gas stations tend to be larger chain restaurants. They most likely have nutritional information on the menus, which means you can easily scan the calories listed next to each item.
If nothing good is available, keep the portion sizes in mind and be aware of condiments. Ketchup, mayonnaise, honey mustard, and BBQ sauce can add a lot of extra calories, sugars, sodium, and other additives that aren’t healthy. Avoid these whenever possible.
5. Limit over-processed foods
One of the biggest things you can do to improve your health and eating habits is incorporating all the whole, fresh food that you can. In other words, avoid foods that come in packages with cartoon images on them.
While fresh, whole food is always the best option for all of us, there are times when that is not always an option when you’re on the road.
In that case, pay close attention to the food label on the packaging. Look at the list of ingredients and the nutritional values before deciding what to eat.
Find your balance
In a culture that seems to be obsessed with a new diet fad every few months, making healthier choices can seem complicated and overwhelming. However, it doesn’t have to be.
Everyone is unique and likes different things, but there is still a way for you to find that balance that helps you feel at your best.
Define your specific goals, plan ahead, know what you are eating, and try to restrict eating food that isn’t always best for your health.