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The Survival Guide To Eating On Duty

The Survival Guide To Eating On Duty

My typical shift used to look like this: go to work, take calls and type…type…type. Maybe throw in some traffic control or an arrest in. But in the back of my mind I was waiting for that very special moment: lunch time.  Followed by the question: “what am I going to eat?”

If you’re a meal planning ninja, then you need to be captured and studied in a lab.  Or maybe you stuff a protein smoothie/bar in your duty bag to show a little effort.  But if you’re like the rest of us, you just fly by the seat of your pants.  Which means spending $25 at the Whole Foods hot bar or eating some $5 “value” meal that feels less valuable when you’re done eating it.

So before you head out and buy a 17 layer burrito or the Teriyaki “chicken” special, remember this: if your goal is to maintain energy and focus for the rest of the day, bargain food is not the answer. And eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive.

Let me explain. Did you ever see that Seinfeld episode where Jerry jokes about how restaurants should make you pay first, then give you your food?  Because before you eat you’ll pretty much pay anything since you’re hungry. But afterwards you’re suddenly not so motivated to break out the wallet.

There’s a reason why we can all relate to this.  

When you’re hungry, your brain takes over and sends a very strong signal to eat. So strong it’s all we can think about. Even that very old bag of chips in the patrol room gets a second look.

Your hypothalamus (brain) is your hunger and satiety control center. It communicates through two hormones: Ghrelin “I’m hungry” and Leptin “I’m full”.  But to get that healthy, satiated Leptin response after eating, you need to eat something that’s nutrient-rich.  Not just calorie dense.

It’s the reason you can eat 20+ Oreos and not feel full, but why binging on salmon and broccoli is impossible.  And it’s also the difference between eating a heavy meal, feeling tired and then just praying for your shift to end OR eating a nutrient-dense meal that gives you the energy to stay focused, ready for the fight.

Here’s the formula to follow: high-quality protein, fibrous/starchy carbohydrates and healthy fats.  Skip the sugar, cheap oils (canola, soybean) and bready things.  It’s really that simple.  

And this is how it works.  

Whether you’re in a grocery store hunting for food or at a restaurant, you have options.

For example: grocery stores are full of healthy options like hard-boiled eggs, smoked wild salmon, grass-fed beef sticks, rotisserie chicken or natural, organic lunch meats that are minimally processed (like “Applegate”).  Pair this with an avocado, some nuts/nut butters and fruit.  All you’ll need is a spoon for the avocado. No, it’s not a meal that would be served at the Queen’s Palace but it works in a pinch. And it’s healthy.

Get an open faced burrito (no tortilla) that has the macros: protein (fish,  shrimp, beef, chicken), carbs (greens, cilantro, tomatoes rice, beans) and fat (avocado). You’ll still have the Mexican flair but not the gut bomb feeling afterwards. And it’ll cost the same.

If you eat out at a restaurant, pick a basic meal off the menu like a salad. Ask the waitress to skip the croutons and heavy dressing. Then ask for some protein (eggs, chicken, shrimp) and a healthy fat (avocado, olive oil, nuts, feta cheese) on top.  Maybe it’s an extra $1-2, but it’ll be so worth it afterwards.

Like Asian food? Ask for grilled meat, some rice and lots of veggies like bok choy, spinach and kimchi. Skip the sauce (sugar), breaded and fried stuff.  Same price. Better outcome.

Here’s an extreme example. I remember traveling to Vegas for training.  For lunch I passed on the gut-bomb buffet, instead grabbing turkey jerky, a bag of greens, some fruit and cashew butter.  I literally ate the greens straight out of the bag too. Yeah, it’s not glamorous and you may think “that’s dumb” but I was the ONLY one awake after lunch time. Which also made the remaining four hours tolerable.  After class I also had lots of energy to tear it up with anyone who was still not totally comatose.

Need some convenient food options? Look for brands like RX, Go Raw, Tanka, Epic, Exo, Bricks and Lara. I also highly suggest getting a Thrive Market membership to dramatically cut costs.  Thrive Market is best described as what the child of Costco (economical) and Whole Foods (healthy) would look like.  They not only have a website jammed full of options that are up to 50% off retail, but you can search using specific dietary needs like gluten-free, paleo, vegan, etc.

Thrive Market is offering LawOfficer.com readers (that have not yet tried Thrive Market before) a FREE membership for 30 days plus 25% off your first order and free shipping.  Just use this customized link.


References:

Austin, J., & Marks, D. (2008, December). Hormonal Regulators of Appetite. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2777281/

About The Author

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Janine Henkel is insanely passionate about nutrition and is #1 fan of Police Officers. After almost 20 years in Law Enforcement and lecturing her co-workers about their eating habits, she retired and founded OnPointNutrition.Org, a nutrition consulting business designed with First Responders in mind. Janine holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition, is a Certified Personal Trainer and U.S. Marine Veteran. You can usually find Janine geeking out on technical books. Or enjoying the outdoors with her 5 year old son while trying to pull off the ‘cowboy hat with vibrams' look.

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