Eating On The Go – Top Tips for Healthy Eating in a Mobile Working Environment by Jennifer Sharpe
With many paramedics working between 12-24 hour shifts, it can be a long day for them and their stomachs. The nature of the job means that there is often little time to eat and even when there is, the mobile facilities available to them are far from ideal when it comes to preparing healthy, nutritious meals. Consequently, paramedics may find themselves reliant on fast food, processed snacks or even skipping meals altogether. This promotes a very unhealthy lifestyle and is one of the reasons that many paramedics retire early.
In this line of work it is particularly important to be focused and alert at all times. This means eating healthily and regularly in order to keep blood sugar levels stable and give your body the right sort of nutrients that it needs to operate correctly. Often this may mean preparing in advance and planning ahead when it comes to meals. Here are some tips and tricks that may come in helpful for paramedics who want to eat healthily on the go.
Invest in a cool box
You might feel like you’ve regressed back to grade school as you turn up to work with your cool box in tow, but this inexpensive little gadget opens up a wealth of possibilities when it comes to meal times. Because of the lack of facilities when it comes to mobile work, many paramedics rely on takeout food or dry, processed snacks such as potato chips to suppress their appetite. These are full of saturated fat and offer the body no nutritional goodness. Having, what is essentially, your own portable fridge gives you far healthier options at mealtimes. For example, dairy products such as yoghurts, cream cheese and milk are great little snacks that are full of calcium, protein and vitamin D. These are essential in good bone health and, according to a study carried out by a UK university, are also thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. A cool box will also keep meals such as salads, cold pasta dishes and sandwiches fresher for longer.
Consider the healthy takeout option
Invariably there will be times when whipping through the drive-thru is just too tempting to resist. But rather than opting for the typical burger and fries consider other options on the menu. Fitness Magazine recommended the Fruit and Yoghurt parfait from McDonalds which is low in fat and full of fibre and protein. Be vigilant when it comes to ordering salads from fast food chains though – you may think you’re picking the healthy option but salads full of croutons, meat and creamy dressings may be just as fattening as your average cheeseburger. If you’re really trying to cut the calories then omit these things altogether. If you’d like a little more sustenance then go for a chicken salad but pick the chicken that is grilled rather than crispy or fried. Avoid ranch dressings and cheese or bacon based salads.
Snacking regularly is essential in keeping blood sugar and energy levels stable. Eating little and often also keeps hunger pangs at bay and means that when it comes to meal times you’re less likely to gorge on large portions of unhealthy food. Fruit is a particularly healthy and convenient way to snack – it doesn’t take much preparation to peel a banana or crunch an apple! The best fruits to munch on the go are berries (strawberries, blueberries and raspberries in particular) as they are packed full of antioxidants and vitamins designed to keep your immune system fighting fit. A wholemeal bagel or bread roll are also great ways to give yourself a long lasting burst of energy as they contain complex carbohydrates which take the body a long time to break down, therefore giving a continuous, steady stream of energy. Nuts are another healthy snack that contain healthy fats, minerals and proteins – however they are also high in calories and should be eaten in moderation.
The key to cooking any good meal is preparation. Knowing what you’re going to eat in advance will prevent you from stopping at the nearest burger van when hunger hits. Prepare your snacks and meals the night before a shift or, if you know that you have a week of long shifts ahead of you, then why not make a large batch of something and use it as the week progresses?
What to avoid
When you’re feeling tired and lethargic during a long shift it’s easy to reach for stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks and chocolate – all of which contain caffeine and sugar that can give you an initial energy burst by triggering certain neurotransmitters in the brain. However these effects are only temporary and when they wear off you’re apt to crash and burn. Too much sugar and caffeine can also lead to sleep problems and high blood pressure. A healthier energy fix would be some carby whole grains or a handful of chia seeds which leave you feeling full and contain barely any calories.