As a paramedic, eating Paleo can be tough. For me, it took quite a bit of prep work and thinking ahead when I first got back into it. For my job, we work 24 hour shifts. We are assigned to either a city ambulance or a hospital ambulance. With the city ambulances, transport time can can be roughly anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes. On the hospital ambulance, transport time can be anywhere between 5 minutes and 6 hours one way.
The above picture is my lunch bag for a 24 hour shift. This particular day was a light lunch bag day. In my city, we have the luxury of full-size kitchens at each station, so some days, I may bring a package of chicken breast AND some steak AND some pork chops to cook at work. I joke that I pack enough food for a family of four. On the hospital truck, however, it gets tricky. We have access to a microwave…sometimes. When assigned to a hospital truck, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen the night before. I prepare and pack my food for my entire shift (grilled pork chops, scambled eggs, hamburger-onion-pepper mixture…whatever it may be). I’ve actually heard some people say “You can’t eat healthy on the hospital ambulance.” I say bologna. Sure, that one sandwich place and that cupcake shop and the burrito place and of course that slice of pizza along the way are all ridiculously tempting (especially when your medic partner grabs some food from there and you don’t), but you have to have the willpower to say no (maybe not each and every single time, but at least most of the time). I take my lunch bag with me in the ambulance. If you really want to stick to Paleo, you’ll figure out a way to make it work. No excuses.
With public safety (fire, EMS, police), no 2 days are the same. You have no idea what your shift has in store for you. Your stomach is growling, and in the back of your mind, you’re thinking how wonderful it would be to eat that delicious lunch you brought, but you’re in the middle of doing CPR or fighting a very long residential fire or making an arrest. You eat when you can. Sometimes, you may not get lunch. That’s just the way it is. Some days, if I’m hungry, I eat lunch at 10 am or dinner at 3 pm then snack during the in between times. Same goes with going to the bathroom, go when you can. You never know when the tones will drop.
Good snacking is the key with whatever job you may have. I always have snacks around (and I’m always eating…ask my coworkers). I try really hard to snack on vegetables. Honestly, sometimes it’s not very fun crunching on those celery sticks, but I know they’re good for me…and a heckuva lot better than that handful of cheesy crackers with the peanut butter in the middle or that package of poptarts. Celery, carrots, rutageba (this is a new one for me thanks to my friend Joy), sugar snap peas (not Paleo, but I eat them anyway on occasion), jicama, bell pepper slices. All things that are super easy to snack on. Slice em, Ziploc bag em, eat em. Nuts and seeds are nice to keep around as well. I keep macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, walnuts, and almonds around as well as sunflower and pumpkin seeds. I typically keep a Larabar in the side pocket of my medic pants for that boost of energy in case of emergencies, like that o dark thirty ambulance trip to the middle of nowhere after I’ve been running calls all day and all night. Integrated Fitness out of Pittsburgh has put together a list of 22 easy snacks. Check it out HERE.
Every once in awhile, you can certainly stray from the clean eating. I wouldn’t recommend scheduling in a “cheat day” each week, but I do believe in the importance of having your favorite foods and treats every so often. 2 reasons (in my opinion). A. If you don’t get to have your favorite things once in awhile, you won’t have as much joy in eating. When you allow yourself to have that treat, it will be easier to stick to the clean eating thing the rest of the time. 2. When you do decide have your very favorite carbalicious meal after days and days of clean eating, you may feel sick to your stomach. This reminds you why you stick to your clean eating.
Paleo takes time and planning, especially at work. Once you get down the eat this, not that thing, it becomes a lot easier. My advice, think ahead, plan your meals, pack smart, stick to it. You’ve got this.