Nursing is a physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding job that requires a lot of uncommon traits. You have to have lots of stamina, mental clarity, and resilience to succeed and thrive in this career path. You’ll spend long hours on your feet making tough decisions and caring for people at their most vulnerable.
Night shift work can be even more challenging. You’ll have to adapt to a counterintuitive sleep schedule and ensure that you’re still able to stay focused on the job by getting the sleep that you need. To stay sharp and energized, you need to take care of yourself as well as you take care of your patients.
Food choices are critical for nurses. Not only do you need the right fuel for your night shifts, but you also want to set a good example for your patients. Here’s why you should be intentional about keeping some healthy snacks and drinks with you when you’re working.
Working Long Hours Often Leads to Poor Food Choices
If you’re a nurse, you know that stress is pretty much unavoidable. You’re on the go constantly and breaks are often far too short. You’re probably exhausted by the end of a shift, especially if you work both day and night shifts.
In addition to wreaking havoc on your sleep schedule, this doesn’t help you to make good food choices. You might be too tired to pack any snacks and drinks before your shifts and end up buying sugary or salty snack foods from the vending machine.
Aside from being convenient, these snacks also help you feel good—in the short term. We all love junk food, but those empty calories won’t help fuel you for your shift. In the long term, they can lead to weight gain, chronic health problems, and fatigue.
A little planning can go a long way. It’s important to choose foods that will help you stay healthy and give you steady energy during your shift, instead of causing your energy to spike and crash.
What Healthy Snacks Give You the Most Energy?
Even if you don’t have time for a full lunch break, you can pack some energy-boosting snacks to help you get through the day. These don’t need to be fancy; you can just throw them in your lunch bag in the fridge before you go to bed and grab them on your way to work.
Fruit is a great choice, especially apples and bananas. These fruits both provide carbs, but apples can also give you fiber and bananas are a good source of potassium.
Hummus or tuna and whole-grain crackers can provide much-needed protein, as can hard-boiled eggs. Yogurt is another excellent and easy choice. Even a handful of nuts or a small bag of popcorn can make a great, healthy snack!
Depending on your work situation, it’s important to think about how easy it is to prepare and store your food. If you have a fridge you can use at work, boiling some eggs on your day off and packing them for your next few shifts can be a great strategy.
It’s important to choose snacks you’ll really enjoy. During a stressful night shift, a little food pick-me-up can work wonders for your mood. Choose the foods you’re excited about eating!
Have trouble looking forward to hummus? If you don’t get excited about any of the energy-boosting healthy foods you can bring to work, pair them with a little treat that will get you looking forward to your next snack break.
Remember to Keep Yourself Hydrated
It’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re busy caring for patients. But it’s very important to stay hydrated on the job. You’ll be rushing around from place to place and can easily become dehydrated.
Water helps boost your energy and your performance on the job. It will also help keep you from snacking mindlessly and might even reduce cravings you have for those alluring chips in the vending machine. It’s also important for your overall health! Most nurses know that they should drink more water, but they don’t always follow through. While you will get some of your water intake from food, remember that it’s important to sip throughout your shift too! Fueling your body properly can mean the difference between a satisfying shift and one that’s just plain exhausting. Take care of yourself!