My name is Lisa Tsakos, Registered Holistic Nutritional Consultant, corporate speaker and author. This blog provides professional advice from a nutrition and weight loss expert (me!) about corporate and family health. Here you'll find recipes and articles that address work-related challenges like eating on-the-go and maximizing your productivity with the right foods. You'll also find out about how you can help your children develop strong immune systems and healthy bodies. As a nutrition instructor, I often found myself thinking, "When I have kids, this is how I will feed them." With two toddlers, I have the opportunity to practice what I have been preaching and to try out my theories. So far, they seem to be working! Follow me on my journey and also on Twitter @NuVitalityHW.

3 May 2014

Nutrition on the Road: Healthy Eating for Truckers, Cops and Others Who Drive for a Living

Long haul truck drivers, police officers and couriers know first hand that being on a the road for long stretches of time certainly is an obstacle to good health. Any occupation that requires driving for hours without opportunities to stop for food or washroom breaks typically results in weight gain and high blood pressure. To top it off, distracted driving laws will soon prohibit you from eating a meal or snacking while driving (a good thing for the rest of us, but inconvenient for you).

Police officers who work shifts will prioritize sleep over healthy meal preparation and often end up eating (really unhealthy) fast food during the night shift. Besides donut shops and pizza, what else is open at 3 a.m.? If you're driving during the day, how many restaurants have parking for semi-trailers? And what are you to do when nature calls and you're on the highway? 

For those who work on the road, there are significant occupation-based factors that interfere with health, but with a little knowledge and creativity, nutritious meals that will keep you healthy and alert at work can be prepared with minimal effort.

Problem Areas
1.     Excess sodium (limit: 1,500 mg/day)
2.     Excess dietary fat (limit: 75 g/day; avoid partially hydrogenated fats/trans fats) 
3.     Refined sugar & grains (white bread, white pasta, white rice…)  
4.     Dehydration

1. Too much sodium: 
The daily sodium limit for adult men and women is 1,500 mg a day. Fast foods are laden with sodium. Here are a few examples:

Sodium (mg)
Tim Hortons Bagel with cream cheese
760 mg
Egg McMuffin
820 mg
Wendy’s Baconator (single)
1,440 mg
Burger King Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich
1,420 mg
McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese
1,190 mg
Pizza Pizza Pepperoni Slice (walk-in)
1,600 mg
Pizza Pizza Meat Supreme Slice (walk-in)
2,290 mg
Subway Cold Cut Combo
1,940 mg
Subway Meatball Marinara
1,900 mg

These numbers are astounding! You would never put this much salt in your food, but the sodium in fast food isn't even coming from salt. A lot of it is from MSG (monosodium glutamate) or other artificial flavors, or from sodium-based preservatives. Salt in excess of 1,500 mg leads to a build-up of fluid (water retention) and high blood pressure. If a pepperoni slice at Pizza Pizza was your only source of sodium in a day, it wouldn't matter - but when it's compounded with sodium from other fast foods, cold cuts, canned foods, soups, sauces, condiments and a little more from the salt shaker, it can be deadly.

Potassium is needed to balance sodium. Don't wait to be diagnosed with high blood pressure. Introduce potassium-rich foods into your diet now.

2. Too much fat: 
It's easy to get fat when you're sitting a lot, and it's even easier when the foods you eat provide more calories from fat than from other nutrients - and we're not talking omega-3 or any healthy fats. Instead, fast food offers trans fat, saturated fat (again, not from good quality grass-fed beef) and bad ingredients that raise LDL cholesterol (the 'bad' kind):

Fat (g)
5 Guys Hamburger
43 g
Wendy’s Baconator (single)
40 g
Burger King Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich
36 g
McDonalds Quarter Pounder with Cheese
26 g
Harvey’s Original Cheeseburger
23 g
Burger King Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich
16 g

You're making important decisions at work. If you drive a truck, it's imperative that you stay alert every moment that you're on the road, plus you're dealing with complicated machinery that is prone to breaking down. If you're a cop, at any moment you could be making a life-threatening move - and you may not be the only one carrying a weapon. It's not something we think about, but good blood flow to the brain is crucial for cognition, memory, and good decision-making. It's a priority! The 'good' fats from your diet help keep your arteries healthy and your circulation flowing. Whether you eat fast food or not, arm your arteries with a minimum of 1,000 mg of omega-3 fats every day. Supplements are widely available and can be taken any time of the day, with or without food.  

3. Too much of the white stuff:  
White bread, white pasta, white rice, white sugar - refined carbs don't provide any nutritional value. The fibers, vitamins and minerals have been stripped away. Many restaurants have introduced whole grains. Without question, they are definitely the better option over white, but don't expect them to offer a whole lot, especially compared to better quality grains that you could buy at the grocery or health food store. 

Whole grains provide many essential nutrients, especially fiber. No one enjoys being constipated, and sitting doesn't help. Just as a dog needs to walk to 'move' its bowels, we do too. Your body needs a minimum of 35 grams of fiber daily. Since that amount certainly likely isn't being supplied from your take-out meals, introduce extra fiber from other sources such as chia seeds, flaxseed, beans (canned, dried or roasted), oatmeal, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit. Grind up flaxseed into a sealed container and add 1 tbsp. to your meals (why not sprinkle some into a sub or burger?) or into a breakfast smoothie, yogurt or over a salad. When the opportunity presents itself, order a meal with beans or lentil soup. Snack on raw carrot sticks and crunchy raw green beans, red grapes or other fruit, and make a fiber-rich trail mix that you can snack on anytime.  

4. Dehydration:
Hydration is a complicated issue when you're working on the road. You appreciate the importance of drinking water, but stopping for a pee break is inconvenient. Often, it isn't even possible. Caffeine is a mild diuretic and is dehydrating. It actually makes us more tired. Instead, stay hydrated with water, coconut water, natural juices and if you need a caffeine-hit, have a cup of green tea. 

So, what should you eat when you're on the road?  

Start Your Day Off Right with 20 g of Protein
Breakfast sets the stage for your appetite for the entire day. 
Boxed cereal may be quick, but it's not a good breakfast choice. Many commercial cereals contain the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar per serving! A carbohydrate-laden breakfast leads to cravings for sugar and unhealthy snacking later in the day. Instead, protein in the morning is critical for lucid, swift thinking and alertness. 
Combine a protein-rich food with a source of fiber to stimulate digestion, metabolism, and to balance blood sugar. What can we grab that is healthy, quick and easy while we’re running out the door? How about a boiled egg and a slice of whole grain toast? Some Greek yogurt or an apple with natural peanut butter will do the trick, too. Too early to eat? Drink instead - a smoothie or protein shake will provide protein and all the nutrients you need, plus you can sneak in some fruit, fiber and omega-3 oil. 

Protein (g)
Hard boiled eggs
7 to 8 g per egg
Greek yogurt
6 oz. = 10 to 20 g
Regular yogurt
3-6 g per serving
Protein powder
1 scoop = 24 g
High-protein cereal
1 serving = 10 g
Trail mix
5 g per ¼ cup
20 g or more

Mobile Meals: Healthy Eating While At Work
First of all, get a cooler for your vehicle. Use it to store your meals, snacks, drinks and even supplements.

Having the necessary food containers takes the guesswork out portion control and keeps salads and sandwiches from becoming soggy. Stock up on glass or BPA-free containers with tight lids. Use them for:

  • Leftovers
  • Quinoa with tuna salad and a creamy dressing
  • Egg salad
  • Pasta / pasta salad
  • Noodle bowl
  • Rice bowl 
When preparing a meal, cook double the amount and pack half for lunch for the next day. If a chicken salad is Tuesday’s lunch, then a re-usable tub with a press top dressing holder goes a long way. Preparation is pointless if your lunch is left in the fridge. Place a reminder in a visible area to prevent forgetfulness in the morning rush.

Restaurants and grocery store salad bars offer better options than ever before. Spinach or quinoa salads topped with tuna and chickpeas, multigrain or gluten-free pizza crusts, grilled chicken on whole grain bread, and wraps stuffed with grilled veggies are great lunch options for those on the go. Don't wait til the last minute: If you're working a graveyard shift, buy these ahead of time on your next grocery shopping trip or at a restaurant before going to work and pack them in your cooler. 
Healthy Snacking
Apart from a good night’s sleep, eating a snack or meal every 2-4 hours will help keep energy levels (and metabolism) up. Instead of reaching for a chocolate bar or potato chips, arm yourself with convenient healthy snacks. Protein-based snacks like yogurt with berries, rye crackers with natural peanut or almond butter are excellent ideas. An apple or ½ cup trail mix are great snacks too.

Healthy Snack Ideas
Trail mix, Trail mix bars
Nut butter or hummus + crackers
Yogurt cups, Greek yogurt cups
Fruit, Raw veggies & dip
Protein bars
Protein shake (without aspartame)
ShaSha Buckwheat Snacks

Shopping & Stocking
Prepare a list of healthy, portable snacks and shop for groceries on the weekend so that food is available when you need it. A fridge full of food will keep you away from the drive-thru. Stock up on healthy dips like hummus, tzatziki and other healthy dips for snacks, sandwich spreads and vegetable plates. Keep your cupboards stocked with quinoa (cooks in 12 minutes), whole grain rice, pasta, whole wheat couscous (cooks in 1 minute), dried and canned beans, and dried fruit. Pack your fridge (and then your cooler) with organic yogurt cups. Organic yogurt provides more probiotics than non-organic and comes from cows that have not been given hormones or antibiotics. When veggies are getting ‘soft’, chop and toss them into a roasting pan with some herbs and drizzle with a little olive oil. They’ll make a great sandwich filling for tomorrow’s lunch. 

Only 15 minutes of daily exercise is needed to keep your weight stable and your heart and muscles in shape; however those 15 minutes must count. Get it out of the way by exercising as soon as you wake up or right after lunch. Interval training is intense, but it’s the most effective and time efficient form of exercise. For resistance, use your own body weight, dumbbells (secured in your truck) or resistance bands. A pedometer helps you keep track of your total daily movement. If challenging yourself is… a challenge, hire a trainer for a few sessions of one-on-one training.    

  • Include some protein with every meal and snack
  • Eat before you’re hungry 
  • Eat something every 3-5 hours to keep blood sugar levels balanced and energy levels high 
  • Avoid caffeine, sugar (including sweet fruit) and starchy foods close to bedtime

A few resources:
For on-the-go recipes:  LisaTsakos.blogspot.ca
Trail mix recipe: http://lisatsakos.blogspot.ca/2014/04/diy-super-easy-gluten-free-trail-mix.html


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