Eating Right On the Go

If your service truck is filled with fast food wrappers, consider these tips from registered dieticians for a healthier lifestyle.
Eating Right On the Go
When there’s not enough time to pack a lunch and fast food or convenience stores are the only option, it’s important to make wise choices.

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For those working in the sewer and drain cleaning industry, there’s no such thing as a normal day or schedule. Contractors and technicians are always on the go and can work a wide range of hours. That kind of environment can play havoc on a person’s diet and lead to unhealthy eating habits.

“Planning ahead is essential to eat healthy, especially when you have an erratic schedule,” says Angelica Gronke, a registered dietician with ThedaCare, a seven-hospital system in east and central Wisconsin. “It’s more challenging to eat healthy when you’re not sitting in an office the whole day where you have access to a refrigerator and microwave to prep healthy snacks and meals.”

Whatever the environment, finding the right balance is key to a healthy diet and meal, Gronke says. By eating from a variety of food groups, you’re giving your body the fuel it needs.

To get a better understanding of the different food groups — proteins, dairy, grains, fruits and vegetables — and how much to eat from each, Gronke recommends looking at the government’s website, There are easy-to-understand graphics showing how much of each should be consumed at a typical meal, but the key takeaway is that half the plate should be fruits and veggies. Since many of you are not using an actual plate to eat, she recommends using your imagination to picture what the meal would look like on a plate.

One of the most important parts of any diet is protein. It fills people up and gives them the long-lasting energy they need to make it through their day, says Katherine Zeratsky, a registered dietician with Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“Nuts are a great snack since they fill you up and provide you with energy,” she says. “Protein is really good for holding off people’s hunger.”

Eating protein at lunch is a smart idea, and there are plenty of options available for workers to choose from beyond a standard sandwich on (ideally) whole wheat with cold cuts, Gronke says.

“You could make your own yogurt parfait with Greek yogurt and some cereal or granola on top,” she says. “Or you can have peanut butter, tuna salad or chicken salad on bread. There are lots of options.”

Those packs of tuna and salmon seen on store shelves are also good since they don’t need to be refrigerated. “You can pair them with some crackers and have a great snack or even make them your lunch,” Gronke says. “It’s a nice mix of protein and carbs.”

Fruits and vegetables also need to be an essential part of everyone’s diets, with three to five servings of each recommended.

 “Overall, Americans need to eat more fruits and vegetables so I’m always encouraging people to add those to their diets,” Zeratsky says.

Gronke adds that snacks are a great time to get in these vital foods. “Plan ahead and pack them in a cooler or insulated lunch bag that you’ll have with you on site,” she says.

By the way, a great way to keep food cold is to freeze a water bottle and then place it in the lunch box or bag. It will help keep food cool and as it melts, the person can then drink the water, Zeratsky says. “Food safety is important — you want to make sure you’re keeping cool foods cool and hot foods hot,” she says.

As the weather gets cooler, a thermos is a great option for bringing healthy — and hot — food to any work site, Zeratsky says. Make sure it has a good seal and run hot water through it beforehand to help it stay warm.

Snacks play an important role for people on the go and Gronke recommends consuming about 100 calories or so at each snack. To make sure the snack doesn’t have the calorie count of a meal, she says workers can purchase pre-proportioned snacks – usually crackers – or make their own.

“An apple or cheese stick also make great snacks,” she says.

Beyond looking at what you eat, don’t forget to look at what you’re drinking, she adds. “Drink lots of water” and stay away from sugary drinks.

When there’s not enough time to pack a lunch or snacks and fast food or convenience stores are the only option, Zeratsky says it’s important to make wise choices. Many restaurants now include calorie counts on their menus, so take a look at that when making a decision.

She says convenience stores are also really getting good at offering healthy options such as fruits, healthy sandwiches and other items. “My husband and I were driving and stopped at a convenience store where we picked up a small veggie tray that the two of us shared in the car as a snack.”

For people working non-typical hours, Gronke says it’s OK to eat a little non-traditionally. “If you’ve worked all night and then come home, don’t feel like you need to eat so-called breakfast foods just because it’s the morning,” she says. “Eat what your body is telling you to — within reason, of course. If it wants breakfast food when you wake up in the mid-afternoon, then eat some eggs or another breakfast food.”

It’s also common for people who work non-traditional hours to have problems getting in enough sleep, Gronke says. If people are tired, it’s more challenging to make quality food choices.

“Getting enough sleep is hard if you’re working overnight. The key when you get home from work — even if it’s morning — is to keep the curtains or shades drawn and lights at a minimum to help prepare your body for rest,” she says. “Practice good sleep hygiene, which means staying away from screens — TVs and electronic devices — for about an hour before you go to sleep if possible. Do a relaxing activity to help get your body ready for sleep. When you sleep well, you’ll have more energy to make better food decisions.”


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