I was asked to help with some ideas on how first responders (emergency workers) need to eat to be able to stay healthy and do their job well.
Whats interesting is that there’s a lot of overlap with Mums! Especially new Mums with babies who don’t sleep through the night yet.
First responders need to be able to react quickly at short notice and have the physical energy to do so, as well as be mentally on the ball in extreme situations.
From a physical point of view extreme diets or skipping meals will leave the person tired and struggling to deal with the physical and spontaneous nature of the job, especially since they may have shift work that means they don’t always get enough sleep or sunlight as is ideal.
On the other hand snacking on sugary, high energy junk for energy and convenience, while giving a short burst of energy, will lead to energy crashes and brain fog, which could be dangerous when dealing with a demanding situation.
Proper sit-down meals may not be practical when first-responders have to drop everything at a moments’ notice to go to an emergency, so easy to eat, portable, no need to heat meals and snacks that can be picked as and when they can during a shift is both more practical and will keep energy balanced better than large meals with big gaps in between. Meals and snacks should have protein and slow release starchy carbs like lentils and wholegrains for energy and B Vitamins which are needed for brain function, and omega 3 fats from oily fish are fantastic for brain health, so supplements could be useful if they don’t like fish.
Meals and snacks could include Tupperware with premade salads with lentils, vegetables, cooked meat or fish, wholewheat pasta. Nuts, protein bars, fresh fruit, mini hummus pots, oatcakes, individual snack packs of cheese and vegetable crudité are all easy, quick to eat snacks.
First responder jobs are very physical and workers must be in good condition. Consuming enough protein supports muscle growth and repair and will help ensure people are strong enough for heavy lifting.
Drinks wise caffeine is tempting when tired but too much coffee will lead to energy crashes. Tea or green tea give a gentler lift if caffeine is needed to get through a shift. Caffeine should be avoided near the end of a shift if possible because most people will sleep afterwards, and caffeine may prevent deep restful sleep.
Outside shifts as much routine as possible should be maintained, with nutritious food, exercise, sleep and fresh air and sunlight all playing a more important part than in someone with a less stressful job that’s regular hours.