Nurses are notorious for skipping meals. Hectic shifts, odd hours, and under-staffing all contribute to little time for planning or eating. Busy nurses with the healthiest of intentions end up grabbing something from the vending machine or skipping food altogether.
This pattern is not only unhealthy, it’s self-repeating. Skipping meals and snacks creates fatigue, which creates cravings for sugar, caffeine and unhealthy, processed carbs. These quick-fixes last a very short time, and the cycle starts all over again.
There are three key nutrients and micronutrients that go into true power snacks for people working long, stressful shifts and odd hours: protein, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. Protein is necessary to keep you from feeling starved, and to keep your blood sugar (and energy level) steady. Vitamin C needs to be replenished constantly, as it’s easily and quickly depleted by stress and fatigue. Antioxidants fight the free radicals created by environmental factors, lack of regular sleep, and stress. The best snacks combine foods that provide all of these nutrients in a quick and delicious mini-meal.
Here are five of the very best power snacks to not only get you through your shift, but to also keep you feeling energized and strong. The first two are smoothies, which are wonderful for sipping in between errands and patients. (If you don’t already have one, ask permission to bring a blender to keep in your break room.)
Chocolate Power Smoothie
In a blender, combine 1/2c. 2% milk, 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder, 1 banana, 1 tsp. flax and 1 tsp. psyllium. Blend until mixed, then add a handful of ice and blend again until smooth.
Mediterranean Sunshine Smoothie
***Greek yogurt has twice the protein of regular yogurt, so be sure you’re using the Greek variety.
In a blender, combine 1 small carton of vanilla, peach, banana or pineapple Greek yogurt, ¼ c. 2% milk, and ½ c. fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries or blackberries. Blend until combined, add a handful of ice and blend again until smooth.
Spread chopped, unsalted black walnuts onto a plate. Leaving the peel on, cut a banana in half, then cut each half lengthwise. Spread each portion with ½ tsp. Nutella, then press face down into walnuts to coat. Put two halves back together, wrap in foil or plastic and pop into the freezer until you’re ready to eat, or peel and eat immediately. (If you freeze them, leave the peel on to keep bananas from browning)
Tropical Chicken Wraps
(Makes 4 wraps. Filling will keep for a few days in a tightly covered container)
- 2 cooked chicken breasts, diced
- 2 T. softened light cream cheese
- 1 t. Dijon or honey mustard
- ¼ c. chopped green onion
- 4 6-8 inch spinach, tomato or whole grain wraps
- 1 c. raw baby spinach leaves
- 1 t. salt
- Fresh black pepper
- ½ t. mild curry powder
In a mixing bowl, combine chicken, cream cheese and mustard. Add salt, curry powder and pepper to taste. Add in green onion and dried cranberries. Mix well with a fork. Divide between four wraps, spreading the filling on the front third of the wrap. Top each with ¼ c. fresh spinach leaves, roll up burrito-style. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and keep cooled until ready to eat.
Chewy Energy Bars (makes 18-these freeze wonderfully in plastic baggies or plastic wrap)
- 4 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- 2 cups dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries or any combination
Preheat your oven to 325-degrees and lightly grease a 9×13 pan with a little canola oil. In a large mixing bowl, mix first seven ingredients until combined, add chocolate chips and dried berries and spread into pan. Bake 20-25 minutes, just until edges are golden. Cool, cut into bars and wrap.