Nurses work erratic hours and long shifts, which makes it difficult to eat a decent meal. It’s all too easy to fall into bad habits. Fast food has the benefit of convenience, but it can be high in sugar. And sweets and snacks provided by other coworkers can be hard to turn down. You just want to eat healthier at work, however, so a strict diet isn’t necessary unless you need to manage health problems.
Lay the foundations for good food — at home and at work — with the following tips.
- Get your groceries delivered. The food industry pours millions into persuasive marketing. It makes it nearly impossible to walk through a store without picking up junk. What’s worse? These processed purchases whittle away your budget, leaving little room for the healthy foods you really want. Having your groceries delivered allows you to skip the temptation entirely.
If you haven’t checked them out before now, look up your local grocers. Many stores offer surprisingly convenient ordering options. Many even take coupons online. Delivery charges have shrunk in recent years for major chains as well, making it possible for more shoppers to take advantage of the convenience of having healthy food delivered right to your door.
- Include a few snacks in your shopping list. Oddly, this is one of the best healthy eating tips to embrace. If you eat too many sweets, start to slowly introduce healthier foods and remove fatty, sugary items over time. Your body will take time to adjust. If you try to go cold turkey, you’ll wind up craving carbohydrates and sweets. All those healthy groceries will go to waste while you gorge on burgers, fries and treats.
Instead, spoil yourself with a few snacks you add to your meals every day. It’s not hard to eat healthier when you stay ahead of things. Plan for desserts so you can control them. This also gives you a chance to keep them as healthy as possible. Raisins covered in chocolate yogurt have fewer calories and add nutrients to your diet while satisfying your sweet tooth. The chocolate-chocolate chip cookies from the vending machine at work overload you with sugar, unnecessary fat and calories, and honestly, they probably won’t taste that good.
- Regulate your blood sugar. Figuring out how to eat healthier at work means more than cutting out all the sugars, processed foods and fats. You, more than anyone, will feel the effect of a blood sugar dip as you struggle to maintain your energy level — and a positive attitude — the lower it gets. Low blood sugar can actually be a hazard when you’re working in a high-paced job like healthcare. Both you and your patients deserve better.
Pack small amounts of healthy snack foods to munch on throughout your shift to prevent a crash. This will also keep hunger and cravings at bay so that you make better choices when you do get the chance to eat something. The best treats for healthcare workers on the move include fresh or dried fruit, nuts and hard cheese. Use a small, easily portable cooler to keep fruit and other foods at safe temperatures.
- Prepare your meals before you leave for work. Cook a double-batch recipe before you leave for work. You can eat half and save the rest for later. Having something healthy on hand that’s quick and easy to make helps you stave off the urge to buy fast food or other processed dishes.
Portions should be large enough to end your hunger but not so big that they’ll make you feel stuffed. Overeating can create bowel problems. You don’t want your meals to interfere with your work. Eating too much may also make it hard for you to sleep. It’s best for your body if you break your eating habits up into smaller meals, with several snacks available throughout the day.
- Drink water throughout the day. People regularly confuse thirst for hunger. Stay hydrated so you aren’t prone to reach for more calories unless your body actually needs them. If you’re like many people who struggle to drink enough water, try an array of different bottles and containers. Some models allow for fruit diffusion for easy, natural flavoring. You may also like a popular brand of commercial flavored water.
Avoiding caffeine seems counterproductive for someone working odd hours, but keeping stimulants out of your system will help your body make the transition to sleep easier. Replace coffee and energy drinks with healthier alternatives and you’ll find it easier to get the rest you need once time is available. You’ll also avoid the wasted calories that accompany so many caffeinated drinks, from mochas to soda.
Learn how to eat right and stay fit at work even when you’re on the swing shift. With just a few adjustments, it’s easy to get the nutrients you need without going overboard. An additional benefit? You’ll start to look as great as you feel.