Please note we are not health care professionals. The tips in this post come from past law enforcement experience and extensive research and should not replace the advice of your health care practitioner
There’s a saying that goes “Abs are made in the gym and shown in the kitchen”. What does that mean? It means that 80% of getting in shape is about the food we eat. As cops, we’re always on the go and eating healthy isn’t always our top priority. We need food and we need it now. And for those of us on night shifts, our take-out options are fairly limited to late-night drive-thru’s or 24/7 diners. I thought it would be a good idea to follow up my post on exercise with some notes on nutrition and eating healthier. These are my best tips on snacks and fast-food swaps.
What About When Fast Food is the Only Option?
Let’s face it, officers and those working in public safety work odd hours and healthy options aren’t always available to us. I’ve included a handy infographic on the healthiest meals to order at my favorite fast-food restaurants that you can print off and post in your department. Eating fast food doesn’t mean we can’t be health conscious!
Healthy Snacks for On-The-Go
Of course, the best option is to always pack your food and snacks. It’s usually a lot healthier and cheaper. I’ve listed some of my favorite quick and easy snacks to help tie you over on long shifts and prevent the ‘hanger’ from setting in:
Nuts & Seeds or Trail Mix: Nuts and seeds are great sources of protein, fiber, vitamins, and good fat. Just watch out for trail mixes with candy in them- those are counter-productive.
Protein Bars: My personal favorite are Cliff Bars- they have tasty flavors and aren’t too dry. Avoid protein bars that have a lot of sugar and sodium in them.
Sliced Vegetables with Hummus: I don’t think I have to repeat the benefits of vegetables, our mother’s have been pounding them into us for years. Hummus adds a delicious twist to just boring carrot sticks and cucumber slices- it’s also a good source of protein.
Greek Yogurt: Another good source of protein with the added benefits of probiotics to keep our tummy’s happy. Top it off with some fruits and granola for a more filling snack.
6 Tips for Ordering Out
Meal prepping isn’t always an option though so if you have to eat out, you can easily modify your order to be a lot healthier. These are the swaps I make when ordering out to make my meals more nutritional:
1. Water Not Pop
Skip the sugar-loaded soda’s and fruit juices that’ll have you crashing in an hour. Water increases energy and relieves fatigue while promoting weight loss. It also helps flush the toxins out of your body and hydrates your skin. Ideally, you should be aiming to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water a day.
2. Pack on the Protein
If you’re worried your meal won’t fill you up, order extra protein. Leaner proteins like chicken, fish, whole grains, and eggs are preferable to pork and beef. Protein will stabilize your blood-sugar levels, preventing those binge-eating escapades and, curb your appetite. It’ll provide you with a sustained source of energy, whereas ordering extra carbs like fries, will cause you to crash.
3. Switch to Brown Rice
If you’re ordering something that comes with rice, like a burrito, ask to swap for brown rice. White rice’s nutrients are stripped during the refining process which means you’re essentially eating empty calories. Brown rice is rich in nutrients like fiber, and calcium, among other things. It’s especially great for diabetics or border-line diabetics with it’s low glycemic index, helping reduce insulin spikes.
4. Opt for Whole Grain or Whole Wheat
Similar to rice, white bread has the nutrients stripped away Whole grain breads have fiber and aid in digestion. They also lower blood pressure, something many of us struggle with in our line of work.
5. Choose Salads
Everyone loves fries including me. If you really are craving fries, some restaurants allow you to order half fries, half salad.
6. Swap the Sauces
A lot of dressings and sauces are high in sodium and calories with no nutritional benefits. Instead, swap out mayo and ketchup for mustard, salsa, guacamole, or balsamic vinaigrette and olive oil. These substitutes are just as flavorful with more nutrition and less sodium.
Keep all of these things in mind when you’re eating out. Sometimes the simplest swaps can make the biggest difference. But let’s face it, most of us work long hours, overtime and are constantly on the go; long story short, we are going to eat at fast-food restaurants at least a couple times a week.