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On the road again? Be careful not to pig out

Swine veterinarians putting in long days on the road caring for pigs should be just as cognizant of their own health and nutritional needs, Katie Woodard, DVM, Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, Iowa State University (ISU), told Pig Health Today.

“We really focus in on the minutiae for the pig diet, but a lot of times [when away from home], we’re just eating what’s convenient,” which may not be the healthiest choice, said Woodard, who manages Client Outreach and Education at ISU’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.

When traveling, veterinarians may find it easy to opt for something quick, but fast-food restaurants should be the last resort. If they’re the only option, choose salads and grilled meats if possible. Good side-dish choices that are often available include apples, bananas or baked potatoes, she said.

Woodard does not advocate junk-food deprivation, however. If French fries are irresistible, get a small order, she said. Moderation is the key.

Filling up?

Gas stations are another hub for unhealthy food, but it’s easy for busy veterinarians to grab a quick bite when they stop to refuel. Instead of foraging salty and sugary snacks, check the cooler for boiled eggs, string cheese, fresh or cut fruit and yogurt.

“That’s really the safe zone in any gas station. You want to stay away from the pizza [and] the doughnut case,” Woodard said.

Local coffee shops usually have food choices that are healthier and filling. Examples are oatmeal, rice, whole-grain bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, she continued.

When purchasing packaged foods, be sure to read the labels. The fewer ingredients there are, the better, Woodard said. Watch for too much added sugar and salt; they can make food taste better but aren’t always the best for health. If weight gain is a concern, check the calorie content, too.

Veterinarians also need to be careful when attending industry meetings, especially at break time when there’s often piles of cookies and sweets available. Look for healthy options like fruit, whole-grain bread or granola bars. If you can’t resist that warmchocolate chip cookie, eat a small portion.

Lastly, avoid going for long periods of time without eating, she suggested. Instead, eat something healthy throughout the day so that by evening, “you’re not just wanting to eat whatever’s in front of you.”

Plan and pack

The best way veterinarians can eat healthier on the road is by bringing food from home, but that takes planning and preparation.

“You’ve got to take the time, either on the weekends or in the morning, to actually pack some food and put some thought to it. Because if you don’t

take the time to get it prepped, then you don’t have it,” she emphasized.

“Just like we would prepare ourselves to go to a site and look at pigs, you’ve really got to prepare to take care of yourself,”

Eat better, feel better

Woodard pointed out that habits change slowly, and when converting to a healthier diet, bodies adjust and food starts to taste different.

Recent research, she noted, underscores the benefits of eating better and the beneficial impact on brain function. “If we can improve the health of our brains, then we can think faster, we can think smarter,” she said, adding that eating well is important not only for physical health but also mental health.

As people start eating better, they begin to feel better. In time, veterinarians find that the physical activities that go with the job — walking long barns, bending over, crouching and picking up pigs — become easier and less tiring when they eat right, Woodard emphasized.

Posted on August 16, 2019

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