Accountable Healthcare - Healthy Eating for Nurses Who Work Long Hours
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April 30, 2020

Healthy Eating for Nurses Who Work Long Hours

When you work long hours, finding time to eat healthily isn’t always easy. Grabbing dinner from a fast food joint or having pizza delivered often seems much more appealing than taking the time to prepare a healthy meal from scratch but doing so can have a detrimental impact on your long-term health.

As a nurse, you already are well aware of the importance of a healthy diet. You know what you should be doing in terms of taking care of your body, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing it.

Nurses work long and often erratic hours. Getting on a schedule and eating healthy on a regular basis can seem downright impossible. The good news, though, is that it doesn’t have to be. Instead of falling into bad habits, keep reading to discover a few healthy eating tips for nurses who work long hours!

Start Having Your Groceries Delivered

Going to the grocery store and shopping for nutritious foods is tough when you spend most of your waking hours at work. But if you want to start packing healthy lunches and preparing meals at home, you need to have food in your house.

The solution?

Skip going to the grocery store yourself and have your groceries delivered instead. In addition to saving you time and making it easier to get the products you need, having your groceries delivered means that you won’t be inundated with all the marketing and advertisements at the store. You can’t be tempted to buy unhealthy foods if you aren’t physically walking past huge displays of them.

Avoid Skipping Meals

When you are short on time, skipping a meal may seem like a good way to save yourself a few minutes. In doing so, though, you are depriving your body of the nutrients it needs. Skipping meals causes your body to go into fasting mode, too, which prompts it to use less efficient energy sources.

As your glucose levels drop, you feel fatigued and become more irritable. It also becomes more difficult to concentrate. This starts happening within just four to six hours of a skipped meal. As more time passes, your blood pressure drops, and you could experience nausea. You might become physically unsteady or experience decreased decision-making capabilities.

In short, skipping meals may save you a few minutes, but the implications are not worth it. Make time to consume healthy meals throughout the day, and you are less likely to feel tired and irritable as the day goes on.

Limit Caffeine Intake

You may think caffeine is the lifesaver that keeps you going when you are stuck working long shifts but consuming too much of it is problematic. Small quantities of caffeine can help improve alertness but consuming it in excessive amounts can cause an elevated heart rate, make GI symptoms worse, or cause insomnia.

Stay Hydrated

Your body needs water to live. It is essential for circulation, body temperature regulation, bowel function, and much, much more. Failure to drink enough water leads to dehydration, which can increase body temperature, contribute to fatigue, and stress the heart.

If you normally reach for coffee or soda when you are feeling thirsty, keep in mind that caffeine speeds up dehydration. When it comes to staying hydrated, water is always your best bet. If you aren’t fond of the taste of water, you can always add fruit or flavor enhancers to make it a bit more palatable. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are drinking at least eight cups of water each and every day.

Plan Ahead

If you wait until the last minute to figure out what to eat for a meal, you’re more likely to make poor decisions. Create a menu for the week, and make sure you have all of the ingredients you need for the meals you will be preparing. When you lay out your favorite pair of nursing scrubs the night before your next shift, gather up the ingredients you’ll need for the next day’s meal and put them in a convenient location. If you need to use something that is currently frozen, move it from the freezer to the fridge.

Prepare a lunch to take to work with you, along with some healthy snacks. Getting them ready ahead of time means that you will be more likely to bring them with you when you go to work. Taking some time to prep and plan ahead is one of the simplest and most effective things you can do when you are trying to get your diet on track.

Relax While Eating

Many nurses miss meals because of stress. Stress hormones can decrease hunger and make eating feel like more of a chore than a reward. If this is something that you struggle with, be more mindful about relaxing while you eat. Sit down, take a few deep breaths, and do your best to let go of whatever is bothering you. If you have time, consider going for a walk in your comfortable nursing shoes before or after you eat. Even a short stroll can help lower stress levels and enable you to relax.


As a nurse, ensuring the health and well-being of others is a big part of your life. That doesn’t mean, though, that your own health should go on the back burner. While it’s easy to head to the vending machine for a snack, skip breakfast, or grab dinner from a drive-thru, the long-term impact of poor eating habits can be dire. Take care of yourself by committing to improving your diet and making healthy eating a priority in your life.

Original article by: Adela Ellis (