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Nutrition Tips for Shift Workers on the Road

Eating healthy while spending your day on the road takes some planning.  You may find it challenging to make healthy food choices, especially when you’re on the go. Read on to get menu ideas to help make healthy eating easy!

What are some tips to help me eat healthy on the road?

  • Try to bring homemade meals and snacks with you. As much as you can, pack food made at home. It will likely be healthier than the food you will find on the road. Check out the meal and snack ideas below.
  • Make smart choices when eating out. Check out these tips when eating out at all your favourite types of restaurants.
  • Try to eat regularly. Aim to eat around the same times everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner to help maintain a healthy eating pattern.
  • Don’t wait until you’re too hungry to eat. Be sure to include healthy snacks during your shift to keep your energy levels up. Include a mid morning and late afternoon snack as part of your workday. Avoid snacks high in fat, sugar and salt.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Fill a large reusable water bottle with fresh water that can be refilled.  Choose whole fruit over fruit juices most often. Limit sweetened drinks like pop.
  • Watch the caffeine. Limit intake of coffee, caffeinated pop and energy drinks. Include no more than 3 cups (750 mL or 24 oz) of regular coffee or 8 cups (2 L or 64 oz) of black tea per day. Choose decaffeinated drinks if you’d like more than these amounts.

What are some healthy meal and snack ideas?

Use these meal and snack ideas as a guide to help you eat healthy when on the road:

Breakfast

  • English muffin with peanut butter, a hard boiled egg or cottage cheese with a banana on the side
  • Homemade breakfast burrito or breakfast sandwich
  • Quick oats or whole grain cereal topped with canned evaporated milk and a fruit cup packed in water or light syrup on the side

Mid-morning snack

  • A yogurt cup and a high-fibre granola bar (look for 4 grams of fibre or more per bar) or almond coconut granola
  • A handful of dried apricots and almonds

Lunch

  • Cooked chicken breast slices or canned low sodium tuna, mixed green salad and low fat mayonnaise in a whole wheat tortilla wrap
  • Low-sodium canned vegetable soup mixed with black beans and barley or brown rice in a thermos
  • Homemade mini pizza sandwiches or a grilled panini

Mid-afternoon snack

  • Rye crackers with almond butter or low-fat cheese slices
  • Trail mix made of whole grain cereal, raisins and unsalted nuts
  • Pre-washed and cut carrot sticks, cucumbers or peppers with hummus
  • Homemade oatmeal cookies

Dinner

  • Whole grain pasta mixed with tomato sauce, vegetables and lean ground beef in a thermos
  • Wonton burger topped with tomato, lettuce and mustard
  • Homemade chilli with breadsticks

Early-evening snack

  • High-fibre cereal (look for 4 grams of fibre or more per serving) with evaporated milk or soy beverage

How do I keep foods fresh and safe? 

Food safety is important when you’re on the road. Remember these tips to keep your foods safe:

Keep perishable foods at the right temperature 

Perishable foods include all meats, fish, chicken, eggs, anything with mayonnaise, cheese and yogurt.

  • Pack perishable foods in a cooler using ice packs. You can even freeze water bottles and juice packs and use them to keep foods cold. When you need more ice, buy ice cubes/chips and store them in zip lock bags to keep foods cold.
  • Perishable food items should be stored at 4°C or below. Use a fridge thermometer in your cooler to easily read the temperature.
  • Keep the cooler out of the sun and in the coolest part of your car.
  • Keep one cooler for main meals and another for drinks and snacks, if possible.  Restock your coolers often for long shifts, when you can.
  • For shorter trips, pack hot foods likes soups in a heat-retaining thermos.  Hot foods should be eaten when they are still hot.
  • Throw out any perishable and cooked foods left out at room temperature for more than two hours. Food that is spoiled does not necessarily look, smell or taste bad – when in doubt, throw it out!

Avoid cross-contamination

  • Pack meals and snacks separately in reusable containers and re-sealable plastic bags to keep things easy.
  • Bring lots of napkins, wet wipes, hand sanitizer and plastic forks and spoons.
  • Frequently wash coolers, thermoses, reusable bags and plastic containers that store food.
  • Wash coolers using hot soapy water and sanitize with a mild bleach solution (Mix 5 mL/1 tsp of household bleach and 750 mL/3 cups of water and use it in a spray bottle to sanitize the cooler).
  • Reusable cloth bags should be washed regularly and hung to dry before using again.
  • Wash your hands with soap often. Keep a hand sanitizer gel with you when you’re not able to get to fresh water and soap. 

What do I need to know about crossing the Canadian/U.S. Border?

When crossing the U.S. Border, you must declare all foods. This includes vegetables, fruit, snacks and beverages. It’s a good idea to also declare any food prepared at home, like sandwiches or prepared salads. Plan to restock your cooler with perishable foods from a local grocery store after crossing the border. Don’t forget ice cubes/chips to keep foods cold.

Bottom line

Making healthy food choices is still possible when spending your days travelling on the road.  Use the tips and menu ideas provided to plan healthy meals and snacks to help you feel your best. 

You may be interested in: 

Nutrition Tips for Shift Workers
Top ten tips when eating out
Quick and easy snack ideas
Weight control strategies that work

Last Update – October 18, 2017

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If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.