What's in your esky?

Published: 11 September 2017

More and more Australians are turning to snacks to fill the gaps between meals, with up to 96 per cent of them reportedly consuming food outside of the traditional three meals a day. Today’s time poor society is looking for options that are easy to prepare, readily available and cost effective.

Eating regularly is an important part of a healthy eating pattern and weight management strategy. However, concern arises when healthy snacks are replaced with processed snacks, which lack the nutrients that bodies need and simply add kilojoules to your daily intake.  

There are few industries where this is more true than in the construction industry. Fatigue, dehydration, long working hours and varied working conditions (such as working across multiple sites) all contribute to a greater reliance on energy-dense convenient snacks, rather than following a structured meal pattern.

Research shows that those who follow an unstructured, snack-dominated meal pattern typically have lower fibre, vitamin and mineral intake compared to those following a meal-dominated pattern. This can ultimately lead to increased waistlines and poorer health outcomes. This emphasises the importance of turning to snacks that aren’t just enjoyable and convenient but also provide nutritional bang for your buck. 

Food is your fuel 

Far from just weight management, there are several reasons why you should be choosing healthy snack options. Food is fuel – and by providing your body with sustained energy and nutrition, you’re better equipped to get through long workdays. B vitamins, for example, are involved in energy metabolism. Adding sources of B vitamins into your diet, such as wholegrain carbohydrates, will help boost energy levels and reduce fatigue. 
Evidence has also emerged linking nutrient intake with mental health. Folate, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium and essential fats like omega 3 have been identified as playing a role in reducing the likelihood of developing depression, anxiety and stress. 

Store-bought iced coffees, large cappuccinos and energy drinks are popular with many construction workers, so it’s important to consider how drink choices can affect your health. Dehydration is a leading cause of daytime fatigue in Australian workers. By choosing snacks that boost hydration, rather than simply adding caffeine, alcohol or sugar to your diet, you’re able to manage your health, mood and fatigue levels more effectively.

What snacks should you be eating? 

The definition of a snack varies, for example a sandwich might be considered a snack by one person, but a meal by another. However, in terms of energy content, aiming for around 600kJ per snack is a good guide. 

With such a wide variety of snacks available, here’s some food for thought the next time you reach out for a snack.  

Aim to choose foods that are as close to their natural form as possible, known as minimally processed. This includes options such as wholegrain carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins.  

Eating foods with all the colours of the rainbow ensures you’re also getting the nutrients required to sustain you.

Tips for snacking

With a little preparation, having healthy snacks on hand can be easy:

  • Be sure to consider your weekly snacks when grocery shopping
  • Try snack prepping the Sunday before work so you have snacks ready for the week ahead
  • Pack your esky the night before to make it easy to get to those early starts on time
  • Remember to add an ice block to your esky to keep food cool and safe for your entire shift.

Encouragingly, the future of snacking in Australia looks bright. Manufacturing companies are responding to increased consumer demand by creating an ever-expanding variety of healthier snack alternatives. By making the conscious effort to choose nutrient-rich snacks, you can reduce fatigue, feel happier, and live a healthier life.  

Top 10 healthy snack options

Check out these snack ideas that each contain around 600kJ mark. 

  1. 30g air-popped, unsalted popcorn (you can buy these in the potato chip aisle now)
  2. High-fibre muesli bar (look for a bar that contains >3g fibre per serve)
  3. Veggie sticks & hummus, salsa or low-fat dip
  4. Wholegrain crackers with cheese, cucumber & tomato slices
  5. A slice of wholemeal fruit toast
  6. 30g unsalted nuts
  7. Small low-fat cappuccino
  8. 200g tub low-fat yoghurt or pre-packaged ‘Milo to go’
  9. Piece of fruit, a cup of frozen berries or 2 to 3 bliss balls
  10. Hard-boiled egg or 30g beef jerky