Sirens, Snacks, and Shift Work

Food.  It’s kind of a big deal, especially in my line of work.  Depending on which type of public safety officer you are, you may go for quite awhile without having an opportunity to eat.  That big fire, a high speed chase, that CPR from hell…  OR if you do shift work, perhaps you get those random cravings at 0300. That being said, snacks are a big thing for me.  I like to have a lot of options.  Little munchy things as well as filling snacks. I have had quite a few people text me or message me asking me about some good snack choices. I’ve been working on this post for awhile now…adding to it from time to time.  Here are a few suggestions that I came up with.

Rule #1.  Never allow yourself to starve.  Eat when you can.  I always have snacks on me.  I typically have a Larabar or trail mix from Trader Joe’s…something light, yet filling.  My flight suit and medic pants have some pretty solid snack pockets.  I’m not afraid to use 3 out of my 11 pockets for snacks.  I even keep trail mix and Justin’s almond butter in the glove compartment of my car for road trip emergencies.  Tip: try pre packaged Paleo snacks like Paleo Kits from Steve’s PaleoGoods or muffins and cookies from Tripps Primal Farm and Kitchen.

Rule #2. Veggies and protein.  I really like mini cucumber sandwiches.  Small cucumbers sliced in half, the innerds scooped out, then layers of cheese, turkey lunchmeat, and mustard (no need to call the Paleo police.  I realize cheese is not Paleo).  I also like lettuce wraps.  Romaine hearts filled with mustard, meat, cheese, peppers, bacon, etc.  Ants on a log is also another solid choice.  Celery, almond butter, raisins. Just like 1st grade.  Guacamole and plantain chips. Tip: I’ve found that both vegetables and protein tend to fill me up…especially when I am in a mindless snacking part of my day.  Both are good, but when you combine the veggie AND the protein, you have a total snack win.

Rule #3.  Pack a lunch.  When you pack a lunch, you know you have a solid meal with real food.  For the days that I spend on the ambulance, I always have my lunch box with me. I tend to pack a plethora of options as well as a ton of finger food. Again, more veggies.  Pecan hummus and carrot sticks are a good one.  Also, when my almond butter is running low, I like to cut up a handful of celery sticks to put in the jar.  This makes for easy, mess-free dipping.  Cauliflower is a pretty good choice as well.  Filling and not messy.  A CrossFit Paleo cop I know likes to take cooked chicken breast to work and dip it into homemade baconnaise as a snack.  Nuts like almonds and pistachios are a great choice instead of having chips or crackers. I have also been known to pack a salad in a mason jar.  Put your dressing on the bottom then add plantain chips or almonds on top of that.  Continued to add the various layers of your salad.  When you’re ready for lunch, just give the jar a shake and dig in (I do recommend packing a large fork as well…unless you have small hands that can fit into the jar.)  A few other things I may have in my lunchbox include apples, slices of orange, small packages of Justin’s almond butter, some dark chocolate, local grass-fed beef sticks, sweet potato chips…  Snacks are great, but one can not live on snacks alone.  It’s also important to pack some solid sustenance.  Finger food.  One day, there I was, driving down the road….eating steak strips.  I also like to take grilled kabobs along.  Hard boiled eggs, homemade chicken tenders, and homemade coconut oil fried fish are also a few other options that I have been known to take along with me.  Decent protein. Protein will fill you up, and if you nom on clean protein choices, you’re set. Nutritious AND delicious. Tip: I have a couple insulated lunch bags that I take to work with me.  I can throw an ice pack or 2 in there in the morning and keep the lunch bag by my side all day long, even on an ambulance road trip. I also do this when I take road trips in my personal vehicle.  Saves money, there are fewer stops, and I am able to fill up on the good stuff instead of whatever drive thru options may tempt me.

Rule #4.  Strategic convenience store snacking…in case of emergencies.  Sometimes, when you are in a pinch, a gas station is the only option.  While choices are limited, there are a few go-to items that I’ll grab for on the road.  Almonds.  Almonds are good to snack on and great for you.  Once in awhile, if I’m starving and need something satisfying, I will have a roller dog (well, a bratwurst, not a hot dog) with mustard.  Now, this isn’t the best option, but I figure it’s a pretty good meaty protein source for those times that I’ve been up and all.night.long, am STARVING, and craving all things bad.  Again, hard boiled eggs are a great choice.  Pork rinds.  Hey, they’re Paleo.  Sometimes I can find a piece of fruit or a package of dried fruit.  A big bottle of water as well.  Water will help to fill your rumbly tummy.  Tip: I actually like to just walk around a few times to see if I can find anything new and exciting….and kind of Paleo.  The popular items are typically on the ends of the aisles and part of big displays.  Walk around a little to find better options.

Rule #5. Water.  I try to stay hydrated the best that I can.  Sometimes your body thinks its hungry when really, you just need water.  Have you heard about the apple test?  I can’t remember where I heard this, but I kind of use it as a rule of thumb, “When you’re hungry, ask yourself, ‘Does an apple sound good to me?'” If it does, you’re probably hungry.  If it doesn’t, then odds are, you need some water.  Tip: Many people reach for Mio or Crystal Light to enhance their water experience.  Yes to drinking more water.  No to the calorie-free, ARTIFICIAL sweetener.  For something different, try adding fruit to you water.  Buy yourself a fancy new water bottle.  Something.  Everyone needs more water.

I guess the most important thing is to not let myself get too hungry.  In order to succeed, you need to plan ahead.  I’m always thinking about when I will eat next and what I will do if I get a flight or ambulance call just as I’m about to sit down for a meal.  When hunger strikes, I really don’t want to miles away from my food.  It makes me irritable.  Nobody likes a grumpy medic.

Whoever you may be….firefighter, busy mom, office guy too busy to take a lunch…hopefully this helps a little.  Eat.  You’ll be a happier person.


One thought on “Sirens, Snacks, and Shift Work

  1. Pingback: Posts Outside the Service: Top EMS Blog Posts for February 2014 | Everyday EMS Tips

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