When you're on the go working a truck driving job, sometimes making a healthy meal out on the road just isn't possible on certain days. Truck drivers know that more than anyone! Perhaps you forgot to stop at WalMart for groceries before you left to pick up a load, or maybe the deli meat in your cooler isn't looking too fresh and you're forced to make an emergency trip to McDonald's.
It's ok! Not all hope for a healthy diet is lost! There are still ways to maintain your weight and eat well, even at fast-food drive thrus. Today, I'm going to talk about 4 things you should keep in mind when stopping at that local fast food joint for a quick pick me up.
1. Know Your Facts
You can find the nutritional information for virtually any fast-food restaurant online, if not in-store. Know the nutritional value of a menu item before you order to help make healthy, informed meal decisions. It's pretty disappointing thinking you're ordering a healthier alternative and finding out that it has 1,200 calories in it!
If you stop frequently at the same few restaurants, print out their nutritional information for reference next time you take a food break. Or, if you have a smart phone, download one of the many apps available that provide nutritional info for virtually any restaurant you could ever need.
2. Bigger's Not Always Better
There's not really much need to supersize your cheeseburger into a quadruple-patty burger with enough fries to feed a small family, now is there? These supersize, "value" meals contain nothing but excess calories on top of an already unhealthy meal. If you eat healthy snacks throughout the day, a regular sized meal should be more than enough to suppress your appetite. Stop and analyze how much food you really need - sometimes even a child's plate has enough food to tide you over! Plus, they come with a cool toy...
You don't have to order a meal, either - you can always order individual items. Most restaurants these days have a healthy, low-cal, or low-carb menu. If they don't, it's usually possible to decipher what the healthier items on the menu are. Things like baked, grilled, and broiled foods are going to be much healthier alternatives to fried and breaded menu items. Order a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a fried fish sandwich. Use low-fat French dressing on your salad instead of ranch or caesar. Substitute apple slices or a baked potato for french fries.
3. Begin Your Day Right
Don't skip out on breakfast so you can have a bigger meal later! A healthy, hearty breakfast is essential to jumpstart your day. Make sure it's a healthy breakfast though. Unfortunately, glazed doughnuts with sprinkles are NOT the breakfast of champions. High amounts of sugar and empty calories are not the way you want to start a day full of driving. Avoid greasy drive-thru breakfast foods like sausage-egg-and-cheese sandwiches and opt for granola, oatmeal, fruits, and English muffins.
4. Cut Down on the Sugar
Don't forget to watch out for the beverages you consume with your meal! Many patrons will order a Diet Coke and assume they're keeping it healthy. It is true that diet sodas are better for you (and I use that term liberally...) than regular, sugary sodas, they're no substitute for healthy, nourishing drinks. Consider ordering low-fat skim milk, unsweetened tea, 100% fruit juice, or *gasp* plain water!
More Drive-thru Tips for Truck Drivers
- Don't forget to check the sodium content. Many people focus their attention on the calories and fat content and forget to look at other nutritional value. Many fast-food meals have over half of your daily sodium allotment of 1,500 mg a day!
- White meats like chicken and fish are not necessarily better for you than red meat like a hamburger or cheeseburger. How is it cooked? A deep fried fish sandwich is going to be worse for you than a cheeseburger because of the oils that the fish is cooked in. A breaded chicken breast contains additional calories due to the flour that coats it, again making a hamburger a better option.
- Go easy on the condiments and skip fatty sauces. Creamy dips and salad dressings contain a high amount of calories and fat. Instead, opt for condiments like ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce, but use them sparingly (ketchup can contain a lot of sodium, but it's still healthier than ranch dressing).
- Avoid sugary, caffeinated beverages like energy drinks (Red Bull, Amp, Monster, etc), sodas, and high-calorie coffee drinks. Take your coffee black or with just a little bit of cream - piling the sugar, whipped cream, and flavoring into your coffee increases the calorie content about ten-fold.
- Don't forget about portion control! This is why people have been so successful with programs like Weight Watchers. You can still eat some guilty pleasures, but the key is only consuming a reasonable amount. And there's no rule that says you have to clean your entire plate when you order out. Nothing wrong with dividing your meal in half and saving some for later or sharing with your co-driver.
And now....Driver Solutions' very own healthy truck driver version of, "Eat This, Not That!"
|Eat This||Not That|
|Salads (be mindful of dressings though)||French Fries|
|Fruit cup, fruit parfait||Fruit pies, ice cream, cookies|
|Ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce||Mayo, ranch dressing, creamy sauces/dressings|
|Water, low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice||Sugary sodas, milkshakes|
|Grilled, broiled, baked items||Crispy, fried items|
|Single patty burgers||Double burgers, supersized/value meals|
*Note: some information from this article by Driver Health Magazine.
With this information, hopefully you can make healthy, informed choices at the drive-thru. It is possible to eat healthy at fast food restaurants, you just have to dig a little to find the nutritional alternatives! And don't be afraid to ask for special orders - there's nothing wrong with asking for the dressing on the side or a burger with no bun.
Remember, it is possible to be a healthy truck driver - all it takes is a little motivation! Stay tuned for more posts on staying healthy on the road.
Do you have any additional tips on eating healthy at the drive-thru? Feel free to share them with us below!
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