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Food on the Road

Food on the Road

Mobile veterinarians face unique challenges due to their constant travel and irregular schedules, often leading to unhealthy eating habits and inadequate hydration. Dr. Ann-Marie Wolfrum, an equine veterinarian specializing in acupuncture in San Diego, understands these challenges firsthand. She advocates for prioritizing hydration, meal planning, and smart grocery shopping to sustain energy and well-being while on the road. Her advice underscores the critical balance between nutritional choices and maintaining peak performance in demanding veterinary practice environments.

6 min read  |  July 17, 2019  |  By Dr. Ann-Marie Wolfrum
vet life
Food on the Road

During my year as a solo intern veterinarian at a referral equine hospital, I ate microwave pizza nearly every night. Like many in this setting, I also devoured any food offered to me or within reach, particularly if it contained sugar. I managed to maintain a normal body shape purely based on calorie expenditure but we all know that these poor dietary choices will catch up with us at some point. For me, it caught up pretty quickly working ambulatory medicine as I greatly increasing the number of hours per week sitting in a truck (well hello there weight gain and sciatica!). It did not take long to realize that major lifestyle changes were required. Now, I am only human. The words “organized” and “disciplined” are not among the top five words I would use to describe myself. However, if I can strive to eat relatively healthy on the road, then you can do it too.

Here are some tips to help those of us who are road warriors, eat the best we can. This is NOT a new topic, and there are hundreds of blogs out there addressing healthy and frugal options. But, these are tips developed for you, straight from an equine ambulatory veterinarian’s mouth.

Drink Water

Okay, Captain Obvious, duh, we know. This is not astrophysics. We should provide the same recommendations to ourselves as we do for our patients. In your truck, do you have free access to fresh, clean, drinking water at all times? If you do, good for you; but are you drinking it?

 If you are anything like me, your day probably starts out with caffeine. Now, people love to argue that coffee doesn’t dehydrate you despite it’s caffeine content. However, those experts may not truly take into account that the number of 8 oz cups of coffee or tea consumed by the average ambulatory veterinarian is, not anywhere near, one cup. I’ll step off my soapbox now, but, be mindful of your caffeine intake.

Ann-Marie’s Favorite Truck Fluids
  • 1 favorite blue 32oz water bottle
  • 32oz mug of herbal tea (afternoon pick me up)
  • Morning caffeinated beverage of choice (usually 16-20oz)
  • 1 gallon of drinking water stored in the back of the truck for refills
  • Summer months: extra 32oz water bottle

During the warmer months, I make sure to have at least two large water bottles stored in a cool place in the truck, within reach of the driver’s seat, at all times. The key phrase is “within reach”. If you can reach it and you are thirsty, you will drink it. If you have to pull over to fill up your water bottle, well, you probably won’t. I used to have a portable cooler that plugged into the cigarette lighter that I kept in the truck for food and beverage only and that was amazing. That cooler died and I have not been motivated to replace it yet. If you have a fridge for your drugs and vaccines, keeping extra water in there can be handy but keep in mind 1) gross and 2) legal entities require separate refrigeration for drugs and food. I have never heard of anyone getting in trouble on inspection of ambulatory vehicles but important to bear in mind.

Aside from promoting normal bodily function, making sure you are well-hydrated will help tremendously in keeping your belly feeling full, and staving off the temptation to veer across lanes of traffic for a Starbucks run. This is actually the main reason why water is the #1 recommendation for food on the road.

Cook Dinner

The day after I cook dinner I usually have an amazing lunch of leftovers. When I eat a good lunch, I am not hangry (that horrible combination of hungry and angry). When I am not hangry, I don’t give into the temptation of getting a #7, or a #3 at my favorite fast food venues. More importantly, when I am not hangry, it is easier to focus on providing high quality care for my clients and patients.

Bonus points go to you, if you pack lunches that are easy to eat with dirty hands. For me, I know my hands are always going to be dirty so I just make sure to pack clean forks.

Current personal favorites on leftovers include:

  • Baked sweet potato with cinnamon and butter
  • Pan fried or oven baked brussel sprouts with bacon
  • Salmon and green beans
  • Quinoa medley (black beans, quinoa, mango, avocado, rosemary, EVOO, lemon juice)

Don’t have time? Guess what, nobody does. That’s why we shop on Sunday evening (with everybody else) to stock up on the grab and go quickies:

  • Bananas and peanut-butter
  • Cottage Cheese and frozen fruit (raspberries are my favorite)
  • Hummus and veggies like baby carrots or celery
  • Clementines-- One facebook post on Equine Vet-2-Vet said people call them “truck oranges”. Sounds good to me.
  • Protein Shake: Protein mix+ banana+peanutbutter+ chocolate chips (or cacao nibs)
  • Boiled eggs (boil a dozen on Sunday night and you’ll thank yourself for the rest of the week)
  • Dried fruit and nuts. I love dried mangos and dried coconut. Fresh fruit is ideal for hydration but when you don’t know whether the bag will be in the truck for a day or for months, I find the dried stuff to be a safe bet.
Shop Smart

If it is one of those weeks where every day feels like Monday, here are some strategies to avoid stuffing your face with donuts:

Grocery Stores: Prepared snacks to go. I recently went shopping while hangry one weekday and found a box that had fresh strawberries, dates, cheese cubes, and grapes. They were divine and I felt SO much better thirty seconds later. No fast food required.

Grocery Stores: Salad and Soup bars. Tricky to eat in the truck, but better for you than a double cheeseburger.

Grocery Stores: Sushi. So this may not be available everywhere, but in San Diego county we have several grocery chains that offer freshly made, high quality sushi roll boxes. You can spend as much money as you like but you can get good ones for $7.99 or so.

7-eleven: Yeah, the temptations are there too, but they do have good options like healthy protein bars, string cheese, fruit cups, bananas, and fruit juice. It just may require a lot of self-talk to get yourself past the pizza and donut cases.

Think of the funds

I work for myself and my business model is very lean. My salary depends on keeping my costs low. This means, that while my business and personal finances are separate, when I look at my monthly finances, I’m also looking at my travel expenses including food.

The guiltiest of my guilty pleasures is Starbucks. When I do not drink water, cook dinner, or shop smart, I find myself stopping at Starbucks for breakfast and sometimes a hangry late afternoon Lunch. This is unwise for a number of obvious reasons, but the one I want to emphasize, is money. I went on my account (great tool for looking at all of your accounts at once), and found that my average Starbucks transaction is $11. That doesn’t sound too bad. Then I looked at my total transactions for the last 12 months at Starbucks alone. I slammed the laptop shut, did a lap around the house, and then sat back down again once I calmed down. Those who have a rudimentary understanding of what the word “budget” (which should be a four letter word in my opinion) means, can tell you that it is not about the one-time transaction, it is about trend. So if you want to improve your eating habits, take some time to add up how much you spend at YOUR biggest culinary guilty pleasure. Then think about the calories, and quality of nutrition you are truly providing for yourself. Is it worth the toll on your wallet and your body? Maybe. Maybe not. For these reasons, my Starbucks addiction is my #1 motivator for eating healthy on the road.

None of us are perfect. But as go-getter veterinarians, we are all trying our very best. Go get ‘em Tiger and for heaven’s sake, drink water, cherish making dinner with your family or friends, shop smart, and save your valuable pennies for food choices that you will really enjoy. 

Dr. Ann-Marie Wolfrum, DVM, CVA is an equine veterinarian specializing in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) based in San Diego. She has been using AcuroVet® daily for her practice, Del Dios Veterinary Acupuncture, since 2017.
Article by
Dr. Ann-Marie Wolfrum
Dr. Ann-Marie Wolfrum
Dr. Ann-Marie Wolfrum, DVM, CVA is an equine veterinarian specializing in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) based in San Diego. She has been using AcuroVet® daily for her practice, Del Dios Veterinary Acupuncture, since 2017.
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