ER doctors don't get lunch breaks (we don't get bathroom breaks either, but... well... another post, another day). Getting even a quick bite can feel like a cross between The Hunger Games and Survivor -- finding the time between patients and securing the last peanut butter and graham cracker is a challenge worthy of reality TV.
The same probably goes for your day -- finding time to eat (let alone something healthy) can seem impossible. But it's not -- plus, after working too many long (and hungry) ER shifts, I learned that WHAT you eat is crucial for operating at peak capacity. So, here's what I keep on hand.
Rule of Thumb: Measure out portion sizes. Snacks should be in the 150-250 calorie range per serving. If you're having these for a meal, stick to 350-500 calories.
If you have 30 minutes:
If you have 10 minutes:
• Make-Your-Own Trail Mix: Make it nutritious and make it fun. Nutritionist Marisa Moore, RD, suggests even throwing in pistachios and pumpkin seeds, since they're "full of protein, fiber, minerals, and healthy fats." I also like adding dried fruit (cherries, mangoes and blueberries for me) and some low-fat kettle corn popcorn.
• Edamame with a pinch of sea salt: Buy edamame in the freezer section and microwave for just a couple of minutes.
• Hummus and veggies: If you're in a pinch, you can buy hummus/pretzel combos, but I find adding veggies more filling.
• Cheese and fruit: One wedge of cheese (think something portable), plus a piece of fruit.
If you have no time at all:
I stash these in my desk at work or in the refrigerator:
• Peanut butter (I buy single-serving containers): Peanut butter is a great source of protein and perfect for spreading on a banana or cracker. (Or with a finger or spoon, when I'm desperate. Yes, I said it.)
• Greek yogurt: Creamy Greek yogurt is filling and another great protein source. Sprinkle in nuts or fruits if you have them.
• Salmon jerky: Moore also suggests this option, available at specialty grocery stores. I love it for a portable protein. Besides, I'm a die-hard beef jerky fan, so I was thrilled to have a nutritionist endorse jerky!
I'm not a fan of any weight-loss diet that truly "bans" anything, but there are a few foods I avoid if I need to keep up my energy. While I used to reach for a bag of candy midway through a shift, that post-candy crash an hour later was awful. Same for sweetened sodas or heavy carbs -- they just leave me needing a nap.
The busier you are, the more energy you need, and the more "you are what you eat" rings true. You need to be at tip-top performance, all day, every day -- so make sure that what you're putting into your body is ready to meet the challenge.