As a CDL wellness coach, I have heard countless drivers say that they find it difficult to eat healthy while on the road. This may be because of limited time in your schedule, being unable to find accommodating parking for your commercial vehicle, or a lack of healthy food resources in close proximity. Whatever barriers are in your way, making a few adjustments in how you order and eat your next fast food meal can provide you with positive health benefits. I encourage drivers to plan, prepare, and pack meals before going on the road.

When a cheeseburger, French fries, fried chicken, pizza, and hot dogs are your only options for a meal, what’s a driver to do? As the old saying goes, when severed lemons make lemonade. When standing at the fast food counter, you’re faced with foods high in sodium, cholesterol, sugar, and carbohydrates.  If you order a burger, you have the option of adding lettuce and tomato. I encourage you to add both! Most people would choose fries to go with the burger. If you do choose fries, be sure to order a small, and ask for unsalted! Also consider ditching the bun. The white bread bun is an “empty carb” meaning it holds no nutritional value and will turn to sugar and be stored as fat if you are not physically active shortly after consuming it. You are also likely to have feelings of hunger shortly after consuming it.

Go ahead and add your lettuce and tomato to your burger! The lettuce and tomato will add to the nutritional value to your meal. Iceberg lettuce is high in water content. This will help support your daily water intake. If you can double up on the lettuce, go for it. Iceberg lettuce also provides vitamin C, potassium, and calcium. By adding tomatoes to your burger, you are increasing your potassium intake while lowering the amount of bad cholesterol you might be consuming from your burger and fries. Potassium is able to combat against foods high in sodium. This is certainly beneficial to individuals with high blood pressure. Tomatoes also have lycopene, which is an antioxidant that supports heart health. As for the fries, try dipping them in a little ketchup without adding any salt. If time allows, use a knife and fork to cut your burger and enjoy every bite of your meal. Cutting your burger and chewing each bite slowly also allows more time for digestion. Drinking water before during and after your meal is equally as important. This gives your brain a chance to catch up with your stomach to let it know when you are full.

Don’t waste calories on drinking soft drinks that are full of sugar. One 16oz can of Pepsi is about 200 empty calories. Like empty carbohydrates, empty calories hold no nutritional value. When ordering your drink, choose water. If you’d like to spice it up, add a little lemon and/or cucumber if they are available. The lemon will support the digestion process of the meal, provide additional vitamin C, and possibly support you with weight loss goals. Cucumbers support hydration and flush out toxins from the body.

The best thing a driver with limited healthy food options can do is to stay mindful of portion size! Never supersize your meal. If you must have fries, choose the small size. Limit the amount of mayonnaise and other creamy dipping sauce condiments. Try to stay away from the pizza and biscuits, as they are carbohydrates that can slow you down and ultimately make you sleepy and have minimal nutritional value.

The objective in eating any meal is to increase nutritional value by choosing sustainable foods that are high in protein, vitamins, and fiber, and low in sodium, sugar, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. This is especially important for CDL professional drivers who are at higher risk of developing a chronic health decease due to the nature of the profession.

Leonora Ellis MA, WLM