Nurses are dedicated to a challenging profession that demands a high workload, a competent attitude, and a routine fashioned around overnight shifts and long working hours. Most of the nurses spend the majority of their day on their feet, tirelessly providing patient care and making vital decisions regarding treatments and diagnosis. In order to provide the best care, nurses need to be intentional in their eating habits. With an easier availability of processed foods and fast food options nowadays, it can be a little difficult to select healthier food choices without adding extra pounds to your weight. However, below we have enlisted some Healthy eating habits for nurses / healthy food options and tips to ensure that your nurse health is on track.
Why is healthy eating a challenge for nurses?
Healthcare professionals, especially doctors and nurses, experience long working hours, shiftwork, and missed meal breaks. They’re understandably drained from long shifts and do not get enough time to prepare and eat a healthy, nutritious meal. Many of them work inconsistent schedules and alternating day/night shifts. This can lead to a disturbed circadian rhythm that can cause fatigue, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and other health problems.
Another outcome of these often irregular and tiresome schedules is the increased consumption of caffeine for staying awake and functioning through your shift and the snacking of quick processed foods such as chips or other high sugar foods. The intake of such high-calorie and low-nutrition food items can result in a bevy of health problems in the long run, such as fatigue, weight gain, and heart disorders.
Besides that, irregular schedules result in missed meals as well. When you skip meals, your body’s blood glucose level drops, forcing the body to derive energy from less efficient fuel sources. This, in turn, equates to dizziness and difficulty in thinking that may take a toll on your working ability and performance. Additionally, skipping meals can cause overeating when you finally find out time to eat.
Why healthy eating is important for nurses?
Choosing your food options wisely at work plays a substantial role in your diet. When you decide to eat a healthy meal, you help to:
- maintain a normal body weight
- lower major risk factors like hypertension, heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and certain kinds of cancer
- boost the immune system
- enhance bone health by adequate intake of calcium
- boost energy levels and stamina
- promote better sleep quality, and
- improve mood and concentration, with more clear thinking and better stress handling.
The importance of the link that exists between healthy body weight lowered risk of chronic diseases, and overall health and good nutrition are basically hard to ignore. By making healthy food choices, you will receive all the necessary nutrients your body needs for staying healthy, strong, and active. Usually, it’s the small variations in your diet that can take you a long way – plus it is way effortless than you think!
Healthy Food Choices for Nurses
- Adopt a balanced diet for healthy eating habits for nurses
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself completely. Rather, adopting a balanced diet means maintaining an eating pattern that includes food options from all basic food groups in order to provide all the necessary nutrients to your body.
Try moving towards a more plant-based diet. It is recommended that adults require at least three to four cups of vegetables daily to meet the basic vitamin and mineral requirement for supporting the immune system, proper metabolism, and preventing deficiencies. You can begin by having one meal, which prioritizes the inclusion of vegetables. Try doing this as a part of your daily routine, and this will become the norm in a matter of no time.
Moreover, it is also essential to include some sort of protein such as eggs, beef, fish, chicken, or Greek yogurt in your diet as well. Protein helps in making you feel full for longer while providing your body the required energy to pull through busy shifts.
- Skip energy drinks and caffeine
Many people fall prey to the trap of drinking caffeinated and sugary drinks when they need an instant energy boost to get through long working hours. While such drinks do increase alertness, they give an incorrect sense of energy and have long-term addictive tendencies, which can result in insomnia, restlessness, upset stomach, muscle tremors, and tachycardia.
Moreover, caffeine serves as a vicious circle at times. The more you’re tired, the more caffeine you consume, and you become more reliant on its effects, making it difficult for you to get rid of it. To avoid it, try drinking water instead or decaffeinated varieties. Green tea is also another great option.
- Don’t leave without healthy snacks
Even when you intend to have a balanced eating pattern, emergencies can happen. When this occurs, try sticking with natural stuff. You can pack some healthy food items from your home that may provide you instant fuel with not too many bites. Nuts and seeds are a great source of dietary fiber. You can keep a small homemade energy bar in your bag like the one prepared from dried fruits and groundnuts. Similarly, a small serving of flavored almonds can make up for another hour till you eat a more sizeable meal.
Besides this, you can also pack a box of fresh fruits that will serve as a natural and vitamin-rich snack for the on-the-go. Even a slice of cheese or yogurt may fulfill the purpose. However, one should keep in mind that snacks should never replace full meals.
- Schedule your routine mealtimes
You should ensure maintaining a regular eating routine irrespective of your working shift. Even if you begin your day at 1 pm, make sure to have your breakfast and base the consumption of your following snacks and meals according to this meal. We know that mealtimes can vary with the shifts, but try to avoid going without food for more than six hours between meals.
Remember that eating small quantities of food in a regular routine helps to maintain a healthy weight and keeps fatigued at bay as compared to consuming one large meal in order to receive all the required calories and nutrition, as this usually results in weight gain and overeating.
- Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is a crucial part of everyone’s overall nutrition, but for individuals who operate in high-intensity work shifts like nurses, it is even more essential. Adequate hydration helps in decreasing the chances of headaches and fatigue, along with improving body temperature, digestion, and circulation.
Moreover, drinking water increases satiety, which means there are fewer chances of snacking when you’re well hydrated. You should try to drink the recommended 8 glasses of water daily. This can be done easily by bringing a large reusable water bottle to work every day. As a pro tip, you can also add slices of lemon, mint, cucumber, berries, or any other fruit to your water for infusing it with a refreshing flavor.
Your dietary pattern plays a significant role in your overall well-being. Don’t let long working hours jeopardize your overall health. Making healthy food choices can bring a huge influence on your energy level, performance, and health. Use the above mentioned healthy food options and tricks for taking charge of your nutritive status and invest with a little thought and planning in a stronger and healthier you from today.
and also check our blog on the shoes for nurses getting through long shifts.