Long shifts are a well-accepted part of a nursing career, with 12-hour rotations often being a standard. Staying energized during the duration of their shift is important as the work is active, fast-paced, and requires a lot of communication and focus. This means that snacks are an absolute necessity – although making healthy snacking choices can sometimes be a challenge. Often, it is tempting to have a chocolate bar or some chips on the go…but while you are helping others stay healthy, don’t forget about yourself. Remember, healthy snacking means a longer-lasting release of energy! So here are some ideas on how to snack your way through a 12-hour shift.
Simple Snack Hacks
These are simple steps you can start taking to make your snacking habits healthier!
1. Pay Attention to Your Food
The very first step to healthier snacking is to actually start thinking about what it is you are putting in your body. As a nurse, you have a unique understanding of nutrition facts and what the body and mind need to stay energized and healthy. So, all you need to do is begin considering the ingredients, checking out the nutrition facts on the back of the package and just give it some extra thought before you grab a snack.
2. Resist the Vending Machine
While some states like California are trying to encourage healthier snacking by adding items such as yogurt and granola bars to vending machine inventories, most will have a wide variety of sugary treats and super-salty options. The solution? Bring your own snacks from home! Not only will they be healthier, but you will also probably save a few bucks as well.
3. Avoid Sugar
It’s tempting and delicious, but at the end of the day, sugar gives you is a bunch of unhealthy calories and a sugar-crash. Of course, it’s impossible to avoid completely, but it’s best to reduce sweet snacks as much as possible. Some alternatives include sweetening your tea and coffee with stevia or opting for dark chocolate over the commercial bars.
The Usual Suspects
Just a few obvious options that are both healthy and tasty.
Speaking of sugar, fruit makes for a great alternative to artificially sweetened snacks! Most people have at least a few favorite types of fruit and the majority are both healthy and tasty. The top fruit for snacking on are berries – they have antioxidants, vitamins and fiber, they are easy to have on the go and offer a great variety – raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, etc. The downside is that you may not find them throughout the year. Some other excellent options that are both easy to carry and offer up a good content of vitamins and fiber are apples, pears, grapes, apricots, peaches, and bananas. For a little different flavor try figs and for vitamin C, tangerines are a great alternative to oranges, as they are easier to peel and give you a burst of energy as soon as you smell them!
Even though fruit makes for an amazing snack, many do contain quite a bit of sugar. Grazing on veggies throughout your shift is a great way to satisfy your snack cravings and reduce the intake of sugar even further. There are a few really good options that don’t require cooking or even cutting and contain vitamins for your health. Cherry tomatoes are a good source of antioxidants, red peppers have vitamin C, broccoli provides folic acid, and carrots help supply vitamin A and potassium. Other fun options are snow peas and celery sticks!
While these should be consumed in moderation, nuts can be a great way to keep your appetite in check, while getting beneficial minerals and vitamins. Some people stay away from nuts because they contain quite a bit of fat; however, almonds, cashews, and pistachios are great choices, as they contain the fewest amount of calories. They also have omega-3, protein, and fiber for energy and health. Each type of nut has its own properties – walnuts are great for your heart, peanuts are good for the brain, almonds can improve overall health. But be careful which options you select – packaged nuts can be tricky as they can have a lot of salt and may be covered in sugar or other additives. It is best to buy plain nuts and make your own trail mix!
A Little More Effort
Although these require a little more preparation, these can be a healthy and fun addition to your snacks.
1. Healthy Dips
Do you find simple veggies a little boring? Then bring along some dip! You can also have crackers, snaps, and toasts along with it. Keep in mind, not all dips are necessarily healthy options – the best way to make sure you are getting nutrients and not too many calories is to make it at home. Make a bulk batch and bring it to work throughout the week. There are hundreds of healthy dip recipes out there. These are some of the bases that we think will hit the healthy snacking jackpot: avocado creates a creamy healthy mixture, just make sure to add citrus so it doesn’t blacken; legumes provide a protein-rich base; yogurt and cottage cheese have protein and calcium; while roasted veggies make for a light, flavorful base.
2. Homemade Granola Bars
While packaged granola bars may seem like the healthier snack option compared to candy, they still tend to have a lot of sugar in addition to preservatives to prevent them from spoiling. To avoid these unhealthy items, make your own! It’s surprisingly easy and you can make a large batch all at once. There are a few ingredients you can use as a perfect base, including grains like oatmeal and quinoa, peanut or almond butter, as well as nuts and seeds. You can add fun ingredients like dried fruit, chocolate, chia and more to get your favorite flavors. Many granola bars don’t even require baking – they are chilled instead!
3. Mason Jar Salads
The newest trend in salads – getting them prepped in mason jars for the perfect snack! Along with being extra tasty, this option can combine all of the above healthy basics – fruit, veggies, and nuts. You can prepare them on your day off and bring them with you throughout the week. We know you’re thinking, “But won’t they get soggy and gross?”. The answering is, surprisingly, no! That’s why using a mason jar is such a great solution. If you place the dressing at the bottom and ingredients that don’t get soggy over it, such as nuts or seeds, then layer lettuce and the rest of veggies and fruit on top your salad will stay fresh and crisp! Just be sure to avoid soggy ingredients like tomatoes and enjoy!
The biggest challenge when trying to snack healthier is making it a part of your daily habits, rather than an “every-once-in-awhile” activity. Of course, you can still grab your occasional chocolate bar or favorite bag of chips, but veggies, fruit, and nuts should be your go-to snack options to have the best energy boost for your long shift. So get your grocery list ready, go shop for some healthy foods and start snacking healthy right away! After all, you can’t help others be healthy if you don’t have your own health in line.