Set Yourself Up for Snacking Success: Healthy Eating Tips for First Responders
Date:Tuesday January 2, 2024
We all know that eating right and taking care of ourselves helps our minds and bodies perform at their best. This is especially important as first responders, since people depend on FRs mental sharpness and physical strength to keep them safe. We know we should prioritize making good choices, but it can be so easy to fall into unhealthy patterns. One easy way to combat this is to follow the scout’s rule: be prepared! We’ve rounded up some tips and ideas to help you plan ahead to keep your head clear and energy level stable.
Be Prepared! Plan Ahead to Help Your “Future Self”
Going grocery shopping on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster, right? Willpower and sound decision making skills are hard to find when you’re hungry, and before you know it, your cart can be filled with too much junk food that just sounds good in the moment. Keep that in mind when it comes to planning your meals and eating routines both at work and at home–making a good decision in the moment is easier when you’ve planned for it rather than being taken by surprise. Spend some time now thinking about how to best support yourself in the future to make better choices. Here are a few ideas:
- Pre-plan your meals. This allows you to make healthy choices ahead of time so you’re less tempted by unhealthy options.
- Keep healthy snacks and foods nearby. This can be in your car, your desk or work bag.
- Yelp it! Get to know what healthy food choices are available to you at nearby restaurants.
- Learn what is available to you at the local convenience stores.
- Develop an eating routine that includes a break from the stress in your shift.
- Create a consistently healthy lifestyle by eating healthy at home as well as at work.
- Drink enough liquids, especially those that keep you hydrated.
- Keep blood sugar stable by pairing carbs with protein or healthy fat.
- Be mindful of caffeine use; it can be a great tool, but make sure you’re not overdoing it or you could get jitters or withdrawal symptoms like headaches
This for That: Healthy Swaps
Our brains love patterns. That morning cup of coffee, chips in the afternoon, soda with your value meal–the more often we do something, the harder it can be to make a change. Instead of trying to eat healthy and completely change your lifestyle all at once, try finding healthy alternatives that can fit into your food routines. Who knows, you might just find some new favorites! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Roasted nuts instead of chips. Nuts have fat and protein to sustain you, and a salty crunch that satisfies. Trader Joes usually has good prices, or buy in bulk at Costco.
- High protein bar instead of cookies. Check the labels and look for options with high protein and low sugar to keep blood sugar stable. Many brands even have dark chocolate or brownie flavors that still feel like a treat. Kind, RX, and Larabar make good ones.
- Kombucha instead of juice. Kombucha is fermented tea, with a natural bubbly effervesence that is lower in sugar than straight fruit juice and packs a significant probiotic punch. Gut health can impact everything from your immune system to acne breakouts, so improving it is always a good idea. HealthAde and GT come in many flavors and are easy to find.
- Sparkling water instead of soda. All the bubbles, fun flavors, and zero added sugar (or guilt). La Croix and Spindrift are both great.
- Eggs instead of breakfast cereal. At only 70 calories, an egg is a protein-rich, low-calorie bite. The yoke is high in choline, which may lower cardiovascular disease. If you’re short on time, hard boil a dozen at a time so they’re easy to grab on your way out the door.
- Dried fruit instead of candy. Dried fruit still contains sugar so moderation is key, but it also has vitamins and nutrients that are nonexistent in candy. For example, one serving of raisins has 2 grams of protein and is a good source of many minerals like potassium and manganese. They’re also shelf stable which make them easy to take along in a bag or car.
Making healthy choices takes dedication, but through supporting your efforts by planning ahead and having better choices on hand, you can make developing a healthier lifestyle as easy as possible.