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When you’re working in an active job like law enforcement or public safety, there are times when you’re feeling a little sluggish and in need of a snack to give you some energy. Which snack you choose can make a huge difference—not only in your energy and stamina on the job, but in your long-term health.

We get it: packaged and processed snacks are easy and delicious. But remember, they’re easy because they are packed with preservatives so they won’t spoil, and they’re delicious because they contain a huge amount of salt, sugar, or fat to delight your taste buds and light up the pleasure center in your brain.

The Facts About Salt, Sugar, and Fat

Eating too much salt has been linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and dementia. The recommended daily allowance of sodium is 2,300 mg, and the American Heart Association suggests an even lower limit of 1,500 mg, but the average American eats 3,400 mg of salt every day.

The American Heart Associate recommends that men consume no more than 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons) of added sugar (that does not count naturally occurring sugar, such as the fructose in fruit) per day, and women no more than 25 grams (6 teaspoons). Eating too much added sugar can cause weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

Public Safety runs on Dunkin

Here’s an example of how small changes can build up. According to nutrition charts for Dunkin, a medium black coffee is 10 calories, a medium coffee with milk and sugar is 80 calories, and a medium regular (3 cream and 3 sugar) is 120 calories. If public safety officers drink 8 medium coffees per week, that translates to 416 medium coffees over the course of a year. If you select black coffee, that equals 4,160 calories, but if you choose regular you will consume 49,920 calories, equaling 14.26 pounds worth of calories. Over 25 years that equates to 356 pounds' worth of calories! As you can see, small daily changes have enormous long-term effects.

Making a Healthy Change in Your Snacking Habits

If you want to improve your snacking habits, don’t make the mistake of opting for sugar-free options or snacks that are artificially made lower in fat. Those snacks are still processed—perhaps even more so. The better option is to look for natural replacements for processed snacks. Not only will natural foods automatically reduce your intake of problematic ingredients, they will make you feel better and will improve your health, both in the short term and the long term.

The good news is, in addition to exercising some willpower, you can actually reduce your cravings for junk by training your taste buds to like healthier food. Studies have shown that reducing your salt, fat, and sugar intake can reduce your craving for those types of foods, and can also make you more sensitive to the salt, fat, and sugar levels of the food you eat, so you need less of the ingredient to get the same effect.

Next time you need a boost, instead of grabbing a donut, a bag of chips, or a candy bar, choose one of these easy, healthier options:

  • Fresh fruit (banana, apple, pear)
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Raw almonds
  • Dried fruit
  • Carrots and hummus
  • A hard-boiled egg
  • Edamame
  • Trail mix
  • Rice cakes
  • Seeds (sunflower or pumpkin)
  • Fresh or freeze-dried berries
  • Low-sodium jerky
  • Low-sugar yogurt
  • Roasted seaweed
  • Veggie chips
  • Roasted chickpeas

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