Whether you work night shift, day shift, weekends only, weekdays only, or anything in between, one thing is for sure; nurses have a bad habit of eating on the run. I speak from experience. I remember back in the day when working in ICU we could have our food in the patient room. Do you remember working a 12 hour shift or even 16 hours with almost no break because your patient was so sick? Whew, how good was it to have a banana and a can of soda on our small writing desk in the room. This is a real no-no these days. Food is not permitted anywhere considered a patient care area.
At night most hospitals are limited in food choices because the cafeteria is either not open or the choices are very limited. Brown bagging is probably the best thing to do if you are wanting to control what goes in your mouth. The issue of eating on the run is still a very real problem even today. Add another issue of stress eating and we as nurses really need to consider our food choices and the impact wrong choices have on our overall health.
I personally struggled with stress eating as I worked 4 1/2 years on a weekend option night shift. Not only was the stress a factor, but options of food choices were very limited. The cafeteria food was the same every night, with literally no choices for variance.Under stress, to be honest, ice cream looks very good. Especially chocolate.
Until I resolved my stress issues, the controlled eating was very difficult. I have a few suggestions to help improve nutrition and eating on the run, even under stress and with limited choices. Planning ahead and brown bagging is really the only way to control binges and stress eating. I recently started a new nursing job in addition to working with Wellness Nurses. I work during the week only, and I travel. This has added new challenges but I am adjusting well. I am going to share a few suggestions to help you stay healthy while on the run.
1) Spend a few hours once per week and “set up” your food. This means buy healthy fruits and veggies, and spend time cleaning and cutting them up. Boil eggs ahead and place in fridge. Cook chicken and cut up. You will have a fridge full of healthy food to grab and place in containers on the run. Invest in a nice lunch bag and small containers to take with you.
2) Don’t take extra money to work. This will curb the temptation to buy from the snack machines.
3) Invest in healthy low glycemic bars and shakes. These will hold you for three hours, and are balanced for optimal nutrition. I use certified low glycemic bars and shakes even while traveling. This was very helpful recently while driving and there were no restaurants for more than three hours.
4) Keep water handy, and try to avoid sodas. Sodas usually contain caffeine and can be very dehydrating.
Planning ahead is key for healthy nurses on the run! If you have more questions about eating low glycemic, we can assist you with that education.