Healthy eating can be very difficult during the holiday season for most of us, but it’s a particularly difficult challenge for travel nurses. Between crazy shift schedules, being away from home for 13 or more weeks while on an assignment, and (for most Travel RNs) not having a partner to help prepare meals or eat with, healthy eating for travel nurses can be a huge challenge. When you combine those factors with the temptations of holiday food treats being offered just about everywhere you look, it’s no wonder that many travel nurses have a tough time with meal planning and maintaining a healthy diet at holiday time. For busy travel nurses that are always on the “GO”, here are 5 healthy power foods for travel nurses during the holidays that need little to no preparation and will help keep you energized throughout the day.
- Bananas: Not only do they come in their own handy wrapper, but bananas may be one of the best foods for energy. They are an excellent source of potassium, carbohydrates and vitamin B6, all of which can help boost energy levels during a particularly busy travel nurse shift. Bananas are also filling so they will help to stave off hunger and the desire to eat junk food.
- Tuna or Salmon: These fatty fish are good sources of protein, fatty acids and B vitamins, which make them great foods to include in your diet. A serving of salmon or tuna provides the recommended daily amount of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 works together with folic acid to produce red blood cells and help iron work better in the body. Optimal levels of red blood cells and iron in the blood can reduce fatigue and increase energy. These fish come prepared in a can that you take take to work, or you can easily prepare in advance as part of a sandwich or over a green salad.
- Lentils or beans: Both legumes are rich in energy-boosting protein and a good source of nutrients. They are also rich in carbs and fiber. In fact, just one cup of cooked lentils provides up to 40 grams of carbs and about 16 grams of fiber. The fiber in lentils promotes slow stomach emptying and more controlled increases in blood sugar levels. This helps you feel full for longer after you eat them and provide steady energy levels. Both legumes can be found in soups which you can heat up at work – just watch the sodium levels on some brands of canned soups as they can tend to be high.
- Strawberries: This delicious fruit can help stave off that travel nursing sweet tooth while also packing a nutritious wallop. Strawberries provide carbs, fiber and fruit sugars that can enhance energy levels. In fact, one cup of strawberries provides 12 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of sugar, while also providing almost 150% of the RDI for vitamin C. Strawberries are easy to work with – you can incorporate strawberries in many recipes, and use them in smoothies, parfaits or over green salads.
- Green tea. Coffee tends to be the go-to energy booster for many Travel Nurses, but what about those that are looking for an alternative to that sugary coffee drink to give a boost at any time of day? Try green tea. Similar to coffee, green tea contains caffeine, which can increase energy levels. However, green tea also contains a compound called L-theanine, which can actually moderate the effects of caffeine, such as anxiety and the jitters, and it produces a more moderated boost of energy, instead of the jolt many feel from strongly caffeinated coffee or energy drinks. Some research has shown that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine in green tea can increase focus, alertness and concentration.
So, next time you’re looking for a quick snack over the holidays, or if you need a healthy boost of energy at work instead of an extra slice of cheesecake leftover from the party last night, then try one of these healthy alternatives instead. You will notice the difference! Have any energy-boosting food tips of your own? Please tell us about them by leaving a comment here – your travel nursing colleagues will thank you for it!