You are what you prep
The common adage “you are what you eat” holds much truth. In law enforcement “you are what you prep to eat” also holds much truth.
A fundamental part of good health and well-being is the food that we eat. Proper nutrition is important for all of us and especially for law enforcement personnel where it can help counterbalance the negative effects of shift-work and job related stressors.
Bringing homemade meals, snacks, and beverages to work is an effective way to ensure more control over the quality and quantity of your food intake and is nutritionally more complete than most restaurant meals and prepared foods.
Based on a recent study, Tufts University researchers suggest that even "healthier" fast-food options still contain too much salt and fat, and a professor at the University of British Columbia found that Canadians consistently underestimate the calories in restaurant meals, sometimes by up to 900 calories per meal.
Many restaurants offer alluring and tempting “deals” or “value-combos” which frequently include high calorie desserts, a bag of chips or a large soft drink for only an extra dollar or two. Packing your own lunch can help fend off these temptations especially after a meal period interruption when hunger is taking over and “anything to eat” will suffice.
Purchasing prepared meals and snack from restaurants occasionally is okay, however, regular or excessive consumption of these meals can have a detrimental impact on your energy, mood, and overall health over the course of time.
Bringing your own meals to work usually reduces the excessive fat, salt and added sugars typically found in prepared foods.
Law enforcement personnel are frequently at the mercy of operational demands which interfere with or prevent typical meal periods, impacting the ability to eat healthily. Those working in remote areas or small towns may also have very limited access to healthy food, particularly after regular business hours.
Taking a healthy pre-packed lunch with you on the road helps ensure that essential meals are not missed and that healthy foods and a drink are always at hand.
Another important benefit of taking your own meals to work is in the cost saving. Homemade meals come at a fraction of the cost of restaurant meals. Financial experts suggest that those who bring their own coffee, meals, snacks, and beverages to work on a daily basis, typically save anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 annually.
Planning and prep
The key to maintaining motivation for packing meals for work, is not only prioritizing the health and cost saving, but planning the meals and working their preparation into your daily routines.
Stocking your fridge and pantry with the necessary healthy ingredients can support healthy meal preparation and eating habits. Packing work meals while preparing other meals at home can help solidify good habits while simultaneously being time efficient. Doubling-up on meal preparation and refrigerating or freezing leftovers provides for some easy ready to grab meals.
Dressing up or supplementing leftovers with different dressings or toppings can keep the taste buds satisfied and create a whole new meal. For instance taco leftovers from the night before can become a taco salad or a soft taco lettuce wrap for lunch. Keeping food staples on hand is practical when there aren’t any leftovers available or what you have isn’t quite enough.
Simply cleaning and cutting veggies or mixing nuts and dried fruit and storing them in individual containers for the week makes for easy nutritious snacks.
To support your goal of healthy eating at work, you should invest in a quality insulated lunch bag and a variety of food-safe containers. Most quality lunch bags will keep your food cold and fresh for many hours. Look for an insulated bag using quality insulation and materials and ensure it is easy to clean and is big enough for a typical meal.
Many bags come with microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe containers. Always ensure the containers are food-rated and free of BPA (if using plastic). Glass and stainless-steel food containers are the safest. Many lunch bags also have compartments to store extra items such as wipes, napkins, sanitizer, cutlery, snacks, and other items that may be needed for eating on the go.
Instead of or in addition to using an ice-pack to keep your meal fresh, a half-filled stainless-steel water bottle, frozen over-night and topped up in the morning, keeps your food fresh and provides a supply of cold drinking water.
A reusable insulated stainless-steel travel mug and a stainless steel water bottle can also save you money, keep your beverages at the optimal temperature longer, and reduce waste.
Another tip for success is to occasionally eat away from your usual work space. Part of the attraction of heading out to purchase meals is in the mental break offered by the change of scenery. Having some flexibility by occasionally treating one’s self with favourite foods and planning for a few freebie days is also important.
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