Medicine For People!

August 2017: Nutrition for Road Warriors

hamstring muscles
By Kuha455405 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Nutrition for Road Warriors

Several times a week, a road warrior comes through my door. She may drive an interstate truck, or perhaps regional sales tasks take him away from home for several nights at a time.

Among their various problems, they often mention this one: what to eat on the road.

We all face that problem from time to time when we're hungry, far from home, and there's no option nearby except the fuel station convenience store. Recently I walked through three such stores and made of list of what you should choose to eat.

Right Mindset

It's important to have the right mindset in this situation. First, think of yourself as a forager. There's lots of food on those shelves, but most of it is carbs, candy, and carbonated or sugary drinks. This is a good situation for you, because other people buy these things, allowing the store owner to keep the door open so you can come in and buy the good stuff. Or the pretty good stuff, anyway. Sure, you'd be better off in a food co-op, a Whole Foods, or a Central Market, but you're out here in the wilds of America and this is what you've got to work with.

Second, know that I am not aware whether you're a vegetarian or vegan, keep kosher, or are allergic to catfish. In all that follows, ignore what doesn't work for you.

Third, while you are in there, if you see something reasonably healthy, stock up. You may not find any more roadkill for many miles, so think like a chipmunk and have some extra acorns pushed away in the side of your cheek.

Here are some of the better options I found in my survey of such convenience stores:

Convenience Meats

  • Beef jerky
  • Unrefrigerated cured sausage
  • Canned tuna fish
  • Canned sardines

Refrigerated foods

  • Deviled eggs
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cheese
  • Sliced turkey and ham
  • Quiche
  • Fruit cup
  • Several kinds of salad (if they have spinach, choose that)

Frozen Foods (assuming that the store will let you use their microwave or that you have one in your truck cab, suitcase, or motel room)

  • Amy's frozen potpie
  • Hungry Man frozen dinner
  • Lean Cuisine dinner
  • Burrito

NOTE: ignore the frozen stuff with too many carbohydrates and not enough vegetables

Canned Foods

  • Pork and beans

Packaged Foods

  • Noodle soup (If the store carries eggs, the easiest way to cook an egg is to nuke the noodle soup and break a raw egg into it. The hot water will cook it in about two minutes if you break the yoke and stir. If you've scored a package of prewashed fresh spinach somewhere, add it to the soup. You can nuke the spinach first if you like.)
  • Luna bar
  • Clif protein bar

Healthy Snacks

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Nuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Wasabi peas
  • Tortilla chips or rice crackers (good with salsa, bean dip, hummus, or guacamole)
  • Apples, oranges, bananas


  • Odwalla or Naked fruit juice
  • Coconut water (40 calories per pint compared to 210 calories for most canned/bottled sweet drinks.)
  • V-8 juice (70 calories per can)
  • Tap water (Bottled Water Concerns, Bottled Water Waste)

NOTE: The only time I buy bottled water is when I need the bottle. The bottles last a long time.

In your own foraging, you will find many of these foods common to most convenience stores, and others found less often. You will learn which chains in your area are more likely to carry the food you like.

Easy-to-Remember Principles

Now, just in case you are the one reader who doesn't print this out and keep a copy in your wallet or purse, here are some general principles.

Count the Calories in that Carbohydrate

For many years, cereals were touted as healthy food. But just about all the cereal you find on the shelf in a convenience store today contains unhealthy amounts of sugar. Avoid them.

You notice I list eggs, sausage, and other meats as good things to eat. Check out our video "Understanding Weight Gain" for more about why. The past generation or two in the United States has been raised to believe that fat is bad for you. As a consequence, people have traded their morning bacon and eggs for pancakes with syrup. But several observational studies have shown that most people can eat at least two eggs a day without budging their cholesterol. Our switch away from our traditional intake of protein and fats, towards a diet high in nutrient-poor carbohydrates has proven disastrous to the national waistline.

Count the Calories in that Drink

When choosing drinks, look at the calories. A typical soft drink can have the same calories as three eggs. Soft-drink calories are as empty as a calorie can be.


Choose whole fruits over fruit drinks, even healthy ones such as Odwalla. There is irreplaceable fiber in whole fruits.


When choosing an entrée item, select something with vegetables in it. Noodle soup is okay, but it needs a salad with it. Or choose something frozen that contains vegetables. If you want to get technical, an olive is a fruit, but you can count olives and pickles among the healthier snack foods in a convenience store.


Beans or legumes do not officially count as vegetables. They don't have all the micronutrients a vegetable does. But they contain great fiber, are excellent protein builders, and are much healthier than 90% of what you're going to find in a typical convenience store. Hummus and bean dip, like any other legume-based foods, are filling and nutritious.


You need protein. Your metabolism can be compared to the boiler in a steam engine. Carbohydrates, like paper, burn quickly and are gone, not producing much power. Protein and fat, like substantial oak timber, burn slowly and strongly, keeping your engine powered up.

Trace Nutrients

Trace nutrients include vitamins and minerals. They hide inside that apple, that potpie, those nuts and seeds and olives. The trace nutrients in tomatoes and spinach strengthen your eyes. My foraging list above was chosen with an eye towards trace nutrients as well as toward the macronutrients (the healthy carbohydrates in vegetables, the healthy fats in fish, the necessary protein).

Keep On Truckin'

As a forager, you don't want to be the slowest one in the pack. You may be tired from sitting in that truck all day or waiting around in someone's office, but please, please, please when the day is over get your behind outside and move it a couple miles on your own legs. Get in some deep breaths. Otherwise no matter how healthy the roadkill you choose in the convenience store, your muscles aren't going to stay fit, your mind won't be as clear, your digestion won't work as well, and your food is not going to be as good for you as it could be.

Because what is that good food for? It's food for life, for your life's purpose, you spirit warrior.



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Medicine for People! is published by Douwe Rienstra, MD at Port Townsend, Washington.