The Tactical Lunch Bag: Healthy Eating-Law Enforcement Style

As we finish the first couple of months of the New Year, many of us are adjusting to our committed changes we have made for a healthier 2012.

One area which can make a huge difference in our wellness program is our eating when on duty.
• Do you have a plan for your meals at work?
• Do you succumb to the quick and easy fix of fast food or easy to grab snack foods when we are ravenous?
• Do you constantly pick at food that people offer?

I used to be one of the officers who would spend quite a bit of money on junk food and eating crap while on duty. I felt like crap and it was no secret as I weighed over 350 pounds trying to do this job. My body ached, my demeanor was not nice and I was miserable. I was fortunate many years ago when I slowly decided to change the way I was eating and start exercising. I indicated several weeks ago, I am in the best shape of my life today as I slowly approach the age of 50.

A great part of my success keeping the weight off has been planning out my meals when I have to work. It sounds complicated but it is simple when… you put together the items to succeed.

The best part is you get to pack a healthy meal, you know what is in the meal and it is with you in the event that you are stuck at an event or a post that you cannot leave.
• Insulated Cooler Bag: There are many different sizes, models and styles. I like the soft vinyl type which has a side pocket to store items like a fork, spoon and knife. You can keep a small bottle of pain reliever, other medications and vitamins, tooth brush and toothpaste.
• Bottle of Water: A very important item to have throughout the shift especially when on patrol in all types of weather.
• Plastic Storage Containers: you can store your meals in these containers. Most can go into a microwave to heat up your food.

Here are some suggestions for you to consider eating while on duty. Keep it light, healthy and whole grain and simple. Pack some fruit, cut up vegetables, some good carbs such as brown rice, cereal or a pre-baked potato. Pack some protein items such as low fat yogurt or a cheese stick. Be creative and keep it healthy. This is fuel to keep your body energized and alert.

Try to eat whole foods and avoid the processed food packages. If you are selecting a pre-made item, read the label of ingredients. If it’s long and the words are complicated to pronounce, avoid it. Try to avoid items loaded with processed sweeteners, M.S.G., sodium and other chemical additives. We need to be aware of the ingredients going into our body to maintain the proper blood sugar balance needed for long term energy.
• Thermos liquid containers: are great items for packing and taking coffee, a hot beverage or soups, the way you like it. It is with you especially when you are working overnight or it is with you when you are stuck at the event or post as mentioned above.

Keep a few items inside your locker or storage space inside your station in the event you are forced to work an unplanned overtime shift.
• Many healthy food items such as brown rice packages, beans, tuna, instant plain oatmeal, small packages of dry fruit, small bags of nuts, individual packs of peanut butter and soups are easy to store and take a moment to prepare in a microwave. Keep a small can opener, eating utensils and a microwave bowl with these items. When storing the food item, record the expiration date in your calendar book to replace the item in the future.

We train to be tactical survivors and winners in our L.E.O. roles. We need to tactically eat like a winner as well. When you make a committed plan for your meals along with a daily exercise routine, you will be the winner that YOU, your family, your co-workers and your community deserve.

REMEMBER: We are the Honorable Profession! Stay safe and be well!
Mark St. Hilaire

CopsAlive is written to prompt discussions within our profession about the issues of law enforcement career survival. We invite you to share your opinions in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article. was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers. We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence.

We will help your agency create the kind of place that supports and protects officers so that they can do their jobs better, safer, longer and survive to tell their grand kids all about it.

We do this by Helping Law Enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful lives on the job and beyond. We think the best strategy is for each officer to create a tactical plan for their own life and career. We call this Tactical Wellness planning.

The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) works with individuals and organizations to help them create and sustain success in their lives and careers as law enforcement professionals. It is the primary goal of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute to become the preeminent source for training, resources and information about how to create and sustain a happy, healthy and successful life and career while providing superior law enforcement service to your community.

At The Law Enforcement Survival Institute we train law enforcement officers to cope with stress and manage all the toxic effects and hidden dangers of a career in law enforcement.

We provide stress management and Tactical Wellness for police officers and other law enforcement professionals.

CLICK HERE to read more about The Law Enforcement Survival Institute.

CLICK HERE if you would like to contact us to learn more about training for your organization.

I’m John Marx, Founder of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and the Editor of Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

About Mark St. Hilaire

Sergeant Mark St.Hilaire has 25+ years as a police officer and is currently serving as a Patrol Sergeant in a suburb of Metrowest Boston, Massachusetts. Mark is continually training as a police peer assistant, and serves as a volunteer member of a regional C.I.S.M. team. He is committed to educating public safety professionals about the benefits of good health,developing our relationships and emotional wellness to improve our quality of life on and off duty.
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  1. Thank you so much for this great information. My boyfriend is a cop, on the go all the time, & gets little sleep which concerns me with his job. I pray for God to protect him & bring him home safe each & everyday. I want to help him in any way I can & thought one way was to prepare some food ahead of time for him so I Googled it & found this posting. I love your suggestions to keep the body energized, alert, for long term energy, healthy food, & in cases when you’re stuck at an event for a long period of time. I thank God for all of you Heroes, for putting your lives on the line for us, for complete strangers each & everyday & I pray that God protects & blesses each & everyone of you! Thank you again!

  2. Hi Jake,

    Thanks for the comment! Yes, it does seem that the “good old days” are growing in numbers and in status!

  3. Hey Sonny,
    Great suggestion! Thanks for the comment.

  4. Howard "Jake" Jaquay

    Reminds me of the good old days (funny how there seem to have been a lot more of those than there use to be) when I would carry around an old insulated lunch box with the type of items mentioned above. I recall once working about 32 hours straight (pre-overtime of course) and all I had to eat was what I carried with me. That lunch box sure came in handy. Anyway, good article with very good advice.

  5. Great advice! One way I used to eat well while on the evening and midnight shift was to stop by my local hospital cafeteria. As a troop, and sometimes dealing with MVA with injuries, I found that the hospital cafeteria cooked up a fresh batch of healthy meals around 0100 hours for the staff working the overnight shift. It was a great way to get a healthy meal at an odd hour.

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