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Three Realistic Approaches to Living Healthy on a Nursing Schedule

Three Realistic Approaches to Living Healthy on a Nursing Schedule

If you’re one of the 60-65% of nurses who regularly works 12-hour shifts , it can be hard to find time to sit down for a break. Of course, on some shifts, it may feel like there isn’t even time for a bathroom break, but you really don’t want that to become the norm, do you?

Working at that frenetic pace makes it hard to get the nutrition you need, the sleep your body requires, or the overall care that’s essential to your well-being. As a result, it’s easy for nurses to run themselves into the ground. But you can’t pour from an empty cup, and no matter how passionate you are about your work, sacrificing your own wellbeing will not help you or your patients.

Think about the things you ask patients about their daily diets and activities, perhaps even where they buy groceries or how often they go for walks. As a nurse, you can also offer great constructive advice on healthy eating, sleep hygiene, and exercise habits.

Are you following your own advice, though? Have you ever suspected that you might look less healthy than some of your patients? If you know that you’ve been cutting corners, the time to reconsider your daily routines and habits is NOW. However, like many nurses, you might well ask at this point, “Get real: is it even possible to get enough sleep, exercise, and eat all my fruits and veggies on such a crazy schedule?”

The answer is yes. Your skillset as a nurse makes you an outstanding planner, and by now even a scout might be cowed to see how well you prepare yourself for just about anything. So here are three basic principles to building a healthier lifestyle on an impossible schedule…

Establish a (doable) routine

You might not have the exact same work schedule each week, but chances are you’ll have the same number of days off. After a while, you’ll get to know the flow of your work schedule, and you can adjust the rest of your life around it.

Once you’re able to do that, establish a routine for yourself with your well-being in mind.

Routines make it easier to stick to healthy habits and practice self-care every day. They also allow you to not only set realistic health goals but reach them through small daily acts.

While everyone’s routine will look different, yours might include things like

  • Waking up at the same time each day
  • Cooking a healthy breakfast
  • Exercising for 10-30 minutes
  • Household chores
  • Socializing with friends or family
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Going to sleep at the same time each night

In addition to helping you reach your health goals, routines have been known to improve mental health, especially by reducing stress. When you have a career that often feels overwhelming or uncertain, that can make a big difference.

Apply your planning skills to manage on-the-go fuel supplies

When you’re in the middle of a 12-hour shift and haven’t had a chance to sit down for a meal, it can be tempting to go for whatever is available. Thus, cops really do down sugary donuts with their coffee, first responders grab 50% of their day’s allowance of fat in a fast burger, and hospital workers throw cash into the nearest vending machine. The latter sounds almost healthy by comparison, but are you really winning if you select the marked-up (and slightly stale) trail mix or sunflower seeds over a marked-up (and slightly stale) candy bar?

If you have a hard time finding healthy snacks at work, use those planning skills that helped you get through nursing school and do some quick “prepping” on your days off. There are plenty of healthy, on-the-go snacks you can bring to work in an insulated snack bag, including

  • Fresh Trail mix (even if you like the usual vending mix of all peanuts and dried dates, your own will be tastier and less costly)
  • Fruits and veggies (berries, bananas, apples, raw veggie sticks – anything portable and not messy that can be eaten with one hand)
  • Nuts
  • Protein bars (should have at least 8 grams of protein and less than 13g of sugar – otherwise it’s little more than an expensive, high-calorie candy bar)
  • Smoothies/protein shakes

You can either carry these snacks around with you or leave them in a specific place at work and quickly give yourself a bit of fuel whenever you have a minute or two. Here are some solid “do/don’t” tips that may help as well.

Start with what you KNOW you can do

You might think that because your schedule is so busy, you don’t have time to fuel your body properly, stay active, or even get enough sleep.

That isn’t true, but it might take a few adjustments and creativity to take care of yourself properly. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to start small.

You don’t need to go to the gym each day for an hour-long workout. Instead, maximize short physical activities and get in longer workouts more sporadically. Shorter workouts are easier to commit to and will keep you motivated to stick with an exercise regimen, even when you’re busy.

When it comes to nutrition, meal prepping is your friend. We touched on packing snacks for yourself, but it’s also easy to pack healthy meals for work as well. Here are some savvy fast-but-healthy lunch suggestions from Reddit nurses.

And when it comes to sleep goals, it can be tempting to give up, but if you didn’t give up on nursing, finding ways to get more rest should be a breeze.

Small changes can make a big difference to your overall health. As a nurse, your well-being matters. Keep these ideas in mind to dedicate yourself to realistic whole-body nutrition, better sleep, and more physical activity to keep you healthy, so you can provide the best possible care to others.

Eating Hacks for the Busy Nurse

Eating Hacks for the Busy Nurse

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.

Great Snacks to Eat While Working the Night Shift

Great Snacks to Eat While Working the Night Shift

A good friend of mine used to work shift work, and when the night shift rolled around, she always had problems eating. Some foods made her too tired, while others (like food or drinks with caffeine) gave her problems after her shift was over. She never quite got the balance that she had hoped for, and she also had no idea what to eat for snacks.

For all you nurses working the night shift—and especially those of you who are new to it—here are some ideas to keep in mind and some snacks that you can turn to that will help keep you moving and not make you feel tired.

Get Your Protein

You know that if you eat carb-rich foods or sugary beverages at the beginning of your shift, you will crash in no time. So when looking for snacks, choose those with lots of protein, such as:

  • Peanut butter
  • Turkey or chicken
  • Nuts
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Granola
  • Seeds
  • Tuna and crackers
  • String cheese

Consider grabbing a handful of nuts at the beginning of your shift to help keep your energy up.

Suppose you took on an extra shift or an extra few hours and are now working at night? If you have time before the extra work, head to the cafeteria and get some high-protein snacks. And if you know about it ahead of time, always try to bring your snacks from home. If snacks from vending machines are your only option, go for the granola bars or even peanut butter crackers. While prepackaged foods aren’t the best, sometimes you have to go with them just to eat something to give your body fuel.

When you get home after a long night of work, then you can eat some carbs. If you want to have some cereal before you go to sleep, feel free. The carbs will help you to relax.

7 Best Snacks for Nurses on the Go

7 Best Snacks for Nurses on the Go

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.