Using slow cookers can be a great way to keep money in your pocket and the inches off your waist. I mentioned a few tips about cooking times in my last post, but barely scratched the surface on the benefits these handy pots can give.
Nutritionally speaking, using a slow cooker can give you an alternative to the high-fat, high-calorie foods most of you are limited to at truck stops. Making meals in your trucks gives you more control of what you eat, allowing you to incorporate more nutrient dense foods, like veggies, into your diet. Making a hearty stew, for example, with chicken broth, beef bits, carrots, canned corn, potatoes and some celery can provide your body with a good amount of fiber, and other vitamins and minerals you wouldn’t be able to get from a cheeseburger and fries.
Now, in terms of your budget, using a slow cooker can help cut back on the amount you spend on food. Using the example above, the ingredients for a stew would put you back about $15 at your closest Walmart and can make enough stew for about 6 servings. Compare that to the $5-10 you spend, per meal, at a fast food restaurant and see how much you can potentially save on food.
Here is a link that can give you more information about slow cooking in a truck, as well as some recipes to use.
Home Cooking on the Go
There’s nothing better than a hot home-cooked meal, especially after a long day of work. Though it might seem impossible to cook while on the road, it’s not that hard to do at all. With a little planning and my favorite kitchen tool, cooking in your truck can give you a nice break from truck stop food and a more nutritious meal, as well. This is all possible thanks to the amazing slow cooker.
Some of you may already use one in your truck, and I hope you’ll agree that they are convenient and easy to use. Slow cookers range from $15-$40 and can hold anywhere from 1-7 quarts of food. These tiny pots take up little space and need little maintenance while cooking and during clean up.
- Cooking with a slow cooker: Most meals are made the same. Throw everything in, place the lid on, put it on Low or High, cook for a few hours, and enjoy (remember
that when your cooking meat, put it on the bottom).
- Cook times on high:
- Stew meats: 4.5 hrs for 3 pounds
- Chicken: about 1 hr per pound
- Pork loin: 5 hrs for 4 pounds
By planning ahead, you can pick up some ingredients during your Walmart stops. Using bits of meat, chicken broth, potatoes, carrots, and rice is a good place to start when making a stew. You can make a small batch for the night, or a large one to feed you for a few days. Just set it up when you start your break, and before your hours reset, you’ll have a great home-cooked meal!
These great cookers can be used to make many different meals, next week I’ll post some recipes that are easy to make and cost effective.
Most people know what foods are healthy and which ones aren’t, but there seems to be a lot of haziness when it comes to understanding why it matters. I’ve talked about the way some foods have more nutrition than others but what does it all mean in the end? I guess what it really comes down to is giving our bodies more calories than it needs. A good way to explain this is with water and soda.
Most people would agree that water is better than soda, but what does it matter, how does it affect our bodies?
Well, I’ll start by saying that a 12oz can of cola has about 39g of sugar (which is just over 3 tablespoons of sugar) and about 150 calories. To help you gauge how much energy this is, it helps to know that it takes about an hour of walking (at your usual pace) to burn 150 calories.
Let’s admit, everyone loves a cold soda pop every now and again but when we drink a can of it our bodies are given all of this energy that it’s not going to use (unless you’re walking an hour for every soda you drink). Our bodies have become very good at saving these calories (as fat) for a rainy day.
Water on the other hand is simply water; zero calories and zero sugar. So when someone drinks water, they don’t have to worry about the calories that are not being used…because there aren’t any!
So I’ll ask again, why does this matter?
All of this extra fat that our bodies are so keen on keeping will eventually start to over work our bodies. Like doctors are always saying, being overweight can lead to a number of other health problems. But, replacing 3 cans of soda with 3 bottles of water every week can help you drop about 1 pound of weight and will help you feel better, overall (of course everyone’s bodies are different and weight loss happens at different rates).
Though 1 pound isn’t a lot, considering the difference it would make over time is important. 3 less cans of soda every week can add up to 53 pounds in a year by simply cutting out some soda. So even if you’re not ready to make any big changes in your diet, switching out soda for water every now and then can make a ton of difference.
Reading Nutrition Labels
Before I started studying nutrition, I don’t think I ever looked at a Nutrition Facts Label. I thought it was because I didn’t care about the numbers and percentages on it, but really, I didn’t know what I was looking at. I mentioned last week some of the important things on a label (and hopefully some of you took a peek at one over the past week) but I wanted to explain it more clearly. That little box full of lines and numbers not only has meaning, but can easily help you make better food choices.
A label has many different categories, and though they’re all important, I’ll just focus on a few.
Servings: The serving size lets you know the amount of food that all the information is based on. This section also tells you how many servings are in a package (most food items have more than one serving per package).
Calories: This number states the amount of calories that your body will get from one serving of the food. You now know, that not all calories are equal and you should keep this in mind when looking at the rest of the label (having more calories with more vitamins might be better than have less calories and no vitamins).
Total Fat: Fat comes in two basic forms: unsaturated and saturated. A label will give you the total fat and the saturated fat, but subtracting the saturated fat from the total fat will give you the unsaturated fat. A good rule of thumb is to eat more unsaturated fats, they are the healthier choice. Some labels will also list Trans-Fat, and the less of it you eat, the better.
Cholesterol: The thing about cholesterol is that our body makes it on its own, so we don’t need too much coming from our food. When we do get it in food, it will always come from animal products (vegetables are naturally cholesterol-free). For those of you worried about your cholesterol, looking at this number is most important in keeping your heart healthy. Doctors say that eating less than 200mg a day is best for the average person.
Sodium: This number is most important for those of you worried about high blood pressure. The American diet has a very high level of salt, so choosing items with less of it, even just once a day, can help make the biggest difference in your health. The recommended intake for salt is 2400 mg a day.
Total Carbohydrates: Like fat, carbs are also broken down into categories on a label: fiber and sugar. Those of you with diabetes can help control your insulin by spreading out your carb intake (ask your doctors for more info, if you’re interested!). When it comes to fiber, anything from 3-5g or higher, is considered great (and remember fiber can help lower cholesterol!). Sugars, though they are super tasty, should be limited whenever possible.
Vitamins & Minerals: I mentioned last week some of the vitamins and minerals that are listed on a label. No matter which are on the label you’re reading, the advice is always the same: the more the better!
Though this is a ton of information, I feel that it is important for you guys to have it. Companies are required by law to put this info on their food for a reason, but no one is required to teach us how to use it. So whether or not you’re ready to take the next step toward a better lifestyle, here is the know-how. Use some of it, all of it, or none of it, but next time you pick up a snack, look at the label and see what you can read.
Be sure to ask your doctor about any question you have before making a drastic change in your diet.
So I was about half way through my rant about water and fiber, and soluble and insoluble ratios when I realized how dry it was. It was becoming more of a lecture than a blog post; hell, I was getting bored! But thank goodness for Ctrl+Alt+Del!
Though I stated that I would discuss these two topics (which, don’t get me wrong, getting enough of both is very important and I will come back to it, eventually) I figured I was getting a little ahead of myself. So instead, I’ve to decided to start at the beginning.
When it comes to eating right, most people start by looking at their calorie intake. They start counting calories, and restricting calories. This can be helpful if you know what the heck a calorie is.
People throw the word around so much but no one really understands what a calorie is. At the basic level, a calorie is a unit of measurement. Very much like an inch of space, or a pound of weight, there is a calorie of energy. It is the energy our body needs to survive. However, our bodies only need a certain amount of this energy (and every body needs a different amount), but if you add more than it needs, your body will save it for later, storing it as fat. Now, the thing with calories is that they’re not all the same.
When it comes to calories in food, there are two kinds: calories that provide the energy needed to live and calories that also provide your body with nutrients like vitamins and mineral (an example would be fruits or vegetables). All calories give our bodies the energy they need but not all give the vitamins and minerals. Because our bodies only need a limited amount of calories and a certain amount of vitamins and minerals, it’s better to get them both in one package. Essentially, some calories (nutrient-dense calories) will give you more bang for your buck.
Now what does this all mean for you readers? If you’re up for the challenge, try looking at some of the foods you eat and see if they’re nutrient-dense. The label in the back can help decide. By looking at the amount of fiber, vitamins, calcium, and iron that’s listed and going for the item with a higher percentage of each, you can choose the item that is more nutrient-dense (I’ll go into greater detail about these labels next week). Here are some examples of some nutrient-packed snacks that can fit in your truck:
- Nuts: There’s some good nutrition stuffed into these crunchy bite-sized snacks. My only warning with nuts is to watch your salt intake, many of these are heavily salted when roasted. An easy way to reduce the salt intake (for you guys with high blood pressure) is to get the kind that is unsalted.
- Trail-mix: these are perfect for snacking along the road. The salty-sweetness is tasty and better for you than most snack you’ll find at the truck stops.
- Jerky: this stuff is packed with protein and because it’s dehydrated usually carries little fat and low calories, making it a great snack for the road.
- Yogurt: the individual cups sold can keep for about a week or so in your fridge. It makes for a light and sweet snack that is packed with calcium and other good stuff for your bones and body.
- Veggies: for those of you that are ready to take that bigger step toward a healthier lifestyle, carrot sticks and sugar snap peas can last about a week in your truck. Though they might not be readily available at truck stops, many Walmarts keep them stocked in their produce section. They’re very refreshing and crunchy, perfect for these hot summer days. They’re also packed with many vitamins and minerals, not to mention fiber (which can help keep you full longer!).
These are just a few snack options that can help you take a step in the right direction for your diet, but keep in mind, too much of anything thing can be bad. And when it comes to calories, remember to try to give your body more bang for its buck!
A Need for Change
Diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. I mentioned them last week but I’m sure its not the first time you’ve heard of these condition. Over the last few years these diseases have become more and more common in America. Bellies have been growing and the amount of money spent on medical bills has grown just as much. The media will place the blame on many areas. Some say it’s the large corporations backing fast food, others blame the health care system. Though I’m pretty sure we’re all a tiny bit to blame, I believe the biggest culprit is the lack of education on nutrition.
We hear about these conditions and how we can fix it with an expensive pill. What we don’t hear as often as we should is the way nutrition fits into the mix. Though high blood pressure can be reduced with a pill, it can also be reduced by limiting your salt intake. Likewise, high cholesterol which can lead to heart complications can be lowered with medication or by eating adequate fiber. Even if eating a well-balanced diet isn’t realistic for your lifestyle, knowing the facts can help you understand the need for change when it comes to the American diet and may help lower your chances of complications with these disease.
Because our bodies are biologically wired to love foods that are high in fat and salt, and its this same type of food that is available to us everywhere, it will be difficult to make healthy choices. The tips and advice I will be sharing will be easier for some to use than for others. It’s easy to not think about the things we eat. Our lives are busy enough as it is, but in the grand scheme of things, taking some time everyday to think about what goes into our bodies and how it effects our health will help you feel better and live longer. Taking the time to learn how food can impact our bodies is the first step of understand why a change must be made. Changing what we eat may seem like an impossible feat, but even the smallest effort makes the largest difference.
Next week, I’ll be discussing how water and fiber help reduce the risk for heart disease and hypertension as well as easy and tasty ways of fitting them into your truck.
The Business of Eating
Most people don’t think about eating. We eat what we can, when we can and that’s about the end of it. As much as we would like to, our busy lives just don’t allow us enough time or money to eat a balanced diet. Recently, people have started to question what our food is actually made of, which has led to many healthier options and better access to certain foods. It seems that everything these days is vegan or gluten-free, which is important to vegetarians and people who can’t tolerate gluten….and that’s about it.
But what about the rest of us? What about the people who still can’t afford a $5.00 hormone-free, gluten-free salad the size of an appetizer? Or those of us who don’t have time to cook every night because we spend most of our lives outside of our homes? We still have to deal with the cheap, high-fat, high-calorie food that tastes delicious, yes, but contributes to multiple health problems that will end up costing us thousands in medical bills. What about us?
Bottom line is, that a lot still needs to be done when it comes to the food that is available and the population that has always been neglected when it comes to nutrition is you, truckers. You, who have the most important job of bringing food from the farms to the table get gypped when it comes to your own health. I’ve been thinking about why this is since Bill first asked me to start this blog and I still can’t say why.
Whether it’s because it’s too expensive or because it’s just too hard to squeeze an entire kitchen into your truck, the fact still remains that the trucking industry just does not consider nutrition as an important part of your career. This seems a little unfair to me, considering y’all are still expected to maintain a decent level of fitness.
Sure you’re taught how to do your pre-trip inspections and how to keep track of your hours, but no one really teaches you how to maintain a decent diet while on the road. However, you can still be considered unqualified if your medical exam doesn’t meet a certain standard. In fact, DOT can deem you unsafe to drive if you require insulin to control your diabetes, or if your blood pressure is too high (might I mention that type 2 diabetes and hypertension can both be improved, and sometimes even reversed, with a proper diet…just sayin’).
This just doesn’t make sense to me considering that you spend most of your time out on the big road, which means most of your food comes from your fridge (which, lets be honest, can fit about an energy drink and some chips) or truck stop food.
Now, my goal isn’t to give you guys advice on eating your vegetables and packing salads in your truck that will look like your kids’ science project in a couple of days. No, I want to give you guys some tips that are REALISTIC with your career and your lifestyle. I want to provide some information that might help you guys control any existing health problem or even prevent them, because the pure nature of your career leaves truckers with a very high risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.
Take it or leave it, I just want to give you the facts, because it seems that no one else is willing to do so. So whether my advice is helpful or if you think I’m just too green to know anything (and I’ll admit I don’t know how hard it is to be a trucker), I just want to put it all out there, just in case some of you are willing to listen.
New Nutritionist Segment
The Trucking MBA is now starting a nutrition segment for drivers. Our staff nutritionist, Lili, is going to be posting later this week and then each Monday going forward. She will provide information and advice on how drivers can affordably eat healthy meals with the limited space and resources they are restricted by. This new segment is open to questions and comments throughout the week, feel free to post your own experiences and ask Lili for any information you may need through our blog. We are excited to be able to help drivers live and feel better.
Be happy, be healthy…