Eating healthy as a travel nurse is easier said than done. With long shifts and changing living situations, it’s easy to grab what’s most convenient rather than what is healthiest for you. A quick trip to the drive-thru is much easier than shopping and cooking dinner every night. However, eating healthy is key to taking care of yourself. That’s why we’ve compiled a few helpful and easy tips to help you eat healthy as a travel nurse.
Meal prepping can be a busy nurses’ best tool. Instead of spending money on take-out every night, or spending 30 minutes cooking dinner after long 12-hour shifts, you’ll have ready-to-eat healthy meals packed in your fridge.
Identify healthy meals
Heart healthy food to include in your diet consists of:
- Veggies – especially leafy greens like spinach and kale
- Fruits – like apples, bananas, and oranges for their natural vitamins
- Whole grains – complex carbs like oatmeal and rice are good for brain function
- Low-fat dairy foods – including milk, cheese and Greek yogurt
- Foods high in protein:
- Fish – particularly salmon, tuna, or trout since they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Lean ground beef or turkey, or chicken breast
- Eggs and egg whites
- Nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachios), seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, chia), and beans (kidney, lentils, chickpeas)
- Foods high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats:
- Canola and olive oil
But of course, everything is okay in moderation!
Once you’ve picked out a few recipes that sound good, check your fridge for ingredients and make a list of anything you need to buy. You should have a good idea in mind for what you’ll be eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as any snacks you might want. If you need any assistance, sticking with a simple protein, carb, and vegetable combination is a solid plan. Or, you can check out apps like, “Eat This Much,” to help plan your meals.
As a travel nurse, you may not have every cooking tool to use when meal prepping. Make sure you keep this in mind when picking out recipes. There are plenty of recipes online that focus on one-pot meals, or air-fryer only dishes. Although, you can also buy things at the store to help minimize this lack of resources, like microwave rice, rotisserie chicken, and pre-made sauces.
Cooking at home, even with it’s challenges, is a great way to eat healthy as a nurse. This way, you have more control over ingredients, as well as your portion sizes.
Once your meals are all cooked, make sure you remember to pack them and bring them to work! Packing your meals helps you not reach for quick substitutes like vending machine treats an cafeteria food. We recommend using glass reusable containers to easily microwave and store your food in.
Don’t forget, you can always freeze certain meals for later, to prep a bunch ahead of time for work and home. Soups, casseroles, and burritos are great options for this.
Meal delivery options
Sometimes shopping is the worst part of eating healthy. Luckily, there are a few options that can help make this step a bit more enjoyable.
Hello Fresh – Hello Fresh is a meal delivery options that has multiple meal plans to fit your lifestyle. You can also cancel, skip a week, or change meal plans at any time.
Freshly – Freshly is a great option if you want to skip shopping and cooking altogether. This delivery option sends meals that are already prepped and cooked. All you need to do is heat the meals and enjoy!
Grocery Delivery – Not necessarily considered a meal delivery service, but it’s a great way to shop without going to the store. Instead of walking up and down aisles, you can order online. This way, you avoid temptation and save time! Price Chopper and Walmart are currently offering this option.
Everyone snacks – especially nurses who run around all day. Making sure you also pack snacks with your meal can help ensure you stay eating healthy. Perfect on-the-go snacks can be things like snap peas, almonds, protein bars, and pretzels. However, find what works best for you, whether that’s pre-wrapped items so you don’t have to touch your food, or just quick finger food to munch on while you do paperwork.
You should also make sure to pack a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day. Just drinking caffeinated beverages can easily dehydrate you, so make sure you’re getting enough H2O in. If you struggle with drinking enough water, try squeezing in some lemon or lime juice.
In the end, it’s all about living a balanced lifestyle. Don’t think you need to stick to your meal plan 24/7. For example, if you’ve had a tough day, it’s okay to pour yourself that glass of wine. Or, if you’re going to blow off steam with friends after work, leave your meal prep at home. Eating out or indulging every once in a while is fine! It may actually help you feel more excited to heat healthy the other days of the week.
Not to mention, eating healthy pairs great with working out for a heart-healthy lifestyle. Check out these 10 bodyweight exercises perfect for nurses on the road.
There are a lot of online resources for finding healthy recipe ideas. Feel free to browse sites like allrecipes.com, foodnetwork.com, or even Pinterest. You should also talk to your friends, family, and coworkers for some of their favorite meals! Lastly, you can subscribe to Ethos’s email. We send nurse-friendly recipe ideas straight to your inbox!
Here are just a few heart-healthy recipes to try out:
Chicken & Broccoli Casserole
- 2 (3 1/2-ounce) bags boil-in-bag brown rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 8 ounces pre-sliced button mushrooms
- 8 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (12-ounce) bag microwave-in-bag fresh broccoli florets
- 1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 3/4 cup)
- Preheat broiler to high. Cook rice according to package directions; drain.
- While rice cooks, heat a large 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add onion, mushrooms, and chicken; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sauté for 6 minutes or until chicken and onion are done.
- Cook broccoli in microwave according to package directions for 3 minutes. Open package to release steam.
- Combine milk and flour, stirring with a whisk or a fork until smooth.
- Stir milk mixture into chicken mixture in the skillet.
- Cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and thick, frequently stirring.
- Stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, rice, and broccoli. Sprinkle with cheese.
- Broil 1 minute or until cheese melts and just begins to brown.
Note: Feel free to substitute the broccoli with cauliflower, spinach, peas, green beans, or any of your favorites. You can also swap out the rice for 3 cups cooked quinoa (1 cup uncooked).
One Pot Spaghetti Marinara
- 12 oz. thin spaghetti
- 4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 c. low-sodium marinara
- 1 14.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 Small Onion
- 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, torn
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- Grated Parmesan, for serving
- In a large skillet or pot, place 12 oz thin spaghetti flat on the bottom. Add chicken broth, marinara, tomatoes and olive oil. Bring to a boil.
- Finely chop the garlic and onion; add to the skillet (its ok if the liquid hasn’t started boiling yet). Stir frequently until the liquid comes to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until pasta is cooked. Should take around 6 to 10 minutes.
- Fold in the basil, season with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper and serve with grated Parmesan
Having a heart-healthy diet not only helps fuel you throughout your work day, but can be beneficial in boosting your immune system. Creating healthy eating habits is a good way to make sure you’re taking care of yourself as a busy nurse.
At Ethos, we care about our nurses, providing them with tools to help them stay healthy physically and mentally. Want support like that in your corner? Take your next travel assignment with us! www.ethosmedicalstaffing.com