February 12, 2021

3 Healthy Eating Tips for Truck Drivers: Meal Prep, Snacks & More

Over the road (OTR) truck drivers have a reputation for their resolve. Behind the wheel until the job is done. Undeterred by distance or danger. That sense of determination and discipline must translate to a healthy diet, right?

The truth is that cross-country driving can be incredibly caloric, and convenience often wins out over eating healthy on the road. That's reflected in truck driver obesity rates, which are twice as high as other U.S. workers. Being overweight means higher risk for other serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Ironically, being a truck driver isn't for the faint of heart, and yet the lifestyle can really take a toll on your ticker. Long hours, lots of sitting and miles and miles of tempting roadside food options with low nutritional value.

The good news is that a healthier diet is completely within reach. By prepping and cooking portion-controlled meals in your rig, making smarter choices at restaurants and keeping healthy snacks handy, you'll be well on your way to eating-and feeling-better. Here are our tips for getting there even faster.

1. Prep and cook healthy meals in your truck.

Who doesn't love a delicious restaurant meal? Indulging in a juicy steak, bowl of pasta or loaded burger is among life's little joys. However, when you eat out, it's much harder to control your caloric intake. Portions are often outsized, and sodium levels can be sky high.

Cooking food at home allows you to better regulate these dietary variables-and cooking meals in your semi is no different. But before you start prepping your meals, you'll need to set a ceiling for the amount of calories you consume each day. The Fit Father Project recommends a diet of 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day for truckers, with meals and snacks in the 300- to 600-calorie range.

Cooking appliances you need to cook in your truck

To put your healthy meal plan into action, you're going to need to transform your cab into a kitchenette. Use some of those hard-earned linehaul dollars to outfit your space with the following cooking appliances:

  • Power inverter
  • Mini fridge
  • Microwave
  • Stove
  • Crock pot (your new best friend for cooking while you zoom down the highway)
  • A blender for fresh smoothies and protein shakes

Now it's time to prepare meals that adhere to some basic dietary rules. Start by counting calories-aim for three digits, not four. Opt for ingredients and dishes high in protein and fiber but low in fat and sodium. Find ways to incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables into your diet through salads or sides.

A healthier menu may seem a bit restrictive at first, but don't be discouraged. Adopting this approach doesn't mean you have to give up tasty meals.

Healthy Lunch Ideas

Health-conscious dinners can also be flavorful and satisfying. As mentioned above, that slow cooker or Instant Pot opens up a world of mouthwatering possibilities that includes:

  • Pot roast with vegetables
  • Meatloaf
  • Pulled pork
  • Chicken pasta
  • Bison or turkey burgers

If you need ideas for healthy foods you can cook on the road, truckers have flooded the internet with their faves.

Once you've established your rotation of go-to meals, you may find yourself wanting more variety. If so, get creative and try something new. Just make sure your inner chef sticks to the ground rules.

2. Choose restaurants with healthier options or light menus.

Sometimes you just have to break up the monotony of those home-cooked meals by eating out. The trick here is to keep trucking past those big buffets and blue plate diners until you reach a restaurant with lighter fare.

If you decide to stop for a meal, don't leave your willpower at the door. Hunger pangs and intoxicating aromas have a way of clouding our judgment when we order, so keep your wellness wits about you.

Menus at fast-food joints and sitdown restaurants have never been more transparent, so pay attention to calorie estimates and choose wisely. If you need to improvise, hold the bread, request steamed veggies or ask for light dressing. Think of fried foods and sugar-packed desserts as rare delicacies.

Fast food is often vilified for highly processed, high-calorie menu items, but grabbing a quick meal at a chain doesn't have to torpedo your diet. There are healthier options hiding in plain sight-you just have to be willing to corral your appetite and work the plan.

If your restaurant meal arrives and it's gargantuan, ask for a to-go box before the server walks away. When it arrives, promptly load half of your oversized feast into the container. Round 2 will be just as good or better when you reheat it on the road.

3. Healthy snacks are key to staying healthy on the road.

You never know when the trucker munchies are going to strike, but when they do, it's best to have healthy snacks on hand.

Veteran OTR truck drivers know better than to enter a truck stop with a grumbling stomach. These well-lit, well-stocked outposts are overflowing with unhealthy options like candy, chips, fried food, pizza and frozen dessert treats. Don't take the bait-most of these nibbles are devoid of the nutrients your body needs.

When choosing what snacks to pack, follow the same rules as meals.

Healthy Snack Ideas

Here are a few snacks truck drivers can pack to stay healthy while on the road:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Fruit
  • Jerky
  • Boiled eggs
  • Light yogurt
  • Cheese

These healthy snack ideas will quiet those hunger cravings between meals without spiking your blood sugar.

Be discerning when packing snacks. Many "fruit" snacks and energy bars that claim to be healthier are loaded with sugar and calories. Always be sure to check the label and make smart choices. The average American consumes more than 71 grams of sugar a day-that's about twice the recommended amount for men and nearly three times the target for women!

In recent years, Americans have been moving away from a daily routine of three big meals with no snacks. They're now snacking in between meals or entirely replacing a meal with snacks. This can be a great way for truck drivers to regulate their appetite-as long as those snacks stay on the healthier side.

It's never too late to reinvent your diet and reclaim your health. If you're interested in working for a flatbed trucking company that supports your healthy pursuits and desire for a more balanced life, apply with JLE. Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to learn more about why we're a finalist for the Truckload Carriers Association's "2021 Best Fleets to Drive For."