In How To Eat On A Police Shift Work Schedule Part 1, we talked about the difference between eating on night shift versus day shift. What your requirements are for each shift to give your brain and body what it needs to last all shift.
Now it’s time to dig into what the heck to bring that will save you in all situations?
MEAL PLANNING FOR SHIFT
Let’s break this down into 3 situations.
- Food you sit and eat
- Foods you can grab and go quick
- Foods for when you are stuck
Food You Sit And Eat
This is the easiest as these are your typical bring to work foods. For times when you are to sit and eat back at the station or between calls when you have time to stop for a quick break. One long enough to chew.
My husband often leaves foods that need to be heated up in the fridge at work so they don’t spoil. This way if he can’t get to them he can eat them the next shift. Thermos foods, or foods that are ready to eat go in the trunk of his car.
This category consists of leftovers, sandwiches, fruits, vegetables… BUT because our focus is to support your stress we are going to add a few guidelines.
- The starchy carb should not be the main part of the meal. So if you bring a sandwich make sure you have way more veggies on the side or in the sandwich than you do bread.
- Try to have a good fat with every meal you eat. Fish, mango, Avocado, Raw nuts and seeds, olives (oil), cheese (in moderation), dark chocolate (+80%), tofu, chia, eggs, full fat yogourt… the list goes on. This helps to keep you full and sustains your energy longer.
Nitrate free cold cut or egg salad sandwich with cut up veggies and hummus
Full fat yogurt, berries and oats
Leftovers from dinner in a thermos, or glass container to heat up
Salad with olives, nuts, and lots of veggies
Hot stews in a thermos (we always make huge batches and freeze some for future)
Foods You Can Grab And Go
Then we have situations on shift where someone can relieve you very briefly to run to your car to inhale some food quick, or you got a call and know you will not be able to eat for a while once you get there, so need to grab whatever you have on the go right now.
This is why we always pack a smoothie for my husband. Smoothies are great as you can quickly chug everything you need to give your body long lasting fuel.
Things to consider when making your smoothie.
- Adding a good fat will help to give you longer lasting energy. – hemp hearts, chia seeds, avocado, coconut oil or chunks, mango, raw nuts, nut milks.
- The thicker it is, the longer it takes to drink. Because you are bringing this smoothie to save you in grab and go situations you may want to keep it more on the thinner side.
- Adding kale or spinach is a very easy way to add more veggies into your meals giving you vitamins and minerals to help manage stress. We often buy large bunches or packs. Wash and freeze it to use in soups and smoothies.
- We use an organic collagen protein. Whey protein can be tough on many digestive systems. Especially those of us who have had long term stress and our digestive systems are out of sorts. Collagen protein actually helps to heal the gut lining. Make sure it’s hormone and antibody free. We get ours from costco online because it’s easy and a good price. There are many great brands.
- Pre Workout Smoothie
- I often make for both of us a smoothie I created on my own. (makes 2- I’m guessing at the quantity as I just throw things in)
1 cup of frozen kale or spinach
2 tbsp collagen protein
1 tbsp hemp hearts
1 tbsp chia seeds
3-4 cups of unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 cups filtered water (I measure liquids up to 5-6 cups so they fit in 2 smoothie containers)
Blend and pour into two smoothie containers and store in fridge until needed. For night shift I make them at night. My husband takes one to work and I drink mine in the morning.
Foods For When You Are Stuck
I know you have all experienced times on shift where you can not get to food. Where you are standing at your post and can’t leave and no one is able to relieve you. This is where we have small snacks tucked into the pockets of my husbands pants and vest.
Things to consider:
- You need something that is a good fat and has some carbs to keep you full longer, but also give you a bit of energy.
- It has to be something that will not melt, squish or spoil. This is something that will be there when you need, but you don’t know when that will be and what will happen to your pockets until then.
- Nothing in a shiny wrapper. This is only because I have not been able to find anything in a shiny wrapper that meets the criteria. If it has good fats, it melts and squishes. If it doesn’t melt and can handle squishing then it’s most likely a protein bar that is more of a candy bar with added protein. Meaning it has tons of sugar and will send your energy up and crash down as fast leaving you hangry and more stressed than you were before.
A lara bar is the closest thing we have found. It does have more sugar than I would like, but if you need something quick that is what I would choose.
Your best options
The best option we have come up with based on the criteria is raw nuts and dried fruit seems. That is, if you don’t have a nut allergy.
⅔ nuts to ⅓ dried fruit, so you don’t spike your blood sugars and crash fast.
If you can’t eat nuts, you can try dried chick peas and other beans for a protein source.
And there you go. This is the process I go through when we are putting together food for day, evening and night shift.
Having food on shift takes a big stress load off of your body fueling you to handle whatever your shift throws at you. But we all know that eating on shift is not the only stress you face on the job. Shift work and daily stresses take a toll on your body, causing you to become tired and wired, not able to sleep, wake mid sleep and can’t get back to sleep and even if you do sleep, you wake exhausted, have a short fuse, digestive issues and the list goes on.
I’ve put together 5 Quick & Simple Sleep Tips That Stop Shift Work Burnout.
Download your free copy here.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
About the Author
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle.
Andi suffers from a genetic stress condition that puts her body in an increased stress response state all the time, similar to what Police Officers and First Responders experience when they put on their uniform and have to mentally prepare for whatever may happen in their day.
Through years of research and studying, Andi formulated a completely different way to look at and handle burnout. One where it is possible to reverse and prevent an officer from getting to a point where they struggle to get through their days by taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one. And one that reduces the negative effects of shift work on the body.
Through her husbands career as an officer her focus has been on preventing burnout, exhaustion and tanked immune system that she knew can result from poorly managed stress, not to mention the toll things take on family life.
As she watched his co-workers struggle with everything from sleep, exhaustion and anger leading to divorce, PTSD and even suicide it became apparent how LIFE-SAVING the foundations she was laying down for her husband actually were, because not only was he tolerating the shiftwork lifestyle, he was thriving in it.
Andi knew that the strategies her husband was using MUST become available to all Police Officers and other First Responders. She couldn’t watch others suffering when she knew there was a solution. And 911 Lifestyle was born.