As a nurse, you’re accustomed to running around all the time. And while hopping from one patient’s care to the next means you’re able to connect with and care for all those patients, sometimes it also means you’re not taking care of yourself.
Finding time for a fast and nutritious snack during a busy shift can be almost impossible. You might be left with whatever snacks are stocked in the break room or whatever forgotten snack you happen to have in your bag.
Alongside limited snacking options, short lunch breaks mean you’ll be looking for the nearest fast food joint more often than not when mealtime comes around. These limited dining and snacking options—paired with the stress and irregular hours nurses shoulder regularly—have taken their toll on nurses over the years, resulting in some pretty troubling health trends.
Luckily, nurses hoping to stay healthy have some great options at their disposal—particularly when it comes to pre-planning food. Here are a few ideas you can try in your off hours so that you have plenty of tasty and nutritious food during that next crazy shift.
Stock Up on Nuts and Dried Fruit
You may be on your feet for hours during a hectic shift, putting miles of hospital hallways on your sneakers over the course of a day.
When you finally get a quick break, the last thing you want is to start looking for something healthy to snack on. Having some nutritious, pre-packed snacks on hand can be a complete game-changer, leaving you energized for the rest of the shift.
Nuts and dried fruit are healthy and delicious options for snacking. Almonds, pistachios, and cashews are particularly beneficial, each containing a blend of protein and vitamins for good short and long-term health benefits.
Dried fruit, when paired with the protein in nuts, can give you a good balance of sugar to keep you energized throughout the shift without leaving you wired or leading to a nasty crash partway through.
The best part about nuts and dried fruit? They stay fresh for a very long time! You can stock up on these from your nearest Costco and have plenty to eat every shift, regardless of how your
Focus on Rice Dishes
Of all the carbs on the block, rice is one of the best.
It’s cheap, easy to make, and not inherently unhealthy (although there are plenty of things you can do to make it as healthy or unhealthy as you want). You can also make a ton of it at once.
Of course, nurses don’t have much free time, especially when their workplace is understaffed or when they sign up for extra shifts. Taking all of these factors together, there’s a real incentive to quickly knock out delicious and healthy rice meals without wasting too much of that scarce free time.
Some great pairings include chicken, fish, shrimp, and ground turkey. With these proteins, your choice of healthy veggies, and rice, you can make hundreds of unique and tasty dishes, most of which don’t take very long to create and produce plenty of freezer-safe leftovers for a future shift.
Sheet pan meals, in particular, are super simple and quick to prepare and can be put over a bed of rice for a ridiculously easy and fast supper (or three).
Take Your Storage Game to the Next Level
You’ve picked out some high-yield and healthy meals you like. You have some snacks stocked up from your Costco or bulk food section. Now what?
Well, now you just need to make sure you have somewhere to put them! Getting a set of durable and convenient containers should take top priority. The last couple of years has seen an explosion in the lunch-boxing game, with people racing to create the most compact, convenient, and fun containers for food at work.
Think through your mealtime situation; then, find the perfect container for you. If fridge space at work is limited, focus on insulated lunch boxes and freezer packs so you can keep your food nice and cold until it’s time to eat. If you’re planning on eating frozen leftovers most days, find a good set of freezer-safe containers that you can also heat in the microwave.
Final Note: Never Underestimate Subscription Options
Though these tips are a great start and can preserve your time, money, and health long-term, sometimes you need a little extra help.
A subscription meal-prep or snack program can help you stay stocked with exciting and healthy food if you’re having trouble committing to the meal-prep lifestyle on your own. After all, planning an entire roster of meals can be challenging when you’re trying to enjoy your snippets of time away from work.
These subscriptions can help you branch out into culinary worlds you’ve never explored before and provide you with a variety of yummy snacks to sample throughout the day.
Subscriptions like BlueApron even let you mark down your goals so they can suggest the best options for you. Keep in mind that these meal kits are typically more expensive than buying and preparing your food. You’ll want to decide whether the added convenience is worth the price.
Meal Prep for Nurses: Healthier, Happier, Never Hungry
Convenience comes at a premium when you’re working a busy shift. Every second is precious, and you often don’t have the time to find a healthy option for snacking or mealtime.
However, by stocking up on healthy snacks and meals in advance, nurses can ensure they’ve got plenty of delicious and healthy food ahead of time. Using these meal prep tips, nurses also won’t break the bank or waste too much of their free time.
After all, you and your patients both deserve the best version of you. And many times, that starts with a healthy diet.
At Nursa, we’re committed to providing nurses with fun and helpful advice for building sustainable careers in nursing. For related content, take a look at our per diem nursing blog.