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Fueling yourself on the road

Photo: American Trucker
Your rig just takes diesel. What you need to run properly is more complicated, especially at night

Nightmare eating. It's the witching hour. You're driving late. It's dark. There is a growling sound in your stomach. What you're about to put in your stomach… chips, cookies, chocolate, would be wrong. This nightmare can end, and you can see the happy results with a slimmer waistline if you can conquer nighttime cravings.

"People who think they are naturally hungry late at night are believing a myth," said Marilyn Smith, a nutritionist who specializes in working with men. "You are not programmed to be hungry late at night. You're programmed to be tired."

Drivers who indeed are hungry at night simply haven't followed a few easy steps to chase away the late-night longing for fatty and unhealthy snacks. Here are ways to change that.

Eat All Day. "Ironically, the one thing that many guys do and think they're cutting calories is what actually can put on the fat," said Smith.

She's referring to the typical pattern of skipping breakfast, gulping cups of coffee, eating a snack in place of lunch, and finally at night eating a hefty meal.

What's wrong with this picture? Three things, said Smith:

1. By not eating more during the day, you make yourself hungrier and hungrier. So by nighttime you're ravenous. It makes grabbing  fast food or ready-made fattening snacks much more tempting.

2. Eating such a heavy dinner makes you less likely to have an appetite in the morning. This makes it easier to skip breakfast, which repeats the daily cycle.

3. Drinking coffee all day might jolt you awake, but caffeine is a stimulant, and thus stimulates your appetite.

What to do, then? Make sure you eat breakfast, even if it's just a protein bar. Take time for a break snack in mid-morning and mid-afternoon, and eat  lunch. You can eat a lighter lunch doing things this way, said Smith, because with the two daily snacks you are having a regular intake of food.

For evening eating, choose a healthy balanced meal with protein and carbohydrates--and keep it on the lighter side. Since you've been eating during the day, you won't need to stuff yourself.

Pack a Snack. A great strategy is to have snacks available in the cab, whether homemade or store-bought, based on a variety of cravings.

"Many times, when we want a late-night snack, we say we feel like chips, candy or whatever," said Smith. What we're really craving are particular types of food--salty, sweet, sugary, crunchy, creamy, etc. "It's actually taste and or texture we're seeking."

If you have alternatives on hand and don't have the chips and candy available, you will make choices that are better for you. Think first about what you're craving, then make the choice.

"If there's an 'always-okay' food you can have, that's  great," said Smith. "For instance, I always allow fresh fruit in the evening, without any quantity limits. I don't put sugar or anything on it, and it's not something I can really overeat. Just knowing I can have berries or melon anytime I want keeps me from feeling deprived. Even if I eat a lot of fruit at night, I'm still not taking in too many calories, and I'm getting vitamins and fiber."

Make Portions. Having snack-sized healthy treats available for daytime or nighttime can be a huge bonus. Why do you grab the pre-packaged stuff like chips and little cakes with cream filling? Because it's convenient, doesn't need cooking, and is small enough that you think you're just having a "little bit." That little bit, of course, can add up to a lot of calories.

Buy snacks you like, along with a monstrous quantity of sandwich-sized locking plastic bags. Divvy up the food, whether it's low-fat cookies, baked  chips, or other snacks, and have 'em ready. Leave some at home and put some in your cab.

"The added bonus with this method is that you'll save money, too," said Smith. "Even if you don't care about saving money, you'll always save calories, because you'll have healthy snacks ready when you need them."

You can do this with fresh fruit or other items, if you are planning to eat them that day. "Sometimes, you don't reach for an orange while driving because you have to peel it, get a paper towel because it will be a mess, and all that," said Smith. "Make it easy by having bite-sized pieces ready to eat."

Make It Hot. A hot drink can be a miracle food to conquer late-night eating, said Smith. "Get hot decaf teas, decaf coffee, or low-fat hot chocolate,  whatever you prefer," advised Smith.

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