According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, eating at fast-food restaurants more than twice per week is associated with more weight gain. So, where can you find healthy fast food options, especially when you are a truck driver with little else to choose from when you are on the road?
At PAM, many of our drivers like to eat out and want to stay healthy, so we have prepared some answers. Below is a list of restaurants and menu suggestions that will help drivers make better on-the-go eating choices.
The fact is, the fast-food industry has been listening to health-conscious people and fast-food chains are now providing more and more healthy meal options. This is great news for truck drivers and other working people who live lives that keep them on the road — and on the go. Now all you need to do is take advantage of these healthy fast food options!
Plan to Develop Your Appetite
Before we jump into the venues and menus, let’s take a minute to talk about planning your meals. We all know planning is an important part of performing as a professional truck driver and meal times should be no exception.
Let’s face it: It’s easy to get overwhelmed when looking at a menu, especially when you’ve been on the road all day. As a hungry driver, you want to eat and EAT NOW! We all know that we don’t necessarily make the best decisions when we are “hangry” so we suggest — for your own sake and the sake of your waistline — that you mentally prepare yourself in advance before mealtime.
Most restaurants now have mobile-friendly menus and nutritional fact sheets and/or online nutrition calculators that you can consult at your leisure. (For example, see Chipotle’s Nutrition Calculator.) These calculators allow you to build your own meal and go in with a plan to make healthy decisions.
Also, if you can, make a weekly plan. Allow yourself to eat out twice a week, but plan to have meals and snacks prepared for the other days of the work week. Of course, your meals will depend on your schedule, which will depend on if you are an OTR driver, a dedicated driver, or if you do regional relays, so just plan accordingly.
Ground Rules for Selecting Healthy Fast Food Options
Beyond planning, there are a few hard and fast rules you’ll want to abide by if you want to stick to healthy fast food options.
Keep fried foods to a minimum.
Allow yourself eating one fried item a week. It’s not really the oil you need worry about when eating — it’s the breaded and deep-fried items that are waistline enhancers.
Limit sugar and sweeteners.
Numerous studies show that sugar contributes to weight gain (it’s a core pillar of diets such as Atkins, South Beach, and Keto), so try to keep your sugar intake as low as possible.
Yes, it’s hard with all the temptations in the truck stops, but just try it out for a month and see how you feel. Sugar may sound comforting in the moment, but the total effects on your body outweigh the addictive insulin rush.
Studies show sugar is linked to impaired brain function, depression, anxiety, cancer, and heart disease. Plus, it causes inflammation in your joints and skin. All good reasons to put your sweet tooth on a leash and maybe one day kick it to the curb entirely.
Eat your favorite vegetables.
Allow yourself the freedom to eat as many vegetables as you want. If you eat vegetables that you like, you will be more satisfied, both mentally and physically. But please don’t force feed yourself trending “super foods” that you don’t really enjoy. That will eventually backfire and make you want to reach for something unhealthy.
Healthy Options at Fast Food Venues
Below are some healthy fast food options that can be found at five of the biggest chains in the country.
Burger King publishes a comprehensive menu with nutritional information here. But our menu suggestion for healthy fast food at the Home of the Whopper is simple: chicken garden salad and some fresh apple fries.
Grab a taco salad, add some steak and fajita vegetables, guacamole, and cheese with salsa for a salad dressing. Basically, anything without a tortilla at Chipotle is a low-carb, healthy fast food option.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
You can use the Kentucky Fried Chicken Nutrition Calculator to build a healthy meal but we recommend the Kentucky Grilled Chicken with a side of coleslaw and green beans for a healthy fast food option.
Panera has lots of great choices. Consider a Greek salad with chicken, or black bean soup with a side salad, or a roasted turkey avocado BLT. Skip the chips and choose the apple as a side for an extra-healthy fast food option.
Wendy’s grilled chicken sandwich is always a great choice. Think about substituting a small chili for French fries as a side since chili will add more protein to your meal and help you avoid that post-carb fatigue.
Now you have the skinny on five different national restaurants where you can find healthy fast food options while traveling. We hope these pointers help put you on the road to better eating!
Want to share your healthy fast food options? We’d enjoy hearing your suggestions! Share your favorite healthy fast food venues and menus with the PAM Transport community on Facebook.
*The information contained in this article should be considered as “educational or informational only”. The Company does not require any employee to engage in any fitness or wellness program on either personal or Company time. Injuries or accidents that occur while participating in voluntary fitness programs are not covered under the Workers Compensation Statutes or the Texas Injury Plan. Employees assume all risk of injury if and when participating in any voluntary fitness or wellness program in or around Company equipment.