We all know truck stop food is not exactly the healthiest fare out there, but sometimes we have no choice but to stop anyway. In the chance that you have to purchase a meal in the convenience shop of the local Flying J, there are a couple tips to keep in mind for a semi-nutritious dinner.
In the video below, Healthy Trucker guru Eric Banter takes a trip through a local truck stop and picks out some good and bad examples of the glorious cuisine you’ll find inside. Check it out and keep reading for some suggestions on how to create healthy meals.
The first thing you should do when deciding to stop at a truck stop for a bite to eat is plan ahead. Not knowing what we want is what often leads us to make poor meal decisions. Before you stop, think about what you’re going to grab for dinner. This way, you won’t wander around aimlessly and become distracted by all the unhealthy snacks. You can just grab what you need and go.
Sidenote: I recommend stopping before you get too hungry. If you’re so hungry you could eat your own foot, you’ll be more tempted to pick up things that probably aren’t the best for you because you’ll be so concerned with just getting something, anything, in your system NOW. A little planning goes a long way.
Make Healthy Choices
Try to find foods at the truck stop that are high in protein and rich in nutrients. Aim to hit all food groups if you can, though that’s easier said than done when grubbing in a truck stop.
Generally speaking, if a product is described as fried or creamy, stay away! It’s probably going to rank pretty high in terms of calories and fat. Refrain from these foods and instead look for grilled, boiled, and baked options (tip: Baked Lays are delicious AND healthier than fried potato chips!).
Also be mindful of added sugar. Many products, even some that don’t taste sugary, add sugar on top of existing natural sugars. In the video above, Eric shows several sweets that contain about 40 grams of sugar each! Your daily allotment of sugar is about 40 grams for a man and 30 for a woman. ONE Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pie contains 41 grams of sugar – almost your entire daily intake. Yes, they’re delicious, but pass them by. Your insides will thank you for it.
Read the Labels
The best and easiest thing you can do to ensure that you purchase a relatively healthy meal at a truck stop is read the labels! If you read the nutritional information, there should be no question about whether something’s good or not. If there’s no nutritional information to be found, ask the attendant.
Checking labels is important as many products these days are marketed as healthy but are in fact terrible for you. Take these packaged peaches. Like Eric says, you’d imagine they’d be healthy, right? And you’d have no reason to think otherwise – we’re taught from the start that fruit is good for us. But after examining the nutritional information, we find that these pre-packaged peaches contain 80 calories and 19 grams of sugar! All because of the syrup they’re packaged in. Stick to fresh fruit instead of syrupy, processed fruit cups.
No one expects you to give up delicious junk food completely. But the key to indulging yourself every now and then is moderation. You can have that slice of pizza, or that hot dog, or that ice cream sandwich once in a while, but make it a special treat, or a reward for reaching a goal. What kills most people’s diets is that these terrible, artery-clogging junk foods become a habit instead of a treat.
Portion control is the easy way to moderate your intake. You can have some potato chips sometimes, but it’s important not to gorge yourself on the entire bag. Something that helps a lot of people to not overeat is to actually measure out oneserving size.
You know how on the back of a bag of chips, it says something like, “Serving size: 12 chips?” Abide by this! Put 12 chips (or however much one serving size is) into a little bowl, and don’t dig back into the bag. Portion control is why diet programs such as Weight Watchers are so successful. You can still eat what you want, but in moderation.
Nutritious Foods Available at Truck Stops
- Beef jerky is high in protein, but also high in sodium content, so don’t make this part of your daily meal.
- Trail mix also has a high protein content while still having some flavor. Opt for the nut and berry blends instead of the uber sugary, chocolatey varieties.
- Nuts are another food high in protein, but make sure to avoid overly sugared and salted flavors. This means no honey roasted peanuts.
- Protein bars
- Yogurt is high in protein and tasty! Look for the Greek blends over regular, sugary cups. Greek yogurt is higher in protein, lower in sugar, and higher in taste (in my opinion)!
- Tuna salad is yes, you guessed it, high in protein. Be careful with tuna salad though as it can contain high mercury levels. Other sandwiches that wouldn’t be too unhealthy are turkey and low-fat ham, but remember not to load them up with mayonnaise and other fatty condiments.
With a little work, truck stop food doesn’t have to be unhealthy. You can’t just barge into the convenience store all willy nilly and pick your dinner out at random. You’ll need to put some thought into it and spend some time checking labels. But with some practice and remembering these tips, you’ll soon learn which foods are healthy and which you should bypass.