Nurses are on the front line in healthcare, looking after multiple patients at once and working long hours in stressful environments like hospitals, especially during the pandemic. Under these conditions, they tend to neglect taking care of themselves, which leads them to experience sleep deprivation, lack of energy, and also to forget why nutrition for nurses is important.
We understand that nurses are always busy and have a hard time finding a healthy work-life balance, however, we are sure that by taking back control over their wellbeing by adopting healthy eating habits and other practices focused on their own benefit, they will be able to feel much better in order to keep offering the best care and attention to their patients.
These are our healthy eating guidelines for all nurses to follow, whether they are registered nurses (RN), registered practical nurses (RPN), or nurse practitioners (NP).
The first change that most nurses need to make to improve their eating habits is to plan their meals and shop accordingly. This way they will waste less time figuring out what to eat or what to pack for lunch, and they can just get cooking right away. This also helps to consciously stay away from unhealthy foods with ingredients like preservatives, trans fat, etc. and allows them to focus on eating whole foods.
One of the many benefits of meal planning is deciding what to cook for breakfast days in advance and having all ingredients at hand. This increases the chances of nurses actually having breakfast before going to work, instead of just drinking coffee and running out the door because they are too tired or sleepy to cook anything. Also, skipping breakfast and not packing lunch is likely to cause nurses to overeat whenever they have a chance to have lunch and make poor food choices.
Nurses have one of the hardest jobs in healthcare, so they need all the strength and energy they can get, and one of the best sources to get that is protein. Eating meals with enough protein content is the best way to feel satisfied for longer and avoiding energy drops after a few hours, which is what usually happens when people mostly fuel their bodies with carbohydrates.
Yes, emergencies happen. One day you are planning to have lunch at noon, but you end up eating half a sandwich at 4. Now, nurses need to try to keep some consistency in their eating times, around four to five hours between meals, to keep their energy levels, remain healthy, and maintain a good performance overall.
Energy bars, dry fruit, nuts, etc. These are perfect snacks every nurse should consider packing before going to work, as they can literally be lifesavers when hunger reaches that point where even your vision gets blurry. The right snacks can keep nurses going for a little while longer, while they get a chance to have a full-sized meal. The only consideration is to stay away from sugary snacks, because even though they are a quick fix for energy, it wears off pretty fast, leaving you worse than before.
Coffee can keep you awake, alert, and on your feet working, but after the third cup, there’s a big chance for nurses to have trouble falling asleep once they get home. This is why caffeinated drinks are not recommended for healthcare workers on the hours prior to the end of their shifts. It is also important to remember that coffee is not the only drink that contains this stimulant, energy drinks, some soft drinks and teas also have caffeine.
Finally, it is important for nurses to remember that consistency is what makes the difference. Sticking to a reasonably nutritious diet, eating recommended portions of the main food groups (food, vegetables, protein, fiber, and carbs), and doing with the same positive attitude they encourage in their patients, will help them feel so much better and will allow them to better care for patients and themselves.
What do you think of these recommendations? Are they reasonable enough? Let us know your thoughts.
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