Staying energized during your shift is critical, even more so when you’re required to stay longer hours. Not having anything to eat for 12 hours can cause your blood sugar to drop, making you tired, irritable, and unable to concentrate. Energy drinks and coffee may give you the boost you need for the time being, but there are healthier ways to get the same kick that’s packaged with vital nutrients.
Snacks high in protein and complex carbohydrates are a nurse’s best friend. So when you need to stay energized and focused while you’re on the floor, here are a few go-to items.
1. Low-fat Dairy Products
String cheese is an optimal snack for nurses during their shifts. Usually made with part-skim mozzarella, each individually wrapped piece of string cheese typically has about 90 calories and 7 grams of protein.
Other products like non-fat Greek yogurt has double the protein and half the sugar of regular yogurt, along with gut-friendly probiotics and bone-healthy calcium. Those with lactose intolerance can also check out dairy-free yogurts made from soy, coconut, or almond milk, which also offer probiotic benefits.
Avocados are very nutrient-dense and make the perfect snacks to keep you moving. You can slice and drizzle it with lemon juice or salad dressing for a nutritious snack, or just cut it in half, remove the seed, sprinkle with salt, and savor it straight out the skin. 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, essential for bone health.
A fiber and protein-rich power snack, hummus is made from blended chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. Hummus is packed with plant-based protein and can typically be found in a 3.5-ounce serving size. You can spread it on top of whole-grain crackers or pair it with raw carrot, celery, and cucumber slices for dipping. There are so many varieties and flavors out on the market, so you’re sure to find one that pleases your tastebuds.
4. Dark Chocolate
There is one simple rule for chocolate: the darker, the better because it contains less sugar and more healthy compounds. Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health, including lowering the risk of heart disease. It is loaded with biologically active organic compounds and functions as antioxidants like polyphenols, flavonols, and catechins. Dark chocolate can also increase blood flow and boost energy levels to vital areas of the brain for as long as three hours.
According to the American Heart Association, although not the most filling, the high-fiber whole grains in lightly-seasoned popcorn have been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and other health problems. While popcorn may not substitute for fruits and vegetables, it sure can beat potato chips, pretzels, and other less healthy snacks. It’s important to keep in mind, though, is that popcorn at the movies is very different from the popcorn we’re talking about being a healthy snack.
6. Protein Bars
Protein bars are another portable way to keep you from feeling hungry or sluggish. Not only does a small amount of protein make you feel full, but it also provides a slow, long-lasting surge of energy. These bars come in different amounts of protein, and you don’t necessarily need one that has the most protein in it. You should consider two things when picking a protein bar: the number of calories and the taste. It does you no good to eat a 500 calorie protein bar. You may as well eat a candy bar. Get a variety of protein bars and try them out. Eating healthy and quick does not have to be an ordeal.
Don’t let your travel nurse assignment get the best of you. Keeping healthy and nutritious snacks close by will keep you at your best while you’re on the floor.