Each year millions of people make New Year's resolutions to improve themselves and their health. Eating a better diet is one that is commonly made...and commonly broken – usually within a few weeks. Everyone starts with the best of intentions. But changing unhealthy habits means making long-term lifestyle changes. It is challenging, particularly for truck drivers, when access to healthy food options is limited.
Truck stops are not known for having a wide variety of healthy snacks, but there are better alternatives to excessively salty and sugary snacks. Here are ten truck stop snack foods that can help you stay on track with your healthy eating goals this year:
Fruits and veggies
The original "convenience" food. Fruits such as apples, bananas and oranges are usually readily available at truck stops. Many locations carry pre-packaged, single servings of fruits such as grapes, pineapple and watermelon, and veggies such as broccoli, carrots and cauliflower. However, avoid sugary dips or dressings that add extra calories.
Nuts are a great way to add protein to your diet and are a better alternative if you crave crunchy snacks such as potato chips. They also contain monounsaturated fats which can help lower cholesterol. A common pitfall people make when snacking on nuts is selecting honey-roasted or salted varieties. These add extra calories and sodium which work against nutritional and other health goals.
Sunflower, Pumpkin and Chia Seeds
Sunflower seeds contain high levels of vitamin E, which serves as an anti-inflammatory, and can help offset the effects of arthritis. Studies have shown that pumpkin seeds may help improve insulin regulation and prevent complications from diabetes. Chia seeds absorb water and expand up to ten times their size, helping you feel full. But be careful to follow serving size recommendations on these products – they are full of fiber.
Yogurt can have many health benefits as long as you avoid a common misstep made by most yogurt-eaters. Rather than choosing fruit-flavored yogurt which adds extra sugar and artificial flavors, opt for low- or non-fat plain yogurt. It's a good source of vitamin B-12, which may help prevent symptoms of depression. If you need some extra flavor, try adding fresh berries or granola (see below).
Oatmeal has a number of potential health benefits including lowering the risk of heart disease, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, aiding in weight loss, and being nutrient-rich with several vitamins and minerals. You can also boost the benefits of eating oatmeal by mixing in fresh fruit or spices such as cinnamon or ginger, as well as the above-mentioned seeds.
Another example of a healthy food with a common mistake. People often substitute granola for a bowl of cereal, but the recommended serving size of granola is one-fourth to one-third of a cup. Keep in mind the difference in the serving size to avoid lots of extra calories creeping into your diet. Also, granola bars often contain extra sugar and fillers that can add to the calorie count. Check nutrition information on the label to avoid varieties that can sabotage your good dietary intentions.
If your downfall is salty snacks, pretzels may be a good alternative to foods like potato chips or pork rinds. Although lower in calories and saturated fats, pretzels can be extremely high in sodium due to their saltiness. Opting for unsalted pretzels can reduce the chance of introducing too much salt.
The main ingredient in hummus, chickpeas (AKA garbanzo beans), is a great source of protein, fiber and antioxidants – all of which offer numerous health benefits. An added bonus to eating hummus is that it is typically gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free. If you have any of these common food allergies, hummus could be your go-to snacking option. Hummus is available in several flavors and can be a great combination with veggies and pretzels.
Yes, you read that right...beef jerky. BUT, not all beef jerky is created equal. Many well-known brands are filled with MSG and sugar – check nutrition labels and avoid those. The good news is that several new brands are being made from all-natural, grass-fed beef. This means that the beef used to make the jerky is free of hormones and is MSG-free. When made from natural ingredients, beef jerky can be a good source of protein and contain as much heart-healthy omega-3s as fish.
Popcorn is healthy? You bet! So long as you avoid those unhealthy "extras." You know, the extra butter, cheese, caramel and other flavored toppings that tack on lots of calories, fats and oils. Also, popcorn is high in antioxidants called polyphenols which help prevent degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The lure of chips, soda and candy is tough to resist. But replacing these snacks with healthier options with better nutritional value can help curb cravings and keep you on track with resolutions and overall health goals.
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