Nurses are notorious in skipping meals for a good reason and that is to get their daily tasks done. However, taking the nutritional power of food for granted can eventually take its toll not just on the nurse’s health but also to her performance as the main agent of healthcare.
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In connection with this, a nurse must know the crucial role that nutrition plays in a nurse’s health and clinical performance.
According to Kerry Neville, MS, RD, a Washington-based nutrition consultant and national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, “It’s when you skip meals that your stress level gets crazier than it might otherwise. You end up eating fewer calories during the day, but then (when you get home) you are starving and end up eating everything in sight.”
Nutrition experts recommend eating every two-to-four hours during a busy shift. Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, LDN, FAIS, FACSM, is a nutritional biochemist, consultant, and author in Utah who frequently has worked with athletes, whom he says face many of the same constant energy demands faced by nurses. He suggests nurses think of eating as an IV bag with a constant drip of nutrients and energy to keep body and brain on an even keel. With a constant supply of energy, the brain is less likely to send out cravings for sweets and other simple carbohydrates.
But what are the best foods that busy people like nurses can eat? Here are five of them:
1. Fresh fruits and vegetables.
Apples, bananas, berries, baby carrots, snow peas and bags of pre-washed greens — nutrition experts can’t say enough about the benefits of these. High in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, complex carbohydrates, they are the foundation of healthy eating. Blueberries, on the other hand, seems to be the best choice for experts because they have lots of fiber and vitamins. Blueberries are a great fruit to keep on hand for snacking—and for cooking or baking. You can throw blueberries into low-fat homemade pancakes or waffles. You can also throw these berries into fruit salads to bring to work or mix a few into some yogurt.
2. Fatty fish, including tuna and salmon.
To benefit from the omega-3 fatty acid (which boosts HDL cholesterol and protects your arteries from plaque buildup), you need to eat fatty fish such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon. It’s recommended that adults eat two servings of fatty fish per week. A serving is about the size of a deck of cards.
3. Sweet potatoes.
These can either be cooked in a microwave, or oven-baked at home and eaten cold or reheated. They are filling, satisfying, and contain a dense packet of fiber and nutrients.
Easy to pack, easy to eat and high in protein, “yogurt could be the nurse’s best friend,” says Kristen E. D’Anci, PhD, a researcher in the department of psychology and nutrition and neurocognition laboratory at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
These are high in calories (a medium one has more than 300) but their nutritional benefits make them an ideal portable energy food, says Gary Scholar, BS, MEd, a Chicago-based health and wellness consultant to employees of the American Hospital Association, and author of “Fit Nurse: Your Total Plan for Getting Fit and Living Well.” They are high in fiber, potassium and monosaturated fats, the kind that help bolster HDL cholesterol.