We’ve discussed staying healthy on the road, and a big part of that is establishing and keeping good eating habits. When you’re a truck driver it’s particularly important, considering many truckers spend most of their waking hours sitting in a truck and relatively sedentary.

Healthy Eating for Truck DriversAdd to it being away from home and pressure to get where you are going as quickly as possible, the temptation is to load up on foods high in fat and calories and low in cost, rather than eating in a healthy and responsible way. Fast food, and the high calories, fatty content, and low nutritional value that accompanies is a powerful temptation, particularly when you are in a rush to get back on the road.

A lot of drivers are unsure of how to properly eat healthy, relying on trips to diners and fast food, with convenience stores the closest thing they have to a grocery store. But a little good planning can go a long way toward your health.

Healthy Meals

The life of a trucker is one often filled with burgers and fries, steaks and butter, and sour cream and coffee and soda. This is far from the healthiest meals you could be eating. And while when you’re on the road in rural areas looking to eat, options can be somewhat limited, that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise good food judgment and find something healthy to dine on.

When dining in restaurants, many people looking for healthy options immediately think “salad.” This can certainly be a misnomer and certainly not always true. For example, a fried chicken salad can have cheeses, fatty dressings, and other high-calorie foods included in them, leaving them not much healthier than a burger and fries.

It’s more important to be creative: look for grilled chicken and fish as a staple of your restaurant dining. Look for vegetables and fruits, and maybe rice instead of fries. Also, drink water instead of soda. Soda is empty calories, and just 3 or 4 per day can add hundreds of calories to your daily intake.

For example, let’s choose a popular restaurant chain—Chili’s. If you order a plate of their boneless buffalo wings, you’re consuming 1,090 calories. The boneless buffalo chicken salad? 1,040 calories. The Caribbean salad with grilled chicken? 720. The Quesadilla Explosion salad will set you back 1,430 calories. Even their grilled chicken sandwich has over 1,000 calories.

Their lighter choices, however, features steaks, salads, and chicken platters, with Ancho Salmon being the most calorie-rich with 600. Most of those dishes are about half the calories of the above dishes. Just being aware and making the right decision can make a big difference.

Snacking right

When you’re fueling your rig, you pick a few choice items from the station’s store, right? Beef jerky, potato chips, candy bars, right? It’s no secret those are mostly empty calories, and while they taste good, they also have almost no nutritional value whatsoever.

How about this? A small cooler filled with fresh fruit and vegetables. Cut up apples or celery and a little peanut butter. Raisins or dried cranberries. Trail mix, peanuts, or almonds. Stash a few bottles of water in there as well.

And yes, of course there is limited space in your trunk, and things like ice need to be replenished on a regular basis. But for one (or two, for those of you who join a team), a small cooler doesn’t take up that much space, and compared to paying convenience store prices, you may be saving yourself some money. That might be worth the little bit of space you lose.

Why all this emphasis on health?

You’re driving a truck, not becoming a professional athlete, right? That is true, but driving a truck is a physical job that requires people who don’t necessarily have to be in tip-top shape, but at least need to be high functioning. When you are a truck driver, there are dangers to putting on weight beyond heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. When you are carrying extra weight, you are prone to sleep apnea and fatigue. That can spell trouble when you are driving on long, dull stretches of highway, which can make you more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.

Also, over time that extra weight can lead to those other issues. Unhealthy truck drivers are prone to ailments that cause problems in their extremities, particularly the feet and legs, which can make driving uncomfortable, and later, can cause you severe pain. As you get older, it may become increasingly difficult to impossible to do your job.

Your health is ultimately your own business, but if you want to remain healthy, follow some of these steps and take precautions. The key is to eat less high-fat, high-calorie fare, and more natural fresh fruits and vegetables. By simply making wise eating decisions, you can stay healthier and have a longer, more productive, more enjoyable career.