Whether as a nursing student, professor, school nurse, floor nurse or research nurse, at one time or another we’ve all had to eat on the go. There never seems to be enough time in the day to sit down and enjoy a meal. We’re always looking forward to the next class, next patient or next task at hand.
Some nurses work nights adding to their dietary disorder. We, as nurses, stress the importance of good nutrition with our patients, but when it comes to nourishing ourselves, nurses are just as guilty of turning to empty calories or skipping meals all together.
This post is a gentle reminder that nurses should take time to grab a healthy snack and seek nutritious meals.
Surprisingly, the hospital cafeteria is not always the best model for nutrition. Often they grill frozen processed hamburgers and chicken breasts and offer high-calorie, sugary, carbonated drinks. In most hospitals, the cafeteria is rarely open at night or serves a limited menu of junk food items, such as microwaveable sandwiches and burritos.
Patients’ families are typically quite generous, especially around the holidays, and love to spoil the nursing staff with sweets and desserts. These are just a few of the contributing factors to poor nurse nutrition, lethargy and weight gain.
Although you might think that bad eating habits don’t affect your job performance, the headache, lack of energy, and grogginess you feel after your 44-oz. soda rush leaves you mentally and physically challenged for the remainder of your shift. You may also find that those extra pounds hiding around your waistline make it harder to move patients. Without a doubt, your nutrition affects your overall wellness and your ability to think on the job.
OK, so maybe nutrition is important even for the most physically fit and brightest nurses, but with all these roadblocks how can nurses motivate themselves? Little things make a big difference; first explore new foods.
There is always something exciting about opening up your lunchbox and finding a food you’ve never tasted. Even the most diversified eater can find something in a farmers’ market or health food store they have never tried before. You may find you hate certain flavors and textures, but at the very least you will expand your palate.
Dr. Seuss promoted this concept in his beloved book Green Eggs and Ham.
You do not like them so you say.
Try them, try them, and you may!
Try them and you may, I say.
Sam, if you would let me be,
I will try them, and you will see.
I like green eggs and ham!
I do!! I like them, Sam-I-am!
Speaking of lunchboxes, treat yourself to a sassy new lunch carrier. Gone are the days of metal lunch pails displaying your favorite Muppet character. Today you can find shabby chic, contemporary and useful containers to store your meals. My personal favorite is Vera Bradley. Although on the pricier side, I have found the quality of these lunch carriers to be impeccable.
The Container Store has unique items to store lunch, from trendy thermal lunch sacks to stackable bento boxes, the options are endless. And don’t forget to add a fun matching tumbler or travel mug, which often can be personalized. Do you have a favorite lunch container idea or brand you love? Please share your favorites in the comments section below.
Thinking outside the (lunch) box brings some excitement back into your meals. Try packing your favorite granola cereal, milk and yogurt for your night shift. Some of my favorite meals involve creatively mixing things I love, such as sandwiches made of peanut butter, honey and apples on toast, and Nutella and bananas on raisin cinnamon bread.
Another favorite is ham, cheese and mayo sandwiches served on King Hawaiian original sweet bread buns with salt and vinegar chips. Consider tortillas, pita bread and crackers combined with sandwich items or dips like sun-dried tomato hummus or pesto.
Pinterest and the internet are filled with ideas for creative lunches and snacks. Spend a day surfing and finding new ideas that appeal to you. This small effort will make a difference and light that spark of inspiration, which hopefully will encourage you to think about nutrition in 2014.
Most importantly work for a balanced diet. Try filling your lunchbox with all the food groups, including grains, fruits, dairy, vegetables, and a good source of protein.
Here are some helpful links: