Eating on the Road – Nutrition for Truck Drivers

Author: Diana Steele, RD

Your truck stop is not a special occasion, it is part of your regular meal plan.

“Your truck stop is not a special occasion or a treat, it is part of your regular meal plan.”

Healthy eating can be a challenge for many people but toss in trying to do it while driving a truck across the country and it can seem next to impossible.

There are over 1 million truck drivers in Canada, many of them long haul, dealing with overnight stays in their cab, eating on the road, loss of routine, isolation, lack of sleep, long work hours, excessive noise and vibration from the truck, prolonged sitting and often unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, inactivity and poor diet. The effect of these circumstances can have a terrible effect on health and for some reducing life expectancy by 12-20 yrs in comparison to the general population. This must change.

Truck drivers are at risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, colon, lung and laryngeal cancers, hypertension, sleep disorders, digestive problems, and increased stress. Many of these conditions have modifiable risk factors, which means they can be prevented. It’s not a simple fix, but selecting one goal and one action step to achieve that goal and then working on it is a step in the right direction. When you choose better health you will improve your quality of life.


Eating every 3 hours is essential to maintaining stable blood sugar levels. This, in turn, prevents energy crashes, lack of concentration, fatigue, food cravings and overeating. To ensure you can eat breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner and possibly a snack, you need to be prepared. Have food packed with you for the day if you do short trips. Pack 2 snacks and lunch. For the long haul, consider investing in a plug-in cooler or small fridge, mini slow cooker or microwave. The more food you can bring with you and prepare yourself the better. Stock your fridge with Greek yogurt, berries, sandwich meat, wraps, cut vegetables, fruit, hummus. If you are driving into the night, think “eat light late at night”. Although eating may help you stay awake, it’s more difficult to digest large amounts of food late at night and it may affect your sleep.

2. Protein:

Eating protein at each meal and snack will help stabilize blood sugars, especially if you are a diabetic. It will also help make your carbohydrate energy last longer. Have peanut butter or eggs at breakfast, chicken or tuna at lunch, yogurt, nuts or energy bars for snacks and beans or ground beef for dinner. Cooked proteins will last 3-4 days in your refrigerator. If you are buying food at a truck stop or convenience store, look for lean protein and avoid deep-fried items.

3. Fiber:

Fiber helps fill you up which will help prevent overeating. It also helps keep you regular. Constipation can be a problem with prolonged sitting and inactivity. The soluble fiber in foods such as oatmeal, flaxseeds, All-Bran Buds, apples and apple sauce, bananas, barley, lentils, and beans helps to lower cholesterol. The insoluble fiber in fruits and vegetables and whole grains helps provide roughage and a source of fuel (prebiotic) to the bacteria in your colon. Consider bringing overnight oats in a mason jar filled with berries, add All-Bran Buds to your trail mix, eat hummus as a dip with raw vegetables, order chili on a baked potato, bean burritos and dahl for more legumes.

4. Fruits and vegetables:

According to the Canadian Community Health Survey of Truck Drivers, 70% of truck drivers eat less than 5 servings of vegetables and fruit per day and the goal for men is 8-10 servings. Fruits and vegetables are important sources of vitamins and minerals that help improve immune function and lower blood pressure, they are a source of fiber and fluid which helps prevent constipation and fills you up which will help maintain healthy body weight, they are also low in calories. Moreover, fruits and vegetables contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals which may help prevent cancer and heart disease.

5. Good Fats:

Increase omega 3 fat consumption for heart health, reducing inflammation, arthritis, lowering triglycerides, reducing depression, Alzheimer’s risk and lowering blood pressure. Fish (tuna, salmon sandwiches, sardines, herring, salmon burgers), nuts and seeds. Olive oil, canola oil, and avocado are also sources of good monounsaturated fats. Limit deep-fried foods, chips, and crackers made with corn, sunflower, safflower, soybean oils. Avoid trans fats.

6. Hydration:

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading cause of obesity in the US. We just don’t eat less food when we drink our calories. Keep a water bottle in the cab, stock Perrier or soda water for something bubbly. Consider ¼ cup pure OJ in soda water for taste or lime wedges. Try tea instead of coffee for extra antioxidants. Limit coffee 4 hours before sleep.

7. Eating at Truck Stops:

Just because it is all you can eat doesn’t mean you should … Cover ½ your plate with vegetables. Eat from the salad bar or vegetable soups first to help fill you up. Scan the buffet table and choose your 1-2 mains and cover the rest with veg. Watch the mac and cheese, mashed potato, creamy pasta as they may be high in fat. Avoid the deep-fried, battered items. You can get French fries and onion rings anytime. Your truck stop is not a special occasion or a treat, it is part of your regular meal plan. There is no food police so it’s up to you to choose to improve your quality of life or not. Use the microwave and reheat your food.

For more information contact Diana Steele at Eating For Energy, 604-727-3801

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