Nurses are notorious for not taking their lunches, and although that is probably the worst thing they could do, it is a fact of life in some facilities. On the other hand, not having anything to eat for 12 hours definitely has its downsides. Your blood sugar can drop, and this can make you tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate. Obviously, these aren’t conducive to good nursing, so what are you supposed to do?

Snacks are your friend when you are a nurse. You could eat snacks that are bad for you, though, such as candy bars, donuts, and the like. The trick is to eat snacks that have some nutritional value and can qualify as healthy. This includes snacks high in protein and complex carbohydrates. It is possible to eat healthy on the go. Here are seven items that are quick and easy to eat, yet still healthy.

1. String Cheese

String cheese is a great portable snack. Not just any cheese, but string cheese. They can easily fit in your pocket, allowing for portability, fast eating, and protein goodness at 6g each. String cheese has a good amount of protein in it, but you have to be wary of the amount of fat you are eating. Cheese, though high in protein, can also have a great deal of fat at 6g. They are only 80 calories, but too many can transform it into an unhealthy alternative. The solution is to get the low fat version of the cheese. Have several of these portable snacks on hand and be sure to wash your hands and chow down when you have a second.

2. Protein Bars

Protein bars are another portable way to keep you from feeling hungry. Not only does a small amount of protein make you feel full, it also provides a slow, long lasting surge of energy. These bars come in different amounts of protein, and you don’t necessarily need the bar that has the most protein in it. You should consider two things when picking a protein bar. One is the amount of calories in the bar. It does you no good to eat a 500 calorie protein bar. You may as well eat a candy bar. The second consideration is taste. Get a variety of protein bars and try them out. Eating healthy and quick does not have to be an ordeal.

3. Fruit

Fruit is a double-edged sword, but it is portable and quick like the others. Unfortunately, fruit is a simple carbohydrate, meaning it gives a quick, short energy boost. The upside of fruit is that you also get fiber and nutrients. However, you may find yourself hungry in a few short hours. You can easily eat an apple, which has a less significant effect on blood sugar, or some diced pears in their own juice. Try to stay away from the more sugary fruits, such as bananas, pineapples, and peaches. Fruit is not the best choice, but it is better than candy bars or a bag of chips.

4. Wrapped Sandwiches

You may not have time for a full sandwich, but you may be able to sneak in a sandwich wrapped in a tortilla. These wraps can be found at some convenience stores, such as those that specialize in selling food in addition to candy. If not, there are pre-packaged wrap sandwiches at the grocery store. This option is really like a full meal, but you need to be wary of a few things. Most pre-packaged foods come with a high amount of sodium, which could be a problem if you have high blood pressure. Depending on the type of foods on the wrap, you could run into fat and calorie problems as well. Lean chicken and greens are your best bet.

5. Nuts

Nuts are one of the perfect on-the-go snacks. You can pop a handful in your mouth and keep going. Again, this is another food that is very high in protein, depending on the type of nut you choose. The type of nut will also determine fat quantity. Most nutritionists recommend almonds for a quick snack. However, one ounce of almonds has 163 calories, 14g of fat, and 6g of protein. The good news is that they are low in saturated and trans fats. Although this nut is high in fat, it is mostly good fats, making them a good option for a quick snack.

6. Yogurt

There are a million ways to eat yogurt, and all of them seem rather quick. Unfortunately, it is what you put in the yogurt that can make the calories skyrocket. Very few people can eat it plain, but it is probably better for you if you do. Yogurt, though high in protein, calcium, and calories, can still be a problem. One solution is to buy low-fat yogurt and stay away from ones with added sugar. Some yogurts even come in a handy packet that allows you to essentially “drink” the meal. This is a decent fast snack, but like the others, you should read those nutritional facts closely before you make it your go-to fast snack.

7. Meal Replacement Shakes

Finally, if you are desperate, you can opt for a meal replacement shake. Nurses are used to giving these to patients who need to put on weight. Ironically, they are also used for people who want to lose weight, such as Slim Fast. Although these milkshakes can give you the boost you need, you once again need to be careful. They are ridiculously high in calories. If you are going to have a meal replacement shake, it is very important to not eat anything else. In a pinch, you can down a shake, get your protein, get your fats, get some calories, and continue on with your shift. It can be a slippery slope, though, so pay attention to what you are eating. This snack will not do you any good if you combine it with other high fat, high calorie foods. As with the other snacks, you need to look at meal replacement shakes in conjunction with the entirety of your eating habits. Count your calories, fat, and protein. Make sure you are not overdoing it in your rush to get a meal, and always read the labels.

Lynda Lampert
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