When you live your life on the road, eating right can seem impossible. Who has time or the tools needed to cook healthy foods? Eating right is a bit more challenging than driving through your favorite fast food restaurant, but it isn’t impossible (or even that hard) when you get in the habit, even for truck drivers. And since diet has big implications for your health, a few changes are worth it. Here’s what every trucker needs to know about eating right.
Why Is Eating Right Important?
They say, “You are what you eat,” and when it comes to your health, this is certainly true. Many diseases are diet related including diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and some cancers. Seeing that truckers are already at an increased risk for many of these problems, a good diet is essential.
What Can You Do?
Changing the way you eat is challenging. You’ll be more likely to achieve success if you take small steps. Don’t get discouraged if your diet isn’t perfect from the start. Add in one or two positives to your diet at a time and keep working until you’re where you want to be. Take the first step toward your diet transformation today. Here are some ideas for incorporating healthier foods into your diet on the road.
- Stock Up on Fruits and Vegetables– What’s your favorite snack on the road? If you love chips or candy, consider making the switch to fruits and vegetables. Pre-sliced apples, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, etc. are easy to eat on the go and can be purchased prepared and ready to eat. If you don’t want to hassle with refrigeration or a cooler and want foods that will last for months, opt for dried fruits like raisins, banana chips, or dried apples.
- Go Nuts!- To satisfy your salty cravings with a healthier choice, opt for nuts and seeds. Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, and pistachios are all healthy and delicious options. Remember, heavily salted nuts aren’t the best choice if you want to keep your sodium levels where they should be. Opt for lower salt options.
- Make it Yourself- You might not have access to a full service kitchen in your truck, but there are many things you can make yourself to skip the drive through and eat healthy. Canned tuna and chicken can be used to make tuna or chicken salad. Pair with crackers and veggies for an easy lunch or make a sandwich. For breakfast, make some oatmeal, eat yogurt, enjoy a hardboiled egg, or choose a healthy cereal option (granola is a great choice). When you make food yourself you can control what goes in and you save money too. Eating right doesn’t have to be expensive.
- Skip Soda– Diet or regular, soda isn’t a healthy choice. To prepare yourself for healthier eating on the road, have plenty of water on hand. Choose water instead of soda. At first you may need to cut back gradually, especially if you’re hooked on caffeine, but this one change can make a big difference in how you feel.
When You Do Eat Out
Eating out is inevitable as a truck driver, but there are things you can do to eat healthier at restaurants. Try these tips. (For more ideas, see this great slideshow from WebMD.)
- Plan Ahead- A little research before you head to a restaurant can give you good ideas for which foods to choose. This slideshow from the Food Network gives healthy suggestions for many popular chains (including some fast food options). If you don’t plan ahead, ask which options are heart healthy, lower fat, etc.
- Avoid Fried Foods– Skip the fried foods and opt for boiled, broiled, and grilled instead.
- Choose Healthy Proteins– You can find healthy protein options at almost every restaurant. Limit your red meats and opt for leaner chicken instead. Fish is a great choice when you can find it. Seafood is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and can lower your risk of heart disease.
- Don’t Forget the Veggies– If you’re eating out, find a way to include a vegetable (or better yet, two) with every meal.
Tips for Success
You can do it. You can eat healthier on the road. It will be hard, but once you start seeing the positive health benefits, you’ll know your efforts are paying off. These final tips will help you achieve success.
- Try and Try Again– Don’t worry about your slip ups as you work toward eating healthier. Try your best and then try again.
- Small Changes Matter– If you’re not ready for a perfect diet, make small changes. Switching soda for water a couple of meals a day is better than doing nothing. Adding in an extra vegetable will have positive benefits, even if you change nothing else. Small changes can make a difference in your health.
- Prepare– Healthy eating requires a little preparation. The time to decide to eat right is now, not when you’re starving and needing a snack. Stock your truck with easy to eat, healthy options now so they are there when you need them. If you want to eat better tomorrow… buy the right foods today.
Life on the road does make it difficult to eat right, but you can do it. What changes will you make to your diet for a healthier tomorrow?
Are you getting enough sleep? Many truckers don’t and it can have a negative impact on both quality of life/health and safety behind the wheel. What can you do? How can you get enough sleep with the crazy hours trucking brings? Getting plenty of sleep as an over the road trucker isn’t going to be easy, but with these tips you can get the most ZZZZs possible even if your situation isn’t ideal.
Why Is Sleep Important?
The Department of Transportation estimates that fatigue related causes account for about 13% of all truck accidents. It can also increase your risk for negative health effects including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes (all things that truck drivers are at risk for). Getting sleep on the road is difficult, but the risks of not getting enough sleep are worse. Make sleep a priority.
What Can You Do?
Getting enough good quality sleep is difficult when you’re on the road and dealing with variable schedules. Here are some tips that may help:
- Avoid Drowsy Times- Your body is most drowsy from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. If you can, stay off the road during these particularly drowsy hours.
- Nap Properly– A nap can be a great way to fight fatigue, but only if you do it properly. An effective nap should be more than 10 minutes but less than 45 minutes. Give yourself 15 minutes to fully wakeup before you get back on the road. Short naps have been shown to restore energy more effectively than coffee. Naps work best if they are used preventatively before you get tired, rather than after.
- Skip the Tricks– What’s your secret to staying awake when tired? Many drivers rely on caffeine, an open window, loud music, and other tricks to stay awake on the road. These tricks may increase alertness for a few minutes, but they aren’t effective or reliable. Skip the tricks and pull over for some shut eye if you’re feeling drowsy. Caffeine can be a tool you use, but use it wisely.
- Turn Off Your Alarm– During the week, you’ll likely need an alarm to get to deliveries and pick-ups on time, but when you’re home for the weekend or taking a restart, turn off the alarm. Let your body get the rest it needs and sleep until you’re no longer tired. These periods of rest can help you from becoming severely sleep deprived.
While fatigue is possible at any time, it is especially common during periods of shift or schedule changes. These tips will help you adjust:
- Stick with Your Schedule/Routine– Limiting the changes your body goes through can help you adjust to a change. Try to stick with your typical work schedule, even if you’re home for a few days. If you do need to change your schedule, keep your pre-bed routines in place and use light and dark to help you adjust.
- Get More Sleep– When going through times of adjustment, increase your sleep if you can. Getting more sleep helps your body adjust to the changes.
Sleep Disorders- Do You Have One?
In the U.S. alone 70 million people have some sort of sleep disorder, or a condition that keeps them from getting sufficient restorative sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), insomnia, and restless leg syndrome are common sleep disorders. If you have one, work with your doctor to minimize its impact on your sleep and to find effective strategies for getting the rest you need. Talk with your doctor about sleep disorders and be aware of the signs of sleep disorders so you know if you’re at risk.
Tools for Better Sleep
The North American Fatigue Management Program is a great resource for truckers, their families, and others involved in the transportation industry. They have two great courses on fatigue that drivers should consider taking: Driver Education (focused on fatigue and fatigue management) and Driver Sleep Disorders Management.
Make the commitment today to getting better sleep. Your health and safety depend on it. And keep checking back for more tips on truck driver health and safety.
Are you taking time for your health? When working long hours on the road and rushing to that next drop it is easy to let the little things, like healthy eating and exercise, slide. Perhaps this is the reason (or at least a contributing factor) that truckers have an average life expectancy several years shorter than the general population. Healthy habits are possible, even on the road and taking the time for your health will pay off with better productivity, better health, and a longer life expectancy.
What can you do to make positive changes for better health? We’ve got 5 essentials for health and wellness just for truckers. Today, we’ll give you a quick overview of the 5 essentials. In coming weeks, we’ll dive into each one a little deeper, giving you actionable changes you can make. A healthier you awaits!
Health Essentials on the Road
We’re not going to tell you to spend hours at the gym or to stock your fridge with veggies… we know that those regular health tips just don’t cut it when you’re living in a sleeper, crisscrossing the country, and driving all day long. These essentials are designed for truckers… things you can actually do to make positive changes for yourself, even on the road. We’ll introduce them here, but come back… we will be delving into each one in depth in the coming weeks.
- Sleep… Sleep… Sleep- Fatigue is a big problem for drivers and a major cause of accidents. After being awake for 17 hours you’re twice as likely to have an accident. After 24 hours you’re 7 times more likely. The FMCSA is making efforts to reduce fatigue with their HOS rules, but there are many things you can do on your own as well. Hours on the road certainly impact your ability to sleep, but there are many factors that contribute to fatigue which are under your control. Getting the sleep you need will have positive impacts for your safety on the road and your overall health.
- Eat Right (Even on the Road)- Fast food can seem like the only option (and let’s face it… some days it is), but you can eat right even on the road. Making little changes to your diet can have a big impact on your health. Learn how much food you need, how to make healthier choices when eating out, and strategies for maximizing your diet. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly.
- Driving Is Not a Form of Exercise- Get up and move. I know this is easier said than done when you spend 10+ hours a day behind the wheel, but daily exercise is important for everyone. Staying active can lower your chance of getting heart disease, stroke, some cancers, and type 2 diabetes, all big problems for truck drivers. Get up and move. Even a little exercise is better than none.
- Stop Smoking- Smoking is a notorious bad habit for those in the trucking industry. One study found that 67% of long haul drivers smoked. This can have serious negative health consequences. What can you do? How do you stop smoking while on the road? We’ve got some ideas for you.
- Foster Healthy Relationships- The road can be lonely. How do you foster relationships with family and friends when you never see them? We often think of our physical needs when we talk about health and wellness, but those emotional and mental needs are important too.
Join us as we explore the 5 Essentials of Health and Wellness for Truck Drivers. You might drive a truck, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy. Commit to a healthier lifestyle today.