As a travel nurse, you’re accustomed to dealing with unexpected interruptions in your schedule. So if you’re trying to eat three square meals a day? Good luck! It’s much more likely you’ll be grabbing what you can, when you can. And you’re probably frequently dealing with hunger, which can make it hard to stay focused while you work.
To keep your engine running throughout a 12-hour shift, consider these slow-burning foods for snacks and meals.
They’re easy, versatile, inexpensive, and best of all, they’re packed with what you need to stay satisfied and energized. A large egg has only 78 calories and carries with that approximately 7 grams of protein (by size), 5 grams of fat, and a host of nutrients. Start your day off with an omelet or scrambled eggs, or consider bringing a snack of hard-boiled eggs with you to work. Bonus tip: try making your boiled eggs in a pressure cooker for speedy, consistent results.
High-fiber foods take longer for your body to process. As a result, you’ll feel full longer. Oatmeal, with 4 grams of fiber per cup, is a great choice for breakfast. Top it off with blackberries or raspberries (both 8 grams of fiber per cup) for even more staying power.
3. Trail mix
Want to keep a fulfilling snack on hand that won’t get boring? Homemade trail mix is an awesome choice. Keep nuts as your base ingredient — they’ve got the right mix of fats and proteins to keep you full — and vary the rest. Keep it simple with the classic GORP (“good ole raisins and peanuts”). Or get creative — add Chex, dark chocolate chunks, or dried pomegranate seeds.
It’s a carb. It’s warm. It reminds you of indulgence, a night at the movies — yet popcorn can be a fantastic, healthy snack option! Because of its high fiber content, popcorn is a great food to stave off hunger. It’s also extremely convenient. Just stash a couple of bags in your desk and nuke when needed.
5. Greek yogurt
To get the most fuel out of your Greek yogurt, select a brand that’s as close as possible to the “real thing.” That means finding something that contains L. Acidophilus (and other live cultures), which will promote healthy digestion. Also look for a brand with a higher fat content — fat, like protein, is essential to a healthy diet and to staying fueled.
6. . . . or cottage cheese!
Trendy Greek yogurt has made many of us completely forget about good old cottage cheese! When you’re getting bored of yogurt, take a turn with this old standby. With 28 grams of protein per cup, cottage cheese actually offers far more protein than Greek yogurt. And that’s just one of its many health benefits.
An apple a day keeps the doctor — and hunger! — away. Apples have 4 grams of fiber and may promote healthy gut bacteria. They’re easy to stash in your bag and have a good shelf life. Consider pairing one with some peanut butter for a healthy, filling snack.
8. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes make a convenient, filling snack. Simply poke one with a fork, wrap it with a damp paper towel, and microwave it for 5-7 minutes (depending on size). You’ll get 4 grams of fiber and a major dose of vitamins and nutrients. For breakfast, consider buttering them and sprinkling them with cinnamon. Dinner time on your shift? Pair with some ham slices and cut up veggies.
9. Protein bars
Sure, it’s healthiest to eat whole foods, but time and convenience are majorly important, too. Make life easy by keeping a box of protein bars on hand. Compare brands to see what’s right for you, whether that’s more protein, fiber, or simply your taste preference.
10. String cheese
Another highly portable and convenient choice, string cheese typically offers about 6 grams of protein. Pair it with a piece of fruit and multigrain crackers.
With 9 grams of protein per serving, deli-style turkey meat is an excellent choice for a lean meat that will keep you energized for lengthy periods of time. Rather than a sandwich, try rolling it up with cheese or in a wrap. That way, you can avoid the carby crashes that can result from eating large amounts of regular bread.
Like apples, bananas are super easy to stash in your purse and don’t need a bag. They’ve been found to help support alertness because they contain an amino acid that helps produce norepinephrine.
With 25 grams of protein per serving, tuna is an awesome option for your lunch or dinner. It’s also affordable, loaded with healthy fats, and low calorie. Mix it into tuna salad with celery to add fiber and eat it with crackers. You’ll feel full and ready to charge on for several hours.
If you like nuts and seeds, give these beans a whirl. They offer salty satisfaction and pack 16 grams of protein per cup — and they’ve got loads of fiber. Bonus: they’re the only vegetable that contains all nine essential amino acids.
Yep, we’ve saved the best for last. As a nurse, you understand the biological mechanisms that make sugar pump you up — and make you crash. But let’s be real. There are times you’re going to want a sweet on hand, so if you splurge, make it chocolate! Chocolate will provide a little kick of caffeine (12 mg per ounce) and provide other health benefits. Choose darker varieties (those higher in cocoa) for the healthiest options, and enjoy!
Want more tips on how you can stay healthy? Check out our article on how to boost your immune system in travel nursing.