curb temptations and cravings with good snack options...
Eating healthy in the firehouse can be difficult. There is always an abundance of sweets and good tasting foods. Now, just because they are there, does not mean you have to eat them. I know, easier said than done. But, one way to help you avoid all of those "not-so-healthy" food choices is to have readily available "healthy" snack options to reach for in those tempting times.
Before I give you some great examples, I think we need to define what is meant by a good "snack." If you ask some firefighters, they will define a good snack as something that tastes great (and usually with lots of sugar) but doesn't fill you up like a meal. Not a perfect definition but one that needs a little more clarification. A good snack is one that will help us power through our day and help the body and the brain function at a high capacity.
Unfortunately, most of the options at firehouses (donuts, cakes, brownies, cookies) have high sugars that will not do this, they will only leave you craving more sugar and “cloud’ up the brain. Healthy snacks that contain protein and nutrients will not only help us with energy, they can also be integral for fat loss and can help limit cravings for unhealthy choices.
Let me emphasize that point again... As a fire rescue athlete you must remember that the foods you eat at snack time can make a big difference in your energy level, decision making, performance, and overall health.
Choose the wrong snack, and you'll feel dragged down, tired and cloudy. Choose wisely, and you'll get the boost and performance you need.
Before your next snack break, think twice about what you are about to eat. Here are some great guidelines and snack options for firefighters, EMTs and medics.
Snacking for Energy
If you find yourself fighting sleepiness in the afternoon, what your body needs is a boost of energy. Snacks eaten midday should contain good fats and protein to give and sustain your energy level.
Here are a few good options when you need an energy-boosting snack.
- A small apple or sliced banana with a tablespoon of peanut butter. The natural sugars in fruit take longer to metabolize than sugars found in candy, and the peanut butter provides the protein needed for long-lasting energy.
- A quarter cup of nuts and dried fruit (make sure they do not have added sugars). This slow-burning mixture provides protein, good fats (that's right - fats aren't always bad), and plenty of fiber, all wrapped up in a delicious package. Just be careful. Eating too many of these carbohydrates can cause low blood sugar and make you feel even sleepier.
- One tablespoon of hummus spread on four whole-grain crackers. Made from garbanzo beans, hummus is a great energy booster and is also full of fiber. And the whole-grain crackers are made with complex carbohydrates, which help fill you up without dragging you down.
- Sliced avocado with deli sliced turkey wrapped around them. This is a quick and easy snack to prepare. You can also use guacamole and smear it on the turkey.
Snacking for Weight Management
Many people eliminate snacks when attempting to lose weight. Unfortunately, this is counterproductive, as snacks keep you satisfied between meals. If dinnertime arrives and you're exceptionally hungry, it's easy to overeat. Eating several small snacks throughout the day will help keep your hunger in check. However, you should avoid eating snacks when you're bored, stressed, zoning out in front of the TV, or back from a late-night call.
The key is to choose snacks that fit with your daily calorie and nutrient needs. If your goal is to lose weight, choose low-calorie, nutrient-filled snacks. If you need to gain weight or if you are physically fit and need to replenish energy from a strenuous workout or a long call, go for higher calorie, nutritious snacks.
Here are some great lower carb/ calorie options.
- Nut Butter Boat (with vegetables instead of fruit)- Try loading a few celery sticks with a serving of any nut butter (like almond, cashew, walnut). If you’re not a fan of celery, try scooping with carrots or a different vegetable. The nut butter with vegetables is a better option for weight loss due to the lower sugar content.
- Jerky- Be careful to avoid sodium- and sugar-filled brands, but low-sodium, natural, or lightly flavored options are a great source of protein. This chewy snack stays fresh for months when packed properly. Jerky made from beef, chicken or turkey is both perfectly portable and packed with upwards of 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce portion. A vacuum-packed package of dried meat doesn’t take a lot of space and won’t stink up your bag when you’re on the go during the day. Just be sure you pick a low sodium and low sugar variety, as many companies add both to their products to amp-up the taste.
- You can also reach for a serving of cottage cheese, lower sugar Greek yogurt or a hard boiled egg. These options will help to carve cravings and give your body needed protein. Again, just make sure to read the label and avoid the “added sugar” options.
I know some of these options may not be popular with all the members of the crew, but we all have to remember that what we eat determines how we perform on the fireground and on scene.
Remember, eat like your life depends on it...because it does.
Stay safe and healthy,
Aaron “Zam” Zamzow
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