As a nurse who works shifts, you realize how important it is to have quick and easy access to nutritious foods. You may have a growling stomach demanding a full course meal. However, with new admissions and a full schedule, you may not have time to eat more than a couple of bites between patients.
Since your job requires physical strength, emotional stability, and mental clarity, it’s essential to eat foods that promote a positive mood and stable blood sugar levels. An exhausted and irritable nurse isn’t good for patients or co-workers. More importantly, the toll nursing takes on your body can lead to long-term health problems if you don’t take care of yourself.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your meals and snacks:
A Protein Power Pack Breakfast:
You, of all the people, understand the importance of a hearty breakfast. It’s the most important meal of the day for a reason. Breakfast replenishes your energy stores, helps you maintain weight, and may reduce your risk of heart disease.
A breakfast of eggs or yogurt provides lasting energy and reduces mid-morning cravings. Add some whole-grain toast or a piece of fruit to balance your breakfast and give you the carbohydrates you need for quick energy.
Lunch on the Run:
Skipping meals because a patient coded, your class ran late, or a colleague is out sick is unhealthy and can lead to weight gain and decreased productivity. If you are short on time, try packing a lunch the night before or keeping non-perishable, healthy snacks at your station.
Try finding alternatives if you feel your schedule is meddling with your health. For instance, you can enroll in an MSN nurse practitioner program online, look into working from home once a week, or see if your state offers nurse license reciprocity.
Bulk Up on Vegetables and Fruits:
Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These nutrients are essential for your overall health and can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Eating various fruits and vegetables may also help you control your weight. Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when possible. If you opt for canned fruits and vegetables, look for options packed in water or 100% fruit juice. Otherwise, they may be high in sugar or sodium.
Healthy snacks can help you avoid hunger-induced cravings and make better daily food choices. Keep a stash of healthy snacks at your station, locker, or purse, so you’re never caught off guard.
A few healthy snack ideas include:
- A handful of nuts or seeds
- A hard-boiled egg
- Grilled vegetables
- A small piece of fruit
- A slice of cheese
- Whole-grain crackers
- An energy bar or a protein shake
Just remember to limit your snacks to 200 calories or less.
Eat Dinner with a Side of Gratitude:
After a long day of work, it’s easy to come home and plop in front of the television with a pint of ice cream. But resist the urge! Eating a nutritious dinner is vital for your health.
Making time for a healthy dinner may be difficult, but it’s worth it. If cooking a full meal is too time-consuming, try making a quick and healthy stir-fry or roasting a chicken breast. You can also batch cook meals on the weekends, so you have something to eat during the week.
Eating a healthy dinner can help improve your mood, increase energy levels, and promote better sleep. And don’t forget to add a side of gratitude.
Relax While You Eat:
We’ve all had episodes of hurriedly shoveling food into our mouths while standing up or working at the nurses’ station. But eating on the go can lead to indigestion and weight gain.
Whenever possible, sit down and enjoy your meal. Chew slowly and savor each bite. Not only will this help you better enjoy your food, but it can also aid digestion.
If you find taking a break during your shift difficult, try eating a smaller lunch and saving some of your food for a later snack. You can also try carrying around a water bottle and sipping it throughout the day.
Schedule Your Mealtimes:
Just like you schedule your patients’ appointments and charting, it’s important to schedule your mealtimes. Chances are, you already strictly follow a schedule at work. But when you’re off the clock, it’s easy to let your healthy eating habits slide.
To ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need, set regular mealtimes and stick to them as much as possible. It will help you stay on track and avoid making unhealthy food choices. You will also get enough time to talk with your friends and family about their day.
Up Your Calcium Intake:
As a nurse, you’re at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. It is because of the long hours you spend on your feet and the exposure to shift work.
Osteoporosis is a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle. To prevent this, ensure you’re getting enough calcium in your diet. Dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and calcium-fortified foods are all good sources of calcium. You can also take a calcium supplement if needed.
Don’t Forget Your Fluid Intake:
Staying hydrated is important for your overall health. But it’s imperative if you’re a nurse. That’s because dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, and difficulty concentrating.
It’s recommended that you drink eight glasses of water per day. But you may need even more if you’re working a long shift or performing strenuous activity.
To ensure you’re getting enough fluids, carry a water bottle and take small sips throughout the day. You can also eat foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables.
Fad Diets Won’t Help:
You’ve probably seen many nurses trying the latest fad diet. But the truth is, these diets are usually ineffective and can even be dangerous.
For instance, the hype around the keto diet has led many nurses to try it. But this high-fat, low-carb diet can increase your risk of heart disease. It can also lead to constipation, headaches, and fatigue.
If you want to improve your health, focus on eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. These sustainable lifestyle changes are much more effective than any fad diet.
It’s an understatement to say that nurses have a lot on their plate. They constantly run around and don’t always have time to care for themselves. However, nurses need to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
A nurse can better serve their patients if they care for themselves. Fatigue, low energy levels, and poor concentration can cause mistakes to be made, which isn’t ideal when lives are on the line. So stay healthy!