I’m sitting in the Cook County Court building at 26th and California, fulfilling my civic duty as a (potential) juror. I have been forewarned that there would be a long wait and that I may not get called at all. But aside from failing to remove my camera from my purse, I came prepared based on the instructions provided on the summons: Bring something to read and change for the vending machines.
The vending machine suggestion was a red flag and fair warning in my mind to bring my own healthy, non-perishable snacks. As the day has worn on and there are fewer and fewer of us left in the waiting room, the ant-like procession toward the man made sustenance has thickened. The machines are filled with the usual fare and while I peel my banana, jurors are peeling away wrappers for myriad sugar, salt and fat confections: Candy bars, sodas, chips and cookies. Snacks like my fun-sized Snicker’s are fine to include in your lunch, just be sure to replenish the good stuff first: Whole grains, fruits, veggies, and nuts.
Healthy eating in these types of situations requires thinking ahead and planning. It’s easy to get caught with poor options and when you’re hungry, even salted Styrofoam sounds appealing. But subjugating your nutrition, even if it’s just once, can leave you feeling deeply fatigued, irritable, and foggy; great workouts will feel wasted and so will you. Considering the alternatives of obesity, low energy, and disease, you may find it worth the extra effort to shop for and pack items for just these kinds of events. Today, as I watch this jury of my peers falling asleep in their impossibly uncomfortable chairs, I know that what they’ve eaten for lunch has a lot to do with how they feel.
For foods that you can eat quietly, without utensils, on the run, and that do not require refrigeration, you might consider some of the items I included in my lunch today. At 10 a.m. I ate a banana, which I paired with the second half of my breakfast’s whole grain bagel. I followed this with two handfuls of pistachios and a peach around noon, and a fun-sized Snicker’s bar for dessert. At 3 p.m., I enjoyed half of an avocado. It may not seem like much, but the nuts and avocado pack a lot of calories. And since pistachios are high in protein and good fat, they have kept me satisfied for many hours.
Eating several snacks over the course of many hours is perfect for when you don’t have the time, space or refrigeration to spread out with a full meal. Aim to include some fruit, nuts, a bit of whole-grain bread, and a small sweet for dessert, and always opt for water instead of hitting the caffeine/soda. Eat this way the next time you don’t want your brain and body to turn to mush while you wait. Whether you’re waiting for jury duty, a plane, traffic or work, you’ll be able to maintain a semblance of energy and health.
Fran Scott is a professional exercise physiologist.