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No one knows the importance of good nutrition more than a nurse, but for those who work long hours, such as travel nurses, lack of time can make finding quick healthy meal ideas a challenge. As a result, many nurses go long periods without eating at all, and then rush famished to the nearest food source (which many times is a vending machine or fast food drive-thru). While these methods may be okay on occasion, consistently resorting to these quick fixes can take a toll on a nurse’s ability to stay healthy and work to his or her potential.
Here are some ideas on how to eat healthy even when you're busy.
Make Meals from Snacks
For many nurses, getting a long enough break to eat a regular sized meal might not happen the way they should. But if your blood sugar drops and you become weak, you aren't much help to your patients or your coworkers. That's why it's so important to have quick and healthy meal ideas.
Many nurses pack coolers with several small portions of healthy foods. A tablespoon of natural peanut butter with whole grain crackers, celery, or apples could be in one container, a small salad with feta cheese and walnuts could be in another. A hard-boiled egg might occupy another compartment, while small grilled chicken wrap could be handy as well. If time allows, you can pick out a few of these items for a regular sized meal, and if it doesn't, you can grab just one snack during a 5-10 minute break to keep yourself fueled.
Take Advantage of Semi-Convenience Foods
Somewhere between that fast food burger and the 5 course gourmet meal from scratch, there are ingredients that can help you come up with quick healthy meal ideas. Instant brown rice cooks up in just over 5 minutes, and can serve as a healthy complement to leftover chicken. The produce section of the grocery store has ready-to-go fruits and vegetables precut for your convenience; and for an extra boost of protein and fiber, cut up vegetables can be dipped in hummus or peanut butter.
Low sugar varieties of instant oatmeal fix up by adding hot water from the break room, and will sustain you far better than anything you can get from the vending machine. You can also whip up batches of trail mix in no time with fortified dry cereal, pretzels, nuts, dried fruit, and maybe even a few chocolate chips for a treat. Keep an eye out for prepackaged frozen meals; even those that claim to be healthy might be high in sodium, sugar and preservatives. Not only that, the preparation time on these meals is often longer than you might think.
Batch Cooking and the Slow Cooker
When you do get a day off from work, or even several hours, batch cooking and using a slow cooker can be very helpful in bringing some home cooked flavor into your life. You can bake up a healthy vegetarian lasagna, fix a pot of low fat turkey chili, or throw some fresh cuts of meat and vegetables in the slow cooker. You can even make a healthy meal in the slow cooker while you sleep. Extra servings of your favorite home cooked meals can go into the freezer, where they'll be ready to thaw and warm up quickly during those times you really feel like some substantial comfort food.