Fit for flight: eating well on site
by Gael Myers, Accredited Practising Dietitian
- June 16, 2021
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Long workdays and weeks (or sometimes even months) spent away from the support of family and friends can really take a toll. FIFO workers may find themselves reaching for high fat and high sugar comfort foods, avoiding exercise, and drinking alcohol as a way to cope. While it might seem like a good idea at the time, these habits can actually leave people feeling more stressed and rundown.
Fuelling your body with healthy food, getting your limbs moving and heart pumping, and keeping a clear mind by cutting down or cutting out alcohol are all good habits, not only for your body but also for your brain. Healthy habits can improve mood, boost energy levels and help us feel more alert.
Here are our top tips for eating well while on site:
Do you usually choose the continental breakfast? Reach for a fibre-rich cereal like Weetbix, porridge or untoasted muesli. Add plain yoghurt for a protein boost and get bonus points for adding fruit – sliced bananas, berries or tinned peaches all work a treat. If you prefer a hot breakfast go for wholegrain toast, eggs and cooked vegies like tomato, spinach and baked beans.
Packed with goodness
Don’t forget to pack a healthy lunch and snacks to stay fuelled over your work day. A sandwich, some fruit and a zip lock bag or container of nuts are easy to carry and keep well during a long shift.
For a tasty and healthy sandwich, wrap or roll:
- Include a protein-rich food to help you stay full for longer. Tasty options include cheese, shredded chicken , tuna, hummus, roast beef or egg.
- Avoid processed meats like bacon, salami and ham. They are full of saturated fat and salt and increase your risk of bowel cancer.
- Don’t forget the salad! To avoid a soggy sanger, see our sandwich stacking guide over here.
- To boost your fibre intake and keep your insides running smoothly, choose grainy or wholemeal bread, rolls and wraps.
Here are a few ideas for nourishing snacks that keep well in the cab or desk drawer:
- Grainy crackers
- Nuts and dried fruit
- Fresh fruit (apples and pears keep well)
- Tinned fruit in juice (avoid syrup)
- Tinned tuna (plain or flavoured)
- Tinned chickpeas (there are now some that come in small tins with tasty sauces)
Don’t drink your kilojoules
Many people are surprised to find out that alcoholic drinks are packed with kilojoules. A can of pre-mixed spirits has the same amount of kilojoules as a chocolate bar, while a pint of beer has the kilojoule equivalent of a piece of pizza. Drinking alcohol can, over time, lead to weight gain. Cutting down or cutting out alcohol will help you avoid weight gain – you’ll also sleep better, feel more alert and improve your mood.
Depending on your site, swing and job, the people and culture around doing “healthy stuff” can be really helpful, or bring you down. You might want to be loud and proud about staying dry on camp, or quietly find other people who are more interested in hitting the gym or playing cards. Either way, it’s worth considering how the pack mentality and going along with the “done thing” is affecting your ability to look after yourself.
A hot mess
If your site has an all-you-can-eat buffet, you’ll know how easy it is to get carried away. To avoid weight gain, we suggest keeping your portion sizes in check. Avoid loading up your plate (or choose a smaller plate if available) and eat slowly to allow time for the “I’m full” message to get from your gut to your brain. Listen to your hunger and fullness cues rather than just ploughing through the plate of food that you’re used to eating. We also recommend filling half your plate with salad or cooked vegies!
When choosing hot meals, treat fried, greasy or creamy meals as an occasional treat. There’s almost always a healthy option available. If it’s not the main meal, see what else available. There’s sometimes a wok or BBQ option that you can request, and almost always a salad bar.
Don’t forget about the ‘FO’
It’s easy to get sucked into treating your home stint like a holiday; eating, drinking alcohol and lounging around like it’s Christmas break. Relaxing and socialising is really important… but so is your health and having some routine. Here are some things to try that can help keep you happy and healthy and maintain some balance in your life:
- Catch up with friends for breakfast instead of at a bar
- Plan activities and catch ups for your next home swing, on this home swing
- Join a social sports team with a friend on the opposite swing or find a “pickup” or social league
- Do a big cook-up and freeze into meal-size portions so you have easy options ready to go on fly-in night or when you’re busy
- Eat your vegies. Your mum was 100% right about that.