Sitting behind the wheel of a semi day in and day out can lead to a lot of snacking. First of all, when you are on the go, go, go finding time to sit down for a full course meal is not going to happen. Secondly, lots of truckers find themselves bored from time to time, and snacking can help the time pass. If you are a trucker on a tight schedule, drowsiness might be your burden. In your case, you probably want to grab a sugar coated muffin or bar of chocolate to give your body a zing of energy. As you can see, snacking comes part and parcel with the life of a truck driver. However, that doesn’t mean you have to let it take over your health. Here are some snack ideas and shopping lists for truck drivers interested in eating healthy at snack time.
Protein is Your Pal
When it comes to finding the right type of food, protein wins out every time. Among the three main sources of energy—protein, carbohydrates and fat—protein digests slower than fat or carbs. This means it helps you stay full longer. Also it takes longer for protein to turn into fat, which gives you more time to burn it off by using energy before it sticks to your thighs. For every snack you eat, make sure to include a serving of protein. What is a serving? Look at the label of your food if it’s packaged. Otherwise, one egg or one serving of meat or poultry the size of a deck of cards accounts for a serving of protein. Here are some trucker friendly sources of protein for snacking on the go:
- Greek yogurt: Why Greek? It contains twice as much protein as regular yogurt thanks to straining methods; make sure to choose a plain variety and add fruits to make sweeter naturally without adding too much sugar to your diet; Fage is a leading brand that comes free of sugars and you can find it at Wal-Mart and most grocery stores.
- Boiled eggs, available at most truck stops
- Cheese, such as mozzarella, cottage cheese, parmesan, feta and Swiss, which include this listing of the healthiest cheeses by Health.com
- Raw, salt-free nuts including almonds, pecans, walnuts, brazil nuts and cashews
- Unsalted seeds, such as sunflower seeds and pumpkin/pepita seeds
- Nut butters, which should not contain sugar or hydrogenated oil; look for simply nuts in the ingredients for your best choice
Best of all, with the exceptions of boiled eggs and Greek yogurt, which each last about 7 days, proteins are going to store for at least a month in the fridge/on the shelf. Placing raw nuts and nut butters in the fridge keeps them from going rancid, extending their lifetime to a month or two.
“Wait, you mean I can eat carbs?” Yes, carbs are necessary for your bodily functions, but not all carbohydrates are created equal. Complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, should be a priority in your journey to snack healthier. This kind of carb doesn’t take as long as proteins to digest. In fact, adding carbs to your snack helps give you an immediate burst of sustained energy. The key here is in the minerals, nutrients and vitamins contained in complex carbs, which are vital to a healthy body. Also complex carbs are the winners of the digestive system, thanks to lots of fiber that helps to keep your body regular.
Simple carbs are those things like cookies, donuts, cakes, biscuits, potato chips, and candy. Simple carbs are off limits for healthy eating because they turn into sugar super quick once you’ve eaten them. Your body gets a sudden burst of energy, followed by a sluggish feeling and the desire to nosh on more simple carbs. Worst of all, simple carbs contain high amounts of sugar, white flour, salt and preservative chemicals—all of which are horrible for your health. Instead add these foods to your grocery cart:
- Grab and go fruits in their whole form, such as bananas, apples, oranges, tangerines, cherries, peaches, and pears
- Cut, ready-to-eat fruits, such as pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, papaya, and mango
- Dried fruits that don’t contain added sugar, such as raisins, mango, papaya, cranberries, blueberries, cherries and dates
- Fresh vegetables that are washed and chopped, ready-to-eat and perfect for truckers, such as cucumbers, carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, bell peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash
- Whole grain crackers and breads
You can eat all of these foods raw, which makes them ideal for snacking on the run. Try to eat different fruits and vegetables throughout the day to ensure you are getting a good balance of nutrition.
The Whole Grain Truth
A note about whole grain crackers and breads. Purchase these at natural food markets to ensure you are getting truly whole grains. Ideal brands include Ezekiel Bread, as discussed by Livestrong, which can be frozen or refrigerated to extend its lifespan to up to a month easily. Whole grain cracker brands that truly sell whole grains, according to the Whole Grains Council, include:
- Barilla America, Inc. brand Wasa crackers
- Back to Nature
- Dr. Kracker
- Mary’s Gone Crackers
Most fats found on the road, such as fried snacks and cheese dips, are not your friend. However, in order to absorb the healthy nutrients in your carbs, you need to include a serving of healthy fats in every snack. Get your fats by adding these foods to your shopping list:
- Avocados: eat ¼ per snack, save the rest of the avocado by wrapping it well in plastic wrap and storing it in the fridge; eat it within a day after cutting it; Avocado Central gives the scoop on handling this fatty fruit
- Olive oil, one tablespoon per serving
- Nuts and nut butters: these can count for both your protein and your fat during a snack
- Canned fish contains heart healthy fats
For additional info regarding the differences in fats, the Mayo Clinic goes into great detail.
Healthy Snacking in Action
Now that you know what kinds of foods to include in every snack, here’s the deal. You need to eat every 2 to 3 hours, and snacks are a great way for truckers to eat light while keeping their energy up. During a snack include:
- 1 serving of protein
- 1 serving of carbs, which can include a fruit, vegetable or whole grain serving
- 1 serving of fat
Switch it up, and eat different food combinations throughout the day for the best results. Have any suggestions to add? Leave them in the comments section below!