Healthy Eating for Equine Grooms – You Are What You Eat!
by Becky Parker
Take a stroll around any yard at feed time and you will see grooms carefully measuring and allocating feeds for each individual horse. Usually, there will be a complex ever-changing board to ensure each horse has a diet relevant to their workload that allows them to reach their peak performance. Often topped up with 54 different kinds of supplement for any even half perceived ailment, mental imbalance, weather fluctuation or skin condition.
By contrast, poke your head into the groom’s kitchen, take a peek in the tack room bin, glance in a grooms car passenger footwell and the chances are high there will be great evidence of a less thought out diet. For some reason when it comes to caring for ourselves the trend for living on Redbull and Mars bars still prevails for many grooms. Yet it makes no sense! If our end goal is to provide the best possible care for the horses in our charge, one of the first steps should be to ensure we are in our best possible form to do that job, and that begins with the fuel we use to power ourselves.
Why is healthy eating so important for equine grooms?
- To sustain consistently higher energy levels throughout the day – no more need for 4pm daydreams of curling up in the corner of the stable and sleeping
- For improved brain function e.g. problem solving and memory recall – vital skills in a groom’s day to day life, not to be mention to ensure speed of thinking and response times, essential to survive and thrive even the everyday rigours of working with horses!
- For increased strength particularly over the long term as correct fuelling helps the body build muscle
- To feel happier! We all know feeling HANGRY is a real thing!
- Because grooms don’t have time for being sick 😉, poor nutrition weakens your immune system leaving you far more susceptible to annoying inconveniences such as colds, migraines and an upset tummy
- In the long term, a bad diet can lead to not maintaining a healthy weight along with associated risks eg: diabetes, digestive problems, liver and kidney disease and even cardiovascular problems
- Bad toxins clog up the liver slowing down the body’s ability to process any good food you feed it into energy
Don’t forget that alcohol is part of your diet too! Alcohol puts excessive pressure on the liver’s performance, which in turn affects the body’s ability to digest and process food – which impacts your stamina, energy levels and overall ability to cope with daily activities.
We know this is relevant because this image is one of the most popular posts on our Facebook Page! 😉
What is a ‘healthy eating’ for an equine groom?
In simple terms, healthy eating is a balanced diet, made up of a variety of unprocessed whole foods from across all the food groups. These are:
CARBOHYDRATES – 45-60% of your Daily Intake
Contrary to what some ridiculous fad diets might suggest, Carbs are not bad, they are a vital part of your daily diet, especially if you have a physically demanding job. Carbohydrates contain fibre, starch, sugars, vitamins and minerals all of which the body needs to operate at its maximum potential.
All Carbs can be split into two categories depending on how high they score on the GI (Glycaemic Index) which measures how quickly the food can be broken down, absorbed and converted into energy. Low GI foods are generally considered better as they will leave you feeling content and energised for longer. Examples of low GI foods would be:
PROTEIN – 25-35% of your Daily Intake
Protein is the bodies version of a building block used to create new cells that repair damaged tissue and build new muscle. It is thought that the average person requires 0.75g of Protein per kilogram of body weight. Examples of foods rich in protein would be:
- lean meat
FATS – 20 = 30% of your Daily Intake
‘Fat’ is a word with such negative connotations that it is easy to think it is something we should avoid altogether, but this is not so. Good fats are an important part of our diet that provide energy, help our body to absorb the nutrients it needs and form an important part of brain, nerve and cell function. These fats are even known as ‘essential fatty acids’ – must be good then!
There are in fact 4 types of Fats. 2 we do want and 2 we should try to avoid.
Polyunsaturated fats contain Omega 3 and Omega 6 which promote healthy cell function, these can be found in fish, linseed oil, sunflower oil, pine nuts and eggs.
Monounsaturated fats promote good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol for a healthy heart these can be found in Olives, Avocado, Cashews, peanuts and Pistachios.
Saturated fat is mostly found in animal products such as meat and dairy but also in coconut and palm oil. This is one of the highest causes of weight gain and heart problems in our diet. It can be found not only in high salt, fatty processed foods such as crisps and snacks but also in:
- cheddar cheese
You know, all the things we like to snack on most whilst at shows!
Trans Fats come in two types, the naturally occurring kind found in meat and dairy which there is little evidence to show has a negative effect on our body and the artificial kind, created through the industrial process of hydrogenating vegetable oil. This is done as a cost-effective way to improve the taste and texture of fast food and processed products. It is proven to actively increase the risk of heart disease and is just a whole load of rubbish you don’t want in your body!
Never go long hours without food, no matter how busy you are. When you do your body goes into ‘starvation mode’. This mechanism, which is believed to be the body’s natural defence against starvation, means the body becomes super efficient at making the most of the calories it does get from food and drink, which in turn causes you to put weight on, and it also makes you susceptible to diabetes. Going hours without food then scoffing a Mars bar with a can of coke is just about the worst thing you can do!
Simple tips for healthy eating
- Choose a breakfast that is high in protein as this will kick-start your metabolism, give you a good burst of long-lasting energy and keep you full for longer
- Aim to eat every 3-4 hours which should include 3 good meals plus 2-3 healthy snacks (snack on the go by storing cereal bars/little bags of dried fruit and nuts/fresh fruit in your pockets or the tack room for easy snacking whilst on the way to the field or whilst cleaning tack)
- Ignore faddy, extreme, unsustainable diets
- Find healthy food you actually like that will appeal to you
- Drink plenty of water, during the summer 1-2 litres per day is the recommended daily amount. Keep a bottle on the yard, in the lorry, or in your car for busy freelance grooms, to make sipping on the go easy. This alone will reduce hunger, headaches and improve overall health.
This may seem like a cliché after all the above info but, if we are honest, in the busy hectic schedule of a groom the occasional chocolate bar is going to slip by even the best healthy eating defences and, do you know what? that is ok! The message here is only to ensure you keep the bad things in moderation and make yourself aware of the better effect a banana would have had in keeping you going until the end of the day.
My solution, as we all know the chocolate bar is by far the more appealing option… have one as a treat! – on those days, have a banana in one pocket and and a chocolate bar in the other….there we have the perfect balanced diet. I have so got this sussed! 😊
Click here for lots of great simple recipes that will help you maintain healthy eating.