On the road 101

In April 2023, Trucker's Health6 MinutesBy Laura HulleyApril 27, 2023

I present the Trucker’s Cheat Sheet – six simple tips to stay healthy when out on the roads. Tear this out and keep it handy as you travel through the beautiful New Zealand countryside.

Tip 1 – Navigating bakeries

Let’s face it, when you’re knackered, making your lunch every day isn’t always doable. I am realistic and understand that truckers will stop at bakeries and other convenience stores to get their food fixes. Bakeries aren’t known for their nutritious options, but there are a few good choices hidden among the pies and pastries. The best options are to grab a filled roll or wrap and a bottle of water (flavoured water if you like). Another drink option is a zero-sugar fizzy or energy drink. Not everyone craves water when they’re exhausted, but opting for a zero-sugar version of your favourite drink is much better than the full-sugar one.

Tip 2 – Stretch the legs (and body)

It’s not always practical to stop to stretch your legs but try to get out and walk down the street for five minutes at every opportunity. If you feel silly roaming the streets, you could find a quiet area and take five or 10 minutes to stretch your legs, back, arms and neck.

Most people get extremely tight and stiff when seated for long periods – the body screams out for movement or a good stretch. I’ve written about stretching in the past, and you can also google stretches on your phone and follow along. You don’t need to do intricate yoga poses (unless you want to). A basic stretch for each muscle group should suffice.

Tip 3 – Take a water bottle

The last thing you want to do is stop every 30 minutes for a toilet break – but drinking water is so important. Staying hydrated is crucial for everyone, but especially for people who spend a lot of time driving and need to concentrate when operating machinery.

They say you should aim for eight glasses or about 2.5 litres of water daily. Try to drink a litre by lunchtime and another by 5pm (depending on your bedtime). You’ll notice a world of difference in your energy and ability to concentrate if you stay hydrated throughout the day.

Tip 4 – Navigating drive-thrus and fast food

If you stop off for Maccas or KFC, it can be near on impossible to find a healthy option among the hearty burgers and oily fries – but there are a few simple swaps and tricks. I understand that people don’t go to fast food outlets for the health benefits, but you can make slightly healthier choices when you’re there.

For example, much of the sugar and calories are in the drinks, chips and sides that come with your main meal. If you opt just to get the burger, you are saving a lot of unnecessary calories – and, let’s face it, it is usually the best part anyway. Burgers can be high in calories, but at least they have some carbohydrates, fats and proteins, making them, in essence, a balanced choice. Surprisingly the shakes, aioli/sauces and fries can often have more calories than a burger and are far less filling.

Tip 5 – Get some sleep

It’s easier said than done, but try and grab every opportunity to get some sleep. Put your phone on silent, turn off all screens, be as comfortable as possible and aim to get good quality sleep. I know bedtimes can be late and wake-ups early, but if you make an effort to make the most of every minute of sleeping opportunity, it will make a big difference to your energy levels the next day. We can have so many distractions during sleep, especially from our phones and screens – so it’s essential to try and eliminate these factors as best as possible.

Tip 6 – Make your lunch as often as you can

I’ve given you good tips for making good choices at bakeries and convenience food stores, but ideally, making your lunch at home is the best option. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet feast. It can be as simple as a ham and lettuce sandwich, a few pieces of fruit, and maybe something you could heat up if the opportunity arose – like soup or leftovers.

It can make mealtimes more consistent because the food is already on hand, rather than you having to wait for the next convenient place to stop for food which could be 10 minutes or two hours away.

If you try some of these simple swaps, tips and tricks, I guarantee you will feel and be healthier. Working on your health and fitness doesn’t mean making drastic and unsustainable choices. It’s just a matter of simply taking what you usually do and making minor tweaks to improve your nutrition and overall wellbeing.