Eating Healthy on the Road – Is It Possible?
It doesn’t take long to look around at truck stops and see that they don’t scream “healthy options for truck drivers here!” One of the many sacrifices truckers make that isn’t widely talked about is their health. Not only is it an uphill battle to find food options that benefit their bodies but finding the time to sit down and enjoy a meal is also hard to get. Though it may seem impossible, there lifestyle habits that can change, step by step, to lead to better health for truck drivers.
Who’s the real villain here?
A lot can be attributed to declining health of a truck drivers. Not only do limited food options hurt over all health, but there are also many other factors to be accounted for.
Sitting for prolonged periods of time have been proven to be just as detrimental as cigarettes. There are certain dangers posed to those that sit for long periods of time.
“Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns. They include obesity and a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and unhealthy cholesterol levels — that make up metabolic syndrome. Too much sitting overall and prolonged periods of sitting also seem to increase the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.” – mayoclinic.org
That is why many experts advise making sure to get out of the truck when you stop in a safe area and walk a couple laps just to get your blood flowing. 5-10 minutes at each stop, including truck stops, could make a big enough difference to counter the affects of sitting.
Another factor is the stress related to the job. Being under the pressure of timely deliveries, irresponsible drivers, and other worries such as home time, family stress, financial stress all can have a negative impact not just on the mental health but the physical health as well.
The job of a truck driver is demanding and leaves little room for setting side time to decompress and destress from run after run. There are many things that can help ward off adverse health affects of job stress. This helpful detailed list from konexial.com can get you started on the right foot of helping improve your day-to-day routine:
Before starting the engine, take a moment to meditate. Clear your head and regulate your breathing – doing this will allow you to start your day with a clear head. Meditation can also relax the muscles by effectively alleviating tension on your body and creating more mental clarity. Meditating before or after your driving shift has many benefits, including these, and understanding why meditation is good for your overall health will create more peace in your life.
2. Listen to Audiobooks or Podcasts
Audiobooks and podcasts can be great ways to get your mind off your stressors – driving-related or not. Before you start driving, pick a compelling book or podcast that peaks your interest – not something that might put you to sleep! Allowing yourself to listen to the words spoken aloud might give you the opportunity to catch up on some reading, news, or interesting thoughts, but it can also help take your mind off your stressor(s). As you listen, however, just make sure you’re always properly focused on driving safely!
3. Get Out and Stretch
If you are at a truck stop, gas station, or rest area, take a minute to stretch. Stretching can relax the muscles that might be tense from your long drive – moreover, it can clear your mind and help prepare you for the remainder of your drive.
4. Listen to Music
If audiobooks or podcasts aren’t your things, listen to music instead. When you are in a stressful situation, try playing calming music, such as classical music or something even simpler, like ocean sounds or babbling brooks (if you’re driving, or if you know that calming music can make you drowsy, turn it off once your stress has subsided). However, if you don’t like classical or other calming music, just pick an artist, genre, or song that you will enjoy – find the music that helps you take your mind off your stressors and makes you happy (not tenser)! Listening to the most effective music for you is a great way to remove yourself from the thoughts or situations that have you tense.
5. Be Mindful
Most people are thrown into stressful situations that they have no control over, and they waste energy focusing on things that they can’t change (bad drivers, heavy traffic, weather, road reroutes, and changes at work or in the industry, to name a few). And, while it’s great to try to create positive changes when you can, it’s also important to be mindful of the situations – or thoughts – that you just need to step away from. Be mindful of the situations or topics that cause you stress, and try to avoid them. If situations or thoughts that trigger these stressors pop up, try to think about things that make you happy, or try any one of the steps above!”
By trying to tackle these first few offenders of health, you can begin to take back control of your health or prevent it from getting out of hand.
So what about what goes into our bodies?
Most of us have been there, where a doctor or a friend has told us that we are what we put into our body and that it has a direct correlation to our physical and mental health. But what if you’re cornered at every stop and only stuck with the greasy hot dog, the microwave burritos and the pre-packaged baked goods?
While those food are usually the most convenient and more tasty of the options in the truck stop, there are better provisions that could aid in a healthier lifestyle. Most of these will be in the form of nuts, jerky, granola, oatmeal and other, less caloric choices. They may not seem as filling or as comforting as a “full meal” but this is where planning could help out.
The diet of a truck driver is usually dependent on the type of driving they do. From a previous blog we discussed the types of driving and how it affects the choices of the drivers.
“Local drivers have a little more say in their food choices whether they cook from home and pack a lunch or have more options in an inner-city environment. Regional drivers may have it a little harder as they will likely need to meal plan and have a microwave in their sleeper in order to keep up their healthier diet or commit to choosing the healthier options at truck stops (which, let’s be honest, can vary and become repetitive, leading to burn out of a certain food *cough* almonds *cough*). Still, these two types of drivers have it a bit easier than their over-the-road colleagues. Most trucks that go over the road keep a fridge and microwave in the bunk which can be a game changer for the trucker’s health. One of the bigger challenges for these drivers, outside from limited restaurant options, is the accessibility to grocery stores while on their routes through the month so there would need to be additional planning involved.”
With resources such as an on-board microwave and/or refrigerator, with proper planning and prep, home cooked meals or even healthier frozen items can be kept on board. These options can offer better alternative that provides more nutrition and balance to a driver’s diet.
The last ingredient:
Lastly, the biggest struggle that not only drivers but almost everyone struggles with is discipline. Telling yourself that something is impossible immediately will keep you from even trying. It may seem like a lot; meditating, taking time to move your body, meal prepping. But they all don’t have to be done at once – baby steps and small changes to your routine can make all the difference and once that habit is formed and healthy, you can pursue the next one.
Meadow Lark knows the importance of keeping drivers safe and healthy. We do everything in our power to meet their drivers are in their journey. Call us today to learn more about working with a team that knows you by name. (877) 590-5450