Diet plan for nurses is essential because it would give them a very easy time to work with their day-to-day routine schedules. Managing a diet plan is never easy. Nurses have to manage their daily routines every day. On top of that, they also have to do their regular duties. A well-balanced diet plan can significantly ease the stress of having a balanced nutrition and health.
Healthy Nutrition for Nurses
Exercise isn’t the only component to robust physical fitness; ideally, it should be augmented with eating well. Here are a few guidelines regarding healthy nutrition for nurses.
What’s a Healthy Diet?
The United States Department of Agriculture provides some general guidelines for ensuring proper nutrition. They include:
- Make food choices that prioritize a variety of food groups and nutrients.
- Eat whole fruits and a variety of vegetables.
- Make sure half of the grains consumed are whole grains.
- Eat a variety of proteins.
- Opt for low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt.
- Minimize foods and beverages that are heavy on saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars.
- Make small, incremental changes to develop sustainable nutritional habits.
What Foods Promote Energy and Stamina?
For nurses, it’s critical to select foods that will facilitate high energy and physical endurance. Some good examples include:
- Nuts (especially walnuts, almonds, and pistachios)
- Black coffee and tea
- Healthy fats (fish, olives, avocado)
Healthy Eating Habits
Nutrition for nurses isn’t just about what foods are eaten but when and how they are eaten as well. Remember that skipping meals, binge eating, or eating unhealthy foods can lead to irritability and fatigue. Some general tips include:
- Eat on a regular schedule. Try to eat every four or five hours, without skipping meals.
- Bring healthy snacks and meals to work. Avoid vending machines.
- If eating in the hospital cafeteria, plan purchases. Avoid impulse buys.
- Make a meal plan and coordinate it with a shopping list.
Support Healthy Eating
Nutritious eating habits are more effective when paired with other healthy lifestyle choices. Tips include:
- Stay hydrated throughout the day.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Avoid sugary and processed foods whenever possible.
Enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five food groups every day.
Protein is the body’s building block for muscle, cartilage, skin and blood and helps to keep you strong and healthy. Protein rich foods also help to
keep you feeling fuller for longer. Foods high in protein include meat, fish, poultry, tofu, eggs, nuts and beans.
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary fuel source and provide energy to the brain, muscles and other organs. Foods that contain carbohydrates
include wholegrain breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, most fruit and some dairy foods.
Glycaemic Index (GI)
All carbohydrates are given a GI score. This is a measure of how quickly the body can convert the food into energy. Low GI foods are the healthiest option as they provide longer lasting energy. Low GI foods include brown rice, grain bread, pasta and most fruits and vegetables.
Fibre helps to keep everything you eat moving through your digestive system, keeping it healthy. Foods high in fibre include wholegrain breads and cereals, fruits and vegetables.
So how do I use the basics above to create an amazing meal?
Let’s say you’re going to make a ‘bowl’. Choose a base. Add a protein. Add veggies. Add Healthy fats (dips such as hummus, feta, avocado).
Planning your shift
Shift work and it’s effects
It is well documented that working night shift will impact on us nurses! We are soo lucky….we are given an increased likelihood of obesity, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, higher risk of mood changes, increased risk of gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation and stomach discomfort, higher risk of motor vehicle accidents and work-related accidents, increased likelihood of family problems, including divorce, probable increased risk of cancer, especially breast cancer.
So the very least you can do is eat healthy, prepare food better so you’re stressed less and make sure you drink lots of healthy drinks and water!
So what are some meal prep ideas?
- Low Glycaemic Index (GI) foods
- Hydrating foods
- Healthy fats and protein
- Healthy Snacks and fruits
- Consider cooking using a slow cooker or those quick easy healthy meals
For Breakfasts – some very quick basic ideas
Think of eating things such as Rolled oats – like porridge (get some sachets and they can be carried to work) or unsweetened muesli with yoghurt, or bircher muesli prepared in advance.
Or have some wholegrain toast with boiled eggs. You can wrap the eggs in foil and take to work. Add vegetables such as mushrooms and spinach, some tomato or avocado, or cottage/ricotta cheese, or baked beans.
Smoothie – milk/soy milk/almond milk and yoghurt, berries and freshly ground seeds and nuts
Nutrition tips for nurses who work shifts
If you work shifts, you know it’s not always easy to find time to eat. Your stomach may be growling, but you can’t sit down to eat if a patient codes, a coworker calls off sick, and you get five new admissions. Or maybe you work alternating shifts and have no routine meal schedule. Or you’re working back-to-back 12-hour shifts and barely have time to spend with your family, grab some sleep, and commute back to work.
Many shift workers have varying workdays and shift lengths and, in many cases, alternating day and night shifts, too. Their schedules may disrupt their personal lives and circadian rhythms (sleep and waking patterns), leading to chronic fatigue, cluster headaches, GI distress, and other problems. “It’s hard to eat three meals a day when you work the night shift because your sleep schedule is all messed up,” states Cassy, a nurse who works nights on the med/surg unit of a community hospital. “Sometimes I’m just too tired to eat.”
A recent study supported by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality showed that nurses routinely miss meals to care for patients. Many nurses who have limited mealtimes or work night shifts admit to snacking on less nutritious high-calorie items, such as candy bars or chips, because they’re easily accessible through vending machines.
Tips for healthy eating
But many options for healthy meals take less than 30 seconds to prepare, so lacking the time to eat isn’t a good excuse for skipping meals. What’s more, healthy eating aids weight management and can improve work performance. Although eating well takes some effort, you can do it if you prepare adequately and stay committed. Here are some strategies that promote healthy eating for shift nurses.
Don’t skip meals
When you skip a meal, your body goes into a fasting mode and uses less efficient energy sources. As your blood glucose level drops, your concentration suffers and you feel fatigued and irritable. Glucose, the brain’s main fuel, is compromised within 4 to 6 hours of a missed meal. The deficiency forces the body to use less efficient energy sources, starting with protein. To preserve remaining protein stores, the body resorts to using fats in the form of ketone bodies. When ketosis sets in, fatigue, low blood pressure, and nausea may occur. As a result, your decision-making skills may slow down and you may become physically unsteady.
Skipping meals also may lead to cravings and sudden blood glucose spikes, which in turn may trigger increased triglyceride production. The triglycerides are stored as body fat, increasing the possibility of weight gain.
Don’t binge on a single big meal
Eating just one large meal a day may contribute to calorie loading, which can overwhelm your body with calories it doesn’t need and can’t handle. It’s best to divide your nutrient load over the course of the day instead of consuming it all at once.
Limit your caffeine intake
While caffeine may increase alertness, consuming it in large quantities or within 4 hours of bedtime can cause insomnia, exacerbate GI symptoms, and act as a cardiac stimulant. (See Caffeine content of popular beverages by clicking on the pdf icon above.)
Stay well hydrated
Adequate hydration is essential to proper bowel function, circulation, and body temperature regulation. Water also carries nutrients throughout the body and removes waste. Dehydration, on the other hand, can stress the heart, increase core body temperature, and contribute to fatigue.
Try to drink at least 8 cups of decaffeinated beverages daily. Bring a large water bottle to work each day and keep it filled throughout your shift.
Take your own meals and snacks to work
Buy a good insulated cooler and keep it stocked with healthy food options. (For suggestions, see Web Exclusives at www.AmericanNurseToday.com.)
Relax when eating
Many nurses cite stress as a reason for missing meals. Stress hormones can curb hunger, making it easy to miss meals—or making it hard to even think about eating. So before you take your first bite, try to relax and take a few deep breaths. This helps give your body more time to properly digest food.
If your facility has a cafeteria or restaurant facilities and you tend to buy your meals there instead of bringing food from home, read the menu in advance and decide what you’ll have before you purchase food. This may decrease impulse buying.
Prepare for the unexpected
Keep in mind that no two shifts are alike. During some shifts, you won’t be able to sit down for a break. When this occurs, try to find at least a few minutes to eat a high-fiber protein bar (one with at least 5 g of fiber and 7 g of protein to increase satiety) or to consume a meal-replacement drink.
Limit vending-machine snacks
Keep a steady supply of healthy snacks on hand. If the vending machine is your only option at any given time, choose a more nutritious snack (a granola bar, wheat chips, or peanut butter and crackers, for instance) instead of candy.
Schedule routine mealtimes
Stick to your meal schedule as much as possible. Inconsistent or sporadic meals may contribute to fatigue and weight gain. While mealtimes may vary with the shift, avoid going longer than 6 hours between meals.
Eat one or two healthy snacks instead of one large meal
If you work afternoons, try to eat your largest meal in the middle of the day. If you work nights, eat lightly throughout your shift and then have a small to moderate-sized breakfast. Eating a large or greasy meal can make digestion difficult at bedtime. (See Sample mini-meals by clicking on the pdf icon above.)
Don’t let shift work jeopardize your well-being. Making a few changes in your eating habits can have a huge impact on your energy level, job performance, and overall health.
A healthy nurse is an efficient nurse—this is a proven fact. And to keep yourself in tiptop shape, you need not only effective exercise routines, but also a diet rich in energy-dense nutrients.
Struggling to keep yourself energized without adding extra pounds on your weight? No problem! Here are eight must-know nutrition tips for a healthier you:
1. Start slow.
Do not attempt to change your diet abruptly in one day, and expect results the next. Do this and you’ll be more likely to cheat or give up easily.
Start slowly by adding something that entices you to eat healthily. Use olive oil instead of butter when you’re cooking. These little changes bring immense results over time. If you’re at work, choose foods that are not only healthy, but enjoyable to eat as well.
2. Always eat breakfast.
You must have heard this a million times, but it’s true that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This will keep you energized all day, and keep you from being tempted to grab a cookie in between meals.
Nurses tend to forget eating breakfast, especially when they’re on a rush to go to work. If this is the case, then fix yourself a healthy sandwich and eat it on the way!
3. Fruits and vegetables are your best friends.
We all know that fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, so make sure to include them in your diet every day. You can try a new fruit or vegetable every week, or opt to fill half of your plate with vegetables at dinner.
4. Never skip meals.
Nurses are always busy working around the hospital that they tend to skip meals. If you want to become healthy, you should make sure not to skip meals. Eat your lunch during lunch breaks. Find time to eat even just crackers when you’re starting to get hungry.
5. Cut down on fat and sugar.
Everyone needs some fat in their diet, but you should cut down on saturated fat, which is fat that may increase your risk of developing heart diseases.
Sugar, on the other hand, is high in energy, but may contribute to weight gain. As much as possible, try not to drink too much carbonated drinks and alcoholic beverages, and cut down on foods that contain added sugars such as cakes and pastries.
6. Minimize your intake of caffeine.
Nurses love coffee, not because they want to, but because they need it for them to stay active and energetic all throughout the day. On this note, caffeine should be taken in moderation, because this is also one of the major causes of heart disease.
If you are an avid coffee drinker, try to limit your daily caffeine intake to only two to three cups.
7. Don’t eat too much.
Just because what you’re eating is low in sugar doesn’t mean it is also low in fat. How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Although it is important to choose the right food for you, it is also equally vital that you determine the necessary calories you need in your diet.
8. Get active.
An active lifestyle will not only increase your metabolism as you go, but will also help you maintain a healthier body and mind.