Does this scenario sound familiar? It’s 2 a.m. and you’ve still got a way to go before you reach your next stop, but you haven’t eaten since dinnertime and your stomach is starting to rumble like a diesel engine. Off in the distance, you see the light of a truck stop, which could seem like an oasis, but you know its shelves are stocked with donuts, beef jerky and big bags of potato chips. Your next best bet is a burger at the first fast food joint you see, or a package of stale crackers at the nearest rest stop. Late-night, quick-fix options are severely limited, so over-the-road truckers have always found it difficult to eat healthy snacks when they’re on the road. It’s also hard to stay physically active when the very nature of your job involves sitting for hours at a time, so truck driving has quickly become one of the least healthy jobs in the U.S.
By the Numbers
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently reported that over-the-road truck drivers had a greater incidence of obesity and weight-related health risks than most workers in the U.S. Here’s a quick rundown of the risky numbers for long-haul truckers:
- 69 percent are obese
- 54 percent are smokers
- 88 percent are at risk for chronic ailments related to obesity, smoking or hypertension
Most of these statistics can be traced to a poor diet, limited exercise and irregular sleep — job hazards that can be hard to avoid when you’re logging thousands of miles every day. Truck drivers can take a few simple steps to get on the road to wellness without having to make a lengthy pit stop.
Skip the Truck Stops
Truck stops are where semi drivers should fill their rig’s fuel tanks, but not to fuel themselves with artery-clogging junk food. To start breaking unhealthy eating habits, drivers should expand their options. Here are a couple ways to break the cycle of bad eating:
- Stock up on groceries
- Buy a portable stove or grill
- Get a minifridge
- Say no to fast food
One trucker bought a personal stove, eliminated animal products, and dropped 65 pounds.
This might seem like a drastic, almost inconceivable change for most owner-operators, but the key is keeping your options open, planning ahead and taking baby steps by gradually making small, health-conscious changes over time.
Make sure you have a game plan before heading to a grocery store, and never shop hungry; it’s a surefire way to overbuy and grab things simply because they look tasty at the moment. Here are some necessities that keep you feeling fuller longer, without the empty calories:
- Hummus and whole grain crackers
- Raw nuts
- Fresh vegetables
- Whole fruit
Alternatives to Coffee
What you drink is just as important as what you eat. Consider one of those 44-ounce sodas, for instance. It certainly sounds refreshing to sip ice-cold Coke for a long stretch of road, but that carbonated beverage isn’t as innocent as you think. Along with the minor jolt of caffeine, you’re absorbing more than 100 grams of sugar, and an excess of 500 calories! Guzzle several cups of coffee, and add an energy drink to help you stay awake just a little longer, and you’re a few swigs from caffeine toxicity. Coffee is another culprit when it comes to accelerating your heart rate and increasing the risk of a cardiovascular emergency. Not to mention how hard you crash when caffeine drains from your system. Here are some healthier options to swap for coffee:
- Green tea
- Chia seeds in water
- Water with lemon
Small Changes, Big Benefits
Start with small, manageable changes instead of overhauling your whole routine. Instead of potato chips, reach for salted peanuts when you need a quick fix. After a while, you can exchange the roasted peanuts for raw almonds or sesame seeds. Over-the-road truckers will notice a little extra room in their waistband, and a little extra cash in their wallets. Over time, you may experience an increase in energy, healthier vital signs and a lower health insurance premium.
Scott has more than 15 years of experience at Raney’s Truck Parts, specifically within the service center. He has been in the hydraulics industry for about 40 years.