What do Semi Truck Drivers Eat in the USA
The trucking lifestyle isn’t exactly ideal for a proper eating schedule, with drivers either scrimping on snacks or putting on pounds. Depending on the load being carried and where destinations tend to be, there are various options open to those who drive around in a truck all day.
Perhaps the most common solution for such an on-the-go lifestyle is eating at the truck stops that may not exactly offer the healthiest fare. A solution that’s growing more popular in response to rising health issues among truckers is preparing food beforehand and bringing it onboard.
A harsh reality for this type of job is that “if the wheels ain’t turning, you ain’t earning,” and what, when, or where one eats get narrowed down quite fast. Let’s break down the options available to truckers these days.
Stops, sit-downs, Subway, and soda
Given the demanding nature of an interstate semi-truck driver’s job, truck stops are easily the most convenient option out there. Putting the stereotypical image of a scruffy, stocky, chain-smoking, tough-guy trucker aside, a truck stop is exactly what any driver needs.
Most of them offer traditional American classics like all-day breakfast menus, sandwiches, burgers, and meals that have the standard protein, starch, and vegetable servings. Others even have a buffet.
This option is ideal if you barely have any time to be picky or even think about what to eat. After all, Macca’s, In n’ Out, Popeye’s, Subway, and the like have legitimately tasty food. Surviving on these, at least until one can get home to the wonderful cooking of Ma or the wife, fits the schedule perfectly. In the long-term, of course, it’s not healthy.
A nicer option is if a truck stop has a proper sit-down restaurant on-site or even nearby. These are great, especially if they have food that aren’t easy to cook, like turkey wings or steak burgers with thickly sliced rare cheeses.
One lesser known hurdle that semi-truck drivers in particular must face is the limited parking that some stops and sit-downs have.
Semi parking woes: Space and weight capacity
Lots of restaurants have truckers as repeat customers. In order to gain this reputation, though, there are quick requirements that must be met.
Number one, the most obvious, is easy access from the interstate. Driving far from the exit ramp and deep into side streets isn’t really fun for a hungry trucker who just wants a break.
Number two, as previously hinted at, is the parking. If a parking lot can’t support the weight of a gigantic vehicle, then the jury’s out.
Some restaurants even have signs that read “no semis” to avoid the parking lot getting damaged or cracked up, since turns and pivots put great pressure on the ground beneath the tires.
Aside from the weight capacity, there’s also space to consider. Lots with areas dedicated specifically for trucks are a godsend. More often than not, a trucker who forces his vehicle into an area without ample space could get boxed in by other cars or have difficulty finding a place to turn and exit later.
Basically, you can only enjoy a meal if you’re sure you can get your truck in and out of the place easily. A big rig is a big responsibility.
Struggling to eat healthy
Now that we know what majority of truckers eat and why this is so, let’s delve into the unpleasant consequences.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the occupation obesity list in the U.S. is topped by truck drivers. Due to heavy dependence on convenient, cost-effective comfort foods, truck drivers don’t get the ample nutrition needed to maintain healthy lifestyles.
After all, they eat what most people eat on road trips, which isn’t exactly meant for everyday consumption. So, aside from obesity, high blood pressure is also common among long-haul, interstate semi-truck drivers.
In fact, according to a study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, seven in 10 drivers also have risk of developing diabetes and heart disease in addition to obesity and high blood pressure.
Personal health is also not the only motivator to eat better. Eating a lot of greasy, heavy food causes one to get easily tired and sleepy, which is dangerous given the job.
In short, it’s a win-win situation for drivers to have a healthier diet.
Salads, snacks, and self-prepared food
Since what a trucker eats is now a major health concern, there’s been a growing movement to eat healthy and prepare food to bring instead of relying on the same old stuff at the stop. To address those who are too busy to deal with dieting, some stops have begun to offer healthy options as well.
Salads and other lighter fare are more common menu options now, with calories listed next to the food items clearly an effort to address the growing issue. Travel plazas also offer gyms for drivers with time to spare.
The best and most recommended solution as of late, however, is preparing your own food.
From packaged deli meats and canned food to burger patties and steaks, having a little something to cook is now a popular thing among truck drivers. Usually they store such food items in a sidebox or mini refrigerator onboard and carry a gas grill or small oven so that one can easily have lunch.
With basic cooking utensils, a trucker can also stop at the side of the road and have a quick meal in the middle of a barren landscape. No need to settle for greasy food at a truck stop miles away.
Perhaps the biggest downside is washing up. But then again, those lazy to do the dishes can just pop a sandwich or two in the oven, especially when on a tight schedule or when stuck in a busy interstate route.
For those who don’t trust themselves to cook reliably in the middle of the day, cooking at home and then storing the food in foil tins to be heated up is a great alternative. From buttered veggies to lightly seasoned fish, this tactic opens up lots of food options that stops don’t have.
When it comes to snacks, little things like yogurt, milk, cereal, grapes, and cheese can be stored easily in a mini fridge.
Stick to the junk or switch to healthier fare?
Overall, food and snacks prepared beforehand can be cheaper, healthier, and more convenient. But for sure, fast food joints and junk food all day every day is fun and easier.
Harsh reality with junk is, you’ll probably lose your career when you’re too unhealthy to function in a few years.
Yes, eating healthy means a trucker will have to put aside some time for shopping and food prep. But if the rising trend of semi-truck drivers minding what they eat is any indicator, it is definitely much more worth it.