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There’s no doubt that nursing requires plenty of both physical and mental energy.
To help maintain their fast pace and ensure stamina, nurses need a steady supply of protein and other nutrients. Ideally these foods would be simple to make, easy to carry with you and consumable on even the shortest break.
Here are some great ideas from across the Web—and whatever you do, don’t forget to drink lots of water to maintain your alertness and energy. Prioritize eating a nutritious lunch to help keep your stress level down and energy up -- or at least do some regular power snacking during your shift. Here is some inspiration:
Oatmeal: When you may not be eating for hours, oatmeal provides an easy, nutritious, filling and versatile way to start your day before heading off to work as a nurse--or to bring along with you. Make a big batch and freeze individual portions. One delicious version of oatmeal created by Joy the Baker is called Morning Glory Oats. This is a hybrid of very delicious bakery ingredients, “part carrot cake, part morning muffin” and includes carrots (grated), coconut (toasted) and spices, plus currants or dried cranberries and steel-cut oats. This recipe does have brown sugar, though, and you might want to creatively substitute (all or part of it) with applesauce or a combo of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Take a banana with you to work and add at it the last minute.
Soba noodle salad: For a quick and cool summer lunch, try Megan Gordon’s Seedy Soba Noodle Salad with Parsley Pesto. This dish combines noodles with radishes, pumpkin seeds, English cucumber, sesame seed and ricotta. You can make 2 or 3 days’ worth ahead and get through half of your week of lunches. Leave some in the fridge for your spouse’s lunch or kids after school if you’re not together at that time.
Frittata: The wonderful thing about frittatas is that you can throw in nearly any random ingredient laying around in your fridge that might taste good with eggs. (The definition of frittata being miscellaneous ingredients stuck together with egg. It's an anytime omelet.) You get to use up odds and ends in the refrigerator, small amounts of veggies or cheese that aren’t really enough to make anything else -- and ingredients that might otherwise be left to go bad. Frittata can be eaten at almost any time of day because it has so many possible ingredients. Mix everything up in an oven-friendly frying pan/skillet to make things really simple. Here’s how The Pioneer Woman does frittata.
Smoothies: These portable fruit or veggie drinks can pack enough nutrients to fill you up and provide long-lasting energy. You might want to skip or minimize adding juice, however, so that you don't suffer a sugar crash a few hours into your shift. You get lots of fiber if you leave the peelings on the fruits and vegetables where possible. Once again, this is a portable lunch or snack that you can have at any time of the day or night--whenever you get a break--and can make up a large amount in advance. Add almond butter or peanut butter for protein.
Yogurt: This could be part of your smoothie or eaten alone. Add fresh blueberries or bring other easily portable fruit to add to your yogurt.
Sweet potato: Oven-bake at home, then eat cold or microwave later at work. Sweet potatoes are packed with fiber (therefore satisfying and filling) and have that touch of sweetness that makes them unique. Top or stuff your sweet potato with your favorite things or those small bits of leftover goodies in the refrigerator. Everything from chopped chicken breast and cheese to broccoli and peanut sauce can dress up your potato to make stopping for lunch more tempting. Or try this recipe for a quinoa stuffed maple sweet potato.
Locker potluck: Keep healthy (and relatively non-perishable) foods in your locker for the times you forget to bring your lunch or snacks. Tuna, string cheese, crackers, dried fruit, trail mix, dark chocolate, etc. can keep you going in a pinch.
If you'd like more recipe ideas just for on-the-go nurses, (including travel nurses of course), check out Nursegroups on Pinterest, where their Quick & Healthy Nurse Lunches board is a tantalizing visual gold mine of healthy, quick and delicious meals.
Hopefully these nurse-on-the-go recipes will help you to swear off vending machine lunches like candy bars or high carb snacks. However, if you must have candy, choose candy with peanuts. Balancing carbs with protein and a small amount of fat can prevent a sugar high and crash.
Your patients will benefit because sugar crashes and low blood sugar affect more than energy, they can interfere with short-term memory, making your job even more difficult. Remember that, as nurses, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to care for others!