Most of us lead busy, hectic, stressful lives, and nurses are certainly no exception. Working shifts, having different hours day to day and going long stretches without a day off add to the stress—not to mention the job itself.
While most nurses certainly know how important a balanced diet is, doing the right thing can be a different story. Eating well takes some thought and a bit of planning, but think small and just begin. A good place to start: Set goals to increase fruit and vegetable intake, consume nonfat or low-fat dairy products and choose naturally low-fat foods. When you feed your body properly, you won’t be sick as often, you’ll have more energy and you’ll feel less stressed because a healthy diet can be checked off your “to-do” list.
Whether you work shifts or are pressed for time, these tips are doable and will have a positive impact on your nutrition and health:
- Eat some protein in the morning with breakfast: 2 teaspoons of peanut butter on a slice of whole-wheat toast; 1 egg or 2 egg whites scrambled on a slice of toast or a whole-wheat tortilla; a bowl of whole-grain cereal with nonfat or 1% fat milk; or oatmeal with blueberries and some chopped pecans. Why? Protein and fiber help you stay full longer, so you’ll be satisfied and won’t be tempted to snack.
- Bring fruit to work to snack on. Why? If it’s there, you’ll eat it. Eating five to ten servings of fruits and vegetables may seem like a tall order, but consider this: 1 banana, 1 medium apple, 2 tablespoons of raisins, 1 cup of lettuce, ½ cup of green beans and 6 ounces of orange juice together provide eight servings.
- If you work variable shifts you’ll need to give your meal schedule some thought. For instance, if you are on evenings, keep it light. Eat one light meal during your shift and small meals the following day. With variable day shifts, try to eat your larger meal during your shift.
- If you work an evening shift regularly, try to schedule meals like this: Fruit with cheese, ¼ cup almonds or yogurt at 1 a.m. or break time; light breakfast at 8 a.m.; sleep; light lunch at 2–3 p.m. (salad or a half a sandwich with fruit); exercise at 4–5 p.m.; supper at 7:30 p.m.
- Don’t skip exercise. Schedule exercise for yourself as you would schedule any appointment or picking up your children from activities. If you’re trying to lose weight and already walk or jog, add weight lifting. Increasing muscle mass helps you boost metabolism.