Nurses have many superpowers. One of them is that they can be on their feet for an extended amount of time without a break. This level of activity can also translate to nurses not taking their lunch breaks—which, it goes without saying, isn’t a good thing. In fact, one study that analyzed nurses' dietary habits in the workplace showed that nurses who work ten-to-twelve-hour shifts eat erratically or skip eating altogether. Moreover, the study showed that nurses who work long shifts are more likely to reach for unhealthy food options, especially if the food is free. With that in mind, perhaps one of the simplest ways to combat unhealthy eating patterns while working as a PRN nurse is to prepare healthy meals at home and bring them to work. Meal prepping has become a popular method for busy nurses who wish to maintain a healthy eating plan.
If you are a nurse and are feeling sluggish lately at work, it may be time to take a look at your nutritional habits. And while good sleep plays a huge factor in feeling rejuvenated and alert while on shift, a balanced diet (rich in protein and greens) will also help you feel nourished and energetic while at work. With that said, read on for some straightforward and quick meal prep recipes for busy nurses.
Mason Jar Mixed Fruit & Yogurt Parfait (Prep Time: 10 Minutes)
You don’t have to be an Instagram influencer to meal-prep a deliciously healthy and eye-pleasing snack. Yogurt parfait, a mix of yogurt, granola, and fruit, is a popular choice for busy healthcare professionals who want an easy snack to throw in their bags. As a bonus, putting your yogurt parfait in a small sealed mason jar is both a creative and environmentally friendly way to prepare an on-the-go snack. Check out this sweet little recipe below:
Ingredients and Equipment
- One small mason jar
- One cup of creamy (farm-fresh) plain Greek yogurt (or vegan cashew milk yogurt substitute)
- One handful of fresh or frozen mixed fruit (berries, bananas, strawberries, melon—go wild!)
- One-third cup of a crunchy granola mix
- Two tablespoons of honey or maple syrup
Prepare Your Parfait
- Layer the bottom of your mason jar with yogurt.
- Top with granola.
- Next, add a layer of fruit on top.
- Finally, drizzle with honey or maple syrup.
- Seal the lid and refrigerate overnight.
- Before your shift, pack away in your nursing bag. (Tip: roll your mason jar up in a sweater, your scrubs, or a shirt for extra padding.)
Apple-Cinnamon Quinoa Bowl (Prep Time: 15 Minutes)
This comforting and nutrient-dense dish is perfect for a morning or afternoon pick-me-up. All it takes to prepare is a cup of cooked quinoa, apples (we like green apples), and ground cinnamon spice. This snack happens to be a staple in Bolivia, South America, where locals can be seen sipping on warm and creamy cups of quinoa mixed with cinnamon and cloves on their way to work. Whether you choose to enjoy this snack as a meal or a beverage, it’s a perfect way to give yourself a quick energy boost. See how easy it is to prepare this delightful recipe below:
Ingredients and Equipment
- Half a cup of uncooked quinoa (rinsed)
- Three-fourths cup of milk or milk substitute
- Half a cup of sliced or shredded green apples (more if green apples are your jam!)
- One-fourth teaspoon of ground cinnamon or two to three cinnamon quills (sticks) broken into pieces
- One teaspoon of honey or maple syrup
- A pinch of salt
Prepare Your Quinoa Bowl
- In a medium pot or saucepan, bring quinoa and two cups of water to a boil and stir constantly for five minutes to prevent burning the grains.
- Turn down heat to medium-low and let simmer until quinoa is tender.
- Stir in milk or milk substitute, followed by green apples.
- Continue to stir and sprinkle in ground cinnamon or cinnamon quills.
- Drizzle with a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup.
- Add a pinch of salt or more to your liking.
- Store in a Tupperware or reusable container in the refrigerator overnight.
- Reheat as needed at your medical facility’s cafeteria or kitchen.
Avocado & Chicken Wraps (Prep Time: 25-30 Minutes)
Wraps are some of our favorite recipes for busy nurses because they are just so easy to make (once the chicken is cooked). Plus, you can mix things up and add or take away ingredients.
The base of this wrap is almost always the same—a meat or vegan protein plus avocado. Additionally, you can add a mix of veggies (raw or cooked) to this wrap to add a burst of flavor, fiber, and nutrition. Here is a wrap recipe to get you inspired:
Ingredients and Equipment
- One large or two medium-sized tortillas (whole-wheat or gluten-free)
- One small boneless chicken breast (or plant-based protein like chickpeas)
- Half an avocado
- Diced tomatoes and cucumbers
- Shredded lettuce or sprouts
- Organic mayonnaise or mayonnaise substitute
Prepare Your Wrap
- Boil chicken breast the night before your nursing shift and let cool (if using a protein substitute, you can skip this step).
- Once cooled, shred chicken breast and separate one cup to make a wrap. Store the remaining chicken in Tupperware for another meal.
- Dice an even amount of tomatoes and cucumbers and store.
- Carve out fifteen minutes before your nursing shift to assemble your wrap.
- During this time, shred a small amount of iceberg lettuce or half a handful of sprouts.
- Peel and loosely chop the avocado into small squares.
- Heat your tortilla on a pan or in the microwave for ten seconds.
- Place the tortilla on a plate and start assembling your wrap.
- Layer with prepared shredded chicken, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
- Add lettuce or sprouts.
- Top with mayonnaise or mayonnaise substitute.
- Wrap up in tin foil, or store in a reusable container (and plan to eat within three to five hours, as tortillas are prone to getting soggy).
Recipes for Nurses: Honorable Mentions
While the meal prep ideas offered above win for their simplicity and nutritional value, we can’t forget to mention a few other snacks that are savory, sometimes tangy, and even include a nibble of heaven (i.e., chocolate). For instance, it takes five minutes to spread some crunchy peanut butter over a few celery sticks and pack them away for a mid-shift snack. Furthermore, sauteing leftover veggies in your fridge and topping them with a rich pesto can be a great energizing snack during your nursing shift. And finally, to treat yourself after a few shifts in a row, pack yourself a handful of berries with a few squares of dark chocolate to keep you feelin’ alright.
Ultimately, feeding your body will nourish both your mind and soul. To put it another way, the more you care for yourself, the more you can be present and care for your patients while at work. So, take a break, will ya? After all, a belly full of nourishing food is a healthy belly. Buen provecho!
What foods do you pack for your nursing shifts? Share your favorite recipes for busy nurses in our community page.