Creating a balanced diet is one of the most difficult challenges for long-haul truckers. While many truckers opt to pack their own meals to avoid the temptations of the fatty, sugary, and high-sodium options found at truck stops, this tactic is not practical or appealing to everyone.
While truck stops have a notoriously bad reputation for being unhealthy, making smart decisions about which truck stop foods you eat and how you eat them can enable you to maintain a satisfying diet on the road.
In this blog, we cover six fundamental do’s and don’ts for when you rely on truck stops as your primary food source.
Do Plan Your Meals According to Your Timetable
When you work a traditional shift job, your meals tend to end up being at a specific time each day, usually two to four hours apart. While the hours you keep while on the road may vary dramatically and may include some days that are significantly longer than a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, you should maintain a mealtime regimen.
Plan to have a meal every few hours. This timetable can keep you from grazing on snacks all the way to your unloading point and also ensures that you don’t deprive yourself necessary calories. Keep in mind that this strategy may mean that you have some days with more than three meals or with meals at odd times.
When you plan your route, look for stops at appropriate intervals.
Don’t Hesitate to Adjust Portion Sizes
In addition to regular mealtimes, shift work often also dictates portion size. In this conventional working environment, you may sit down for a hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner as separate, distinct meals.
As a trucker, you may not want or need the portion sizes you would eat at home. We’ll talk more about fulfilling your nutritional needs in the next section, but you should also listen to how much food your body seems to want and adjust your meal size accordingly to make it easier to stay on your routine.
You may find it helpful to think ahead about which meal you’ll purchase at the next stop. However, you shouldn’t hesitate to expand or decrease that meal size slightly if you feel like you should once you’ve parked.
Do Consider Your Nutritional Needs
One of the most important rules of surviving on truck stop food is understanding and prioritizing your nutritional needs. Most contemporary truck stops offer a variety of healthy choices that can help you balance your diet, but you have to know your needs first.
As you shop for truck stop food, make a mental list of the categories each food falls into. Include a protein, such as nuts or cheese, and a form of produce, whether fruit or vegetable, with every meal.
Keep in mind that because hauls require you to remain seated for long periods of time, you may not need calorically dense foods at every meal. For example, nuts contain more calories and more fat than most dairy products so even though nuts are a good source of protein, you may not want to eat them as your protein three meals a day.
Don’t Try to Revolutionize Your Diet All at Once
When you decide to eat a more balanced diet at the truck stops you frequent, you may want to change all your habits at once. Many truckers make these changes to lose weight, improve their health, and increase their energy.
However, too many drastic changes can lead to uncomfortable cravings and physical symptoms. Additionally, the more habits you try to break and create at the same time, the harder it will be to keep up with all of them. Instead, choose one or two goals to work on for a month at a time such as eating a fruit with each meal or drinking tea instead of soda.
You may want to discuss any preexisting health conditions you have, such as diabetes, with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet. Even positive changes can sometimes create dangerous instability in your health if done too quickly.
Do Sit Down for Real Meals When Possible
Many truck stops have restaurants in addition to miniature grocery store aisles. The process of ordering and eating sitting down can improve digestion and help you make more rational food choices because it eliminates the pressure of needing to get in and out too quickly to find the foods you need.
Don’t Forget to Stock Up On Meal Options
In addition to your planned stops that allow you to pick up a meal or sit down to have one in a truck stop restaurant, you should also plan to stock up for future meals when necessary. For example, if your route will take you through a particularly rural area with no stop options, grab your next meal the stop before.
Use these guidelines to ensure that the truck stops you end up in on your routes provide you with the nutrition you need to stay healthy and comfortable on long hauls.