In case being a nurse wasn’t hard enough with never ending shifts and fussy patients, add to it the carb dense menu of the hospital cafeteria with a generous dose of sugar in your coffee, and you have the perfect cocktail to sabotage your health! Yes, the short-term bliss is sooo good but the long term side effects are definitely not worth it. But fear not, because with these really easy tips you can make a massive difference in your diet.
Impact of stress and bad diet on your body
Working in high stress environments can deteriorate mental and physical health rapidly. Add to it, the greater degree of exposure to acute threats like pathogens, radiation, chemical and biologicals hazards that comes with the job, nurses also face elevated risks of developing chronic disease. Studies show that stress has been linked with:
- Emotional dysregulation
- Compromised immunity
- Risk of digestive issues
- Elevated risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Psychological disorders
How eating healthy can help
One of the most effective ways to offset the impact of stress on your body is through diet. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing notes that eating healthily can “reduce the impact of stressors on the body and positively influence health” . So, it’s important for nurses to maintain a healthy diet for their bodies to be able to perform better and to minimize the risk of chronic illnesses in the long run.
In fact, healthy eating habits don’t just negate the effects of stress, they can also boost performance, improve sleep, and contribute to your overall quality of life. Allowing your body to replenish its energy levels will also help you perform better at work. And who doesn’t like showing up to work well-rested and ready to tackle the day’s challenges?
Easy diet tips for nurses
But eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult and restricting. A proper diet plan needs to be balanced, especially if you’re transitioning from a more convenience-focused diet. For instance, if you have one carb dense meal a day, consider a high fiber or high protein option for your next meal! Also, spoiler alert – this way, you still get to have the occasional 3 AM cookie!
There are tons of tailored diet plans out there that nurses can follow to suit their needs. However, trying to adapt to rigorous diets isn’t always easy. Therefore, it’s important to start slow, so you can build a system of choosing and eating mindfully.
One way to get started quickly, is to focus on the areas of your diet, that you can easily improve upon. Here are some easy diet tips that won’t add to your stress but might just make healthy eating more fun.
- Add – don’t subtract: As LA- based dietician, Kylie Sakaida, says, “…we want to ask ourselves about what we’re missing in our diets instead of fixating on what we need to restrict” . Most dieticians would agree that processed food is not the best option to feed yourself. But, it is so convenient and easily accessible. So, why not balance it out? You can make your favorite ramen a more balanced meal by adding vegetables and protein like meat or eggs.
- Moderation: Eating too much of anything can cause undesirable side effects. Just as eating too much unhealthy fats can lead to heart issues, eating too much spinach can raise oxalate levels in the body and cause joint pain.
A healthy diet can accommodate both homecooked meals, as well as that chicken tikka masala you love from your favorite Indian restaurant. If eaten in moderation and paired with healthy eating habits, fast food doesn’t need to be villainized.
- Eat the rainbow: The more colorful your plate looks, the more diverse is your nutrient intake. The color of fruits and vegetables represent the type of phytonutrients they contain. These phytonutrients can potentially protect us from numerous health risks like heart disease.
- Don’t skimp on flavor: Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor. The goal of eating healthy is to fulfill your body’s needs adequately. That doesn’t mean you have to exclude your mental health needs. So, if an additional tablespoon of balsamic vinegar is the only thing standing between you and polishing off that green salad, by all means, drizzle it on and enjoy your greens!
- Mindful snacking: Snacking habits are controversial as it is. On the positive side, it stabilizes metabolism while maintaining blood sugar. But excess snacking can spike insulin levels and increase the risk of type II diabetes. The calories can also add up and result in extra pounds. To make matters worse, many of our favorite go to snacks are high calorie, nutrient-sparse and contain tons of added sugar.
But it’s not always feasible to avoid snacking altogether. Especially when you have long or overnight shifts. Be mindful of what you eat and when you eat it. Put yourself on a snack schedule. That way you don’t have to give in to your cravings every 20 minutes!
It is also wise to pause for a moment to figure out why you’re reaching for a snack. Are you really hungry, or are you just bored? Try to limit snacking by eating when you’re actually hungry. Also, drink plenty of water to help curb those cravings. Substitute unhealthy snack options with heathier choices like fruits, berries, nuts, seeds or yogurt. Opt for protein-rich options like chicken or salmon as they can keep you full for longer.
- Include superfoods: Superfoods like berries are rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. They are also tasty, low calorie, and ideal for snacking. Berries are rich in natural sugar so they can ward off your sugar cravings too!
- Meal prepping: Batch prepping your meals and having meal plans are a great way to have nutritious homecooked food easily accessible, especially for hectic workdays. It can also alleviate decision fatigue and stress since you don’t have to worry about your meals as you’re rushing to head out of the door. Prepping your meals can also motivate you to eat less processed food or fast food. and gives you greater control of what you consume.
Sustaining a healthy diet
To reap the maximum benefits of healthy eating, make a conscious effort to make better choices until it becomes a habit. You must make a conscious effort to make better choices especially during the initial days.
However, don’t be too hard on yourself if you order Panda Express twice a week instead of once. Remember, it’s all about balance! Set realistic goals and celebrate even the smallest accomplishments to keep yourself on track and motivated to continue down the path to good health through healthy eating!