As nurses, and even nursing students, we all know how difficult it can be to balance eating at work. It should be easy to eat, right? You may be a nurse if you relate to any of the following:

  • What’s eating? There is no time to eat. None. Zilch. Zippo.
  • After you cath someone, insert a rectal tube, and empty a fresh wound vac you simply have no desire (or need at this point) to eat.
  • The cafeteria has served the same taco salad for the last four days that you’ve worked. Does anyone else notice that?
  • You wear Invisalign (like me) and have no desire to put your MRSA covered hands in your mouth to remove your retainer or brush your teeth in a hospital bathroom after you eat.
  • The doctors have been next door rounding for an hour and your patient is next (cue the jeopardy jingle).
  • Your favorite hall buddy has been on her 30 minute break for an hour and 10 now. (The jeopardy jingle continues…)
  • Who even has time to pack a lunch when you get home at 8:30 and have to be back the next day?
  • You get full-blown judged by the “normal suit and tie” people when they see you walk in with a cooler containing a breakfast, a lunch, a snack, an afternoon soda, an afternoon sweet, and a partridge in a pear tree.
  • By the time you finally do get to eat at 3 pm you’re as good as drunk and you go for whatever is in sight in the break room: cake, cookies, chips—and topped off with a grilled cheese and tots from the café.
  • Your “normal suit and tie” friends post IG stories eating an Açaí bowl or a fresh Chipotle bowl or a kale salad with their coworkers (who are also wearing the cutest Banana Republic outfits) while you eat applesauce and PB&J in the break room while everyone around you complains about poop.

So, my friends, it’s time to fix this problem. Here’s another list for you, because all blogs are more fun to read in numerical list form, right?

1. Avoid eating in the break room.

Tag team with a buddy and go eat outside. Seriously, it’s amazing what 30 minutes in the fresh air does for your mind. Northern friends: I have no clue what to tell you right now.

2. Meal prep.

Nothing crazy, but keep reading to learn some legit good and easy meals you can make at home and have ready for three in a row.

3. Order takeout once a month.

Not everyone can get on board with the meal prep, so treat yourself to a real meal once in a while if you are eating sandwiches and café food all the time (and even if you are meal prepping!).

4. Plan a potluck.

Best way to celebrate a holiday as a nurse? Potluck, potluck, potluck. All the luck transfers to your patients so it’s a win-win.

5. Plan your breaks ahead of time if you can with your hall mates.

If you have a mate that doesn’t do too great (ah, poet and I didn’t even know it) with coming back on time, suggest that you go first after you finish this and then you’ll be back by xx:xx. Letting your buddy know that you respect her break might awaken her to reciprocating.

Pro tip: Nursing students everywhere, please don’t be afraid to tell your preceptor you need a break. I almost passed out once waiting for my preceptor to finally take a break. You are a student and you are totally allowed to pull that card and take a full 30-minute break. Believe me, you’ll have your days of missing your break and starving.

And finally, some of my favorite “easy to eat” things to meal prep and pack for lunch include:

  • Egg muffins! One of my friends taught me this recipe. Simply mix up some eggs, ham, cheese, tomatoes (or whatever you like), and pour it into a greased muffin pan for a yummy take-with-you breakfast. If I’m bringing breakfast to eat at work, I usually make breakfast burritos and freeze them or simply make a big batch of scrambled eggs, mixed veggies, and sausage to eat! It’s a small enough meal that can be eaten quickly with roughly the same nutrition in some of these super dense granola bars that aren’t always the healthiest.
  • Pasta and veggies. Pasta sauce and mix veggies (spinach, kale, tomatoes, peppers, etc.) go great together and make a super easy lunch. For a healthy mix up, try pairing it with black bean pasta!
  • Sweet potatoes. Every week I make two sweet potatoes, a big bowl of stir fried veggies, and bake two chicken breasts. Mix it up! Shred the chicken and put it over a sweet potato with barbecue sauce and goat cheese…weird, but delicious! Or chop up your chicken breast and make a southwest bowl with mashed sweet potatoes, corn, black beans, salsa, and lettuce. It’s all about finding foods that you can use for multiple things.
  • A salad bar in your fridge is a great way to mix it up as well. Put items like strawberries, blueberries, slivered almonds, pepitas, dried cranberries, hard-boiled eggs, carrot slices, etc. into tupperware and have your lettuce washed and dried in a big container in the fridge. You can pull out the toppings you want and instantly make a delicious salad and save $7. Pro tip: the cafeteria usually has little 2 oz containers you can use to pre-package your salad dressing!

Hope you enjoy these tips! Please share your favorite recipes with us in the comments.

Alicia Klingensmith, BSN, RN

Alicia Klingensmith received her BSN from the University of North Florida and currently works in the NICU at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

Latest posts by Alicia Klingensmith, BSN, RN (see all)

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