6 Healthy Snacks to Beat Hunger During Long Nursing Shifts
By Laura Winzeler, contributor
You've surely heard about the often-cited study from 2006 that found RNs working in adult medical-surgical units walked about 4 miles during 12-hour nursing shifts. As one of the top 10 most physically active professions, nursing requires a tremendous amount of physical, emotional and intellectual stamina.
When choosing healthy foods that nourish you during your long shifts, remember that you're fueling your body and feeding your brain. That energy-intensive organ consumes about 20% of your body's calories, so it needs a lot of high-quality fuel to help you maintain your focus and alertness throughout the workday.
Try a few of the following healthy snack ideas to help you banish hunger during long nursing shifts.
1. Nut and seed butter packets
It's not always convenient (or safe) to snack on raw nuts while you're moving quickly from patient to patient, so portable nut and seed butter packets are ideal. They come in a variety of yummy flavors and textures, and the squeeze pouches are small enough to stash in your scrubs. You can eat these delicious pick-me-ups in minutes — no silverware required. Nut and seed butters are high in protein and healthy fats, giving you the energy to power through long nursing shifts feeling satiated until your next meal break.
This fiber- and protein-rich power snack is made from blended chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini, olive oil, lemon juice and spices. With so many prepackaged varieties and flavors on the market, you're sure to find one that pleases your palate. Hummus is packed with plant-based protein, with a 3.5-ounce serving providing 7.9 grams along with 6 grams of dietary fiber. Pair hummus with whole-grain crackers, or bring along raw carrot, celery and cucumber slices for dipping.
3. Fresh fruit
Bananas sometimes get a bad rap for not being diet-friendly, but it's an undeserved reputation. With about 105 calories and 9% of your daily recommended intake of potassium, a medium banana is an antioxidant- and nutrient-rich snack that satisfies a craving for sweets. Look for slightly under-ripe bananas for their resistant-starch benefits, such as improved gut health, better glycemic control and an increased feeling of fullness.
If you've got time to sit down, choose fresh fruit with a high water content, such as cut-up melon, pineapple, berries and grapes. Snacking on a fresh fruit salad is also a great way to stay hydrated during nursing shifts.
While technically a fruit, avocados are so nutrient-dense, creamy and rich, they deserve a category all their own. Although they're high in fat, avocados contain beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) along with nearly 20 vitamins and minerals. Half an avocado provides about 25% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin K, which is important for bone health. You can slice your avocado and drizzle it with lemon juice or salad dressing or just cut it in half, remove the seed, sprinkle with salt, grab a spoon and savor it straight out of the skin.
5. Low-fat dairy products
The thick, creamy consistency of nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt can be as sinfully rewarding as ice cream if you choose the right brand. It contains double the protein and half the sugar of regular yogurt, reports U.S. News, along with gut-friendly probiotics and bone-healthy calcium. Vegans, or those with lactose intolerance, can check out dairy-free yogurts made from soy, coconut or almond milk, which also offer probiotic benefits.
Fat-free cottage cheese made with skim milk contains about 80 calories and 11 grams of protein in a ½-cup serving. It's a quick and easy snack that can be made even more delicious when topped with fresh fruit or scooped into a melon half.
Portable string cheese is a standout snacking choice for busy nursing shifts that don't let you catch your breath, let alone eat a full meal. Made with part-skim mozzarella, each individually wrapped piece of string cheese typically has about 90 calories and 7 grams of protein.
6. Chicken salad
This option requires some prep time at home, but you'll be grateful you put in the effort when you reach into the break room fridge for your container of chicken salad. Dice the lean, skinless breast, which is packed with protein and low in fat, of a roasted chicken. Add a few hard-boiled eggs for even more protein, and mix with mayo, celery, onions and your favorite seasonings. Toss in some chopped walnuts and seedless grapes or raisins and you've got a savory snack option your coworkers are sure to envy that sustains you during 12-hour nursing shifts.
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