10 Dietitians Share Diabetes Prevention Tips for Truck Drivers

So your doctor told you that you have prediabetes (also known as impaired glucose tolerance). Now what?

First the bad news: diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure, and the number one cause of adult onset blindness in the western world. Also, having to use insulin would disqualify you from driving a commercial truck.

Now, for the good news. You’re not alone. According to the International Diabetes Federation, 280 million people have impaired glucose tolerance (prediabetes). And having prediabetes doesn’t immediately mean you will get diabetes. Diabetes is preventable by lifestyle changes.

Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by lifestyle changes.

In fact, even a relatively small change in weight can prevent diabetes.

So in an effort to help out any long haul drivers recently diagnosed with prediabetes, I reached out to a number of Licensed Dietitians to get their take on this question:

“What’s the ONE suggestion you’d give to someone who already has impaired glucose tolerance and wants to prevent diabetes, but spends most of their time on the road, with nothing but truck stop food available to them?”

I am very grateful for the useful, actionable suggestions I got from these 10 healthcare professionals.

Lara Field Registered Dietitian.jpeg
ONE suggestion to someone with impaired glucose tolerance…

THINK WHAT YOU DRINK!
- Rather than choosing sugar-rich drinks such as soda, juice, lemonade, choose WATER instead! The best thing you can do for your body to prevent diabetes is give it a chance to get hungry every few hours, instead of giving it a constant dose of sugar through beverages. Not only is the limiting the quantity and choosing the right type of carbohydrates (whole grains) important to diabetes prevention, but also timing meals appropriately is vital to prevent insulin insensitivity. Want more? Many people with impaired glucose tolerance can reverse this by simply losing weight. One 24 oz serving of soda typically has about 300 calories. Thus, by removing this on a daily basis, you can lose about 2.5 pounds PER MONTH!
— Lara Field, MS, RD, LDN
Judy Kolish.jpg
I would have them stock their trucks with more shelf stable foods that do not require refrigeration such as dried fruits and nuts, whole grain crackers peanut butter or another nut butter, whole hand fruits, lower sodium turkey jerky without nitrates, energy bars. If a small refeigerator is available then yogurts and lower sugar granola, cut up fruits, lowfat cheese.
— Judy Kolish, RD LDN CDE
Eric Paul Meredith
My advice for truck drivers is to prepare food in advance and set an eating schedule. They should get food from a grocery store versus a fast food chain. Also, truck drivers should invest in a mini-fridge adaptable for cars, which allows them to bring food for the road.

Examples of prepared foods include:

-Healthy beverages (natural ingredient smoothies, 100% fruit and vegetable juices, sparkling water, etc.)
-Whole fruit
-Sandwiches and salads
-Healthy snacks (trail mix, granola bars, popcorn)

In addition to being prepared, truckers should set an eating schedule to avoid excessive snacking.

Hope this helps,
— Eric Paul Meredith, MEd, MS, RDN, CHES, CPT
Lou Ann Chvatal.jpg
Arnas, the ONE suggestion I have for a truck driver with impaired GT is this: make at least one of your daily meals a bag lunch that you’ve packed at home. Here’s the lunch recipe:
one bag of fresh veggies; ¼ cup unsalted nuts; one hard-boiled egg; one piece of fruit; one bottle of water.
— Lou Ann Chvatal , MS, RD, LDN
Kelly Reeser RD LDN CDE.jpg
If I had one piece of advice it would be to avoid all sugary drinks: soda, juice, sweetened teas, energy drinks, lemonade, etc.. High blood sugar can make you thirsty and reaching for sweetened drinks makes it worse. Stick to water and try to keep a regular eating schedule, avoiding going longer than 3-4 hours without food. If you don’t have time to stop for a meal, choose protein snacks like unsalted nuts, sunflower seeds, cheese sticks or beef jerky (keeping an eye on the salt content) or pack a cooler at home and fill it with sugar-free drinks, precut veggies, fresh fruit, and sandwiches.
— Kelly Reeser, RD, LDN, CDE
Rosanne Ainscough Certified Diabetes Educator.jpg
Most truckers feel they can’t change the way they eat because they are at the mercy of what food is available at truck stops. While this is true to a certain extent, there are ways to get some healthier food options. Most Super Walmart stores have room for truckers to pull in a park. These stores offer fresh fruits and vegetables, many already cleaned and cut up. The one group of foods that you are least likely to find at truck stops is fresh produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables are lower in calories and higher in fiber and nutrients. Get a cooler and always carry some fresh produce with you. Including more fresh fruits and vegetables in your meals or snacks is one strategy to help reduce your risk of developing diabetes.
— Rosanne Ainscough, RDN CDE
Jamie Vespa Registered Dietitian.jpeg
My biggest piece of advice would be to avoid sugary beverages, especially soda and energy drinks. Id recommend for them to always keep water on hand to stay hydrated and if they’re wanting something with flavor, add a calorie-free flavor enhancer such as Crystal Light or MiO.
— Jamie Vespa RD, LDN
Laura Brieser-Smith.jpg
Pay attention to high carbohydrate foods. This includes foods such as bread, rice, pasta, cereals, tortillas, crackers, etc. One should eat smaller portions of these foods and try to choose less processed, higher fiber options whenever possible. One should also limit the amount of high sugar beverages and foods consumed.
Trying to get more exercise throughout the day (even if it is just short bouts of walking) is very important, too.
— Laura Brieser-Smith, MPH, RD, EP-C
Sylvia Klinger Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist.jpg
Here are my top tree tips for a truck driver (love helping them as I have a number of cousins who drive trucks and have help them frequently) with impaired glucose tolerance who spends most of the day driving:

1. Pack your meals so you have enough protein, veggies, and your allowed dairy, grains and fruits for the day. Some trucks come equipped with a refrigerator and a small pantry so pack them up with cut up veggies (red peppers are my fav), hard boiled eggs, low fat cheese rounds, wedges or sticks and plenty of low calories beverages, etc.
2. Carry some stretch bands, jumping ropes, or squeeze balls to get some movement at rest stops.
3. Get the rest you need so your body recovers and can go the distance.
One more: check your blood sugars during the day so you know how much you need to eat.
— Sylvia Klinger, MS, RD, LDN, CPT
Hannah Roosevelt Certified Nutrition Support Clinician.jpg
Get it early! Do everything you can to prevent diabetes because if you thought preventing diabetes was hard, managing the disease is even more difficult.
MOVEMENT is one of the best things you can do. I know, I know. Difficult to do if driving all the time. Try to fit steps and movement in when you can. Can you do some jumping jacks or a jog around the truck with each time you stop? Park as far away from the building/rest stop restaurant etc to get in some extra steps.

Physical activity is the special sauce when it comes to managing your blood sugars. With movement your muscles can use the sugar in your blood WITHOUT needing insulin. Diabetes occurs when you don’t make enough or can’t use your insulin so you can’t use the sugar in your blood. So those extra steps can really go the mile in terms of preventing diabetes.
— Hannah G Roosevelt MS, RD, LDN, CNSC

Themes

There's some themes that emerge from the suggestions of these ten dietitians.

  • Limit your consumption of sugary beverages
    • If you're not sure if a drink has sugar, just look on the back at the "nutrition facts", and it will tell you how much sugar is in it.
    • Water, Water, Water
  • Stock up with healthy snacks and foods beforehand
    • Vegetables are a great snack high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals
    • Most fruits are high in vitamins and minerals, BUT also high in sugar
  • Do your best to avoid processed foods
  • Get some movement into your day
    • Walking is a great physical activity, no gym membership required.