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Eating on the Run

by Angela Teggin

We live stop-and-go lives. We make the occasional pit stop to fuel up the truck, at the same time downing whatever looks or smells good in order to quell our rumbling tummies. Many of us are probably more concerned about the quality of the fuel we put into the truck than about the fuel that goes in our bellies. Good nutrition is a challenge at the best of times, but for long-haul drivers it can be terribly difficult.

Still, you can make substantial strides towards better health and proper nutrition by simply being more aware of what you eat. There are some essential components, of course, and here they are:

Water is essentially responsible for transporting beneficial nutrients to cells while carting away harmful toxins. Water also acts as a lubricant in the lower digestive tract. It's vital to consume at least a liter of water every day.

Carbohydrates, which are present in natural sugars and starches, are the body's building blocks for energy. But moderation is important here because unused energy is stored as fat. Look to foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Protein is essential for healthy blood, muscles and skin. A protein deficiency may cause a lack of vigor and stamina, muscle weakness, poor mental clarity, low-resistance to infection, and slow recovery from disease. Sources of protein include meat, fish, poultry, soy, milk, beans and eggs.

Fats are the most concentrated source of energy in our diet, but there are different types. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are actually healthy. But an excess intake of saturated fats can lead to blood clots, heart disease and obesity. Whole milk, cheese, red meat, butter and many cooking oils are high in saturated fat and should be consumed in moderation. Seafood, on the other hand, is high in polyunsaturated fat, while nuts and seeds are high in monounsaturated fat, and thus a wiser choice.

Eating right

Understanding how various foods affect the body makes it easier to understand why we should, or shouldn't, eat certain things. Eggs, for example, are an excellent source of protein, but the oil used to fry eggs on a grill can be deadly. First, the oil may be pure saturated fat, or hydrogenated vegetable oil, which can become toxic when heated to a sufficient temperature. Don't avoid eggs; just make sure they're prepared properly. Boiled or poached is better than fried.

Most of the sugars we consume are processed, as opposed to natural. Natural sugar is a valuable source of carbohydrates, while processed sugar is little more than a high-calorie sweetener. As well, processed sugar tends to give you a quick boost of energy, but it lasts only a short time before leaving you feeling lethargic and tired. And unfortunately, many of the snack foods we eat are loaded with processed sugar, so read the labels and try to find a source of natural sugars.

Eat your red meat for supper, but consider how it was cooked. Fried is out, baked or broiled is in. Try a smaller portion, and eat the steak first, followed by the vegetables and salad. This aids in digestion and will help flush the indigestible material through your system.

When it comes to breads, always choose brown or whole-grain bread. The fibrous whole grains are essential to regular bowel movements. If you insist on topping off the morning toast, try honey, jam or peanut butter, or eat it dry. It's really not that bad.

The jury is still out on the long-term effects of caffeine, but coffee is a diuretic and robs the body of its required moisture. As a result, if the body is used to a high coffee intake, it will retain more water than usual to compensate for what the coffee causes it to expel. Try juice or water instead of that third or fourth cup of coffee.

The healthy choices really are as abundant as their fatty, nutrient-deficient counterparts. It can be easy to make the right food choices so long as you care about your health and are willing to pay attention to the foods you eat. A busy life is no excuse. Try to become an informed eater, and maybe ask your favorite truckstop operators to provide a healthier menu.

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