Nurses are often so dedicated to their jobs they work right through lunch breaks and night shift snack breaks. (1) Breaks are a necessary part of protecting against burnout, and equally important, making sure a nurse gets adequate nutrition while on the job. Busy nurses need easy lunch and snack ideas to make break taking as easy as possible. Here are some easy tips to make meal breaks a no brainer:
1. Consider Your Schedule
A nurse’s schedule can be demanding, and a tired nurse isn’t going to want to put in a lot of meal prep time when it comes to preparing meals to take on break. The busiest days call for a simple dish that you can make and eat on the go. Don’t get bogged down in complex recipes, go for meals you can prepare in big batches at once and then pop into Tupperware for the week ahead.
Here are some recipes for busy nurses that make meal planning simple:
2. Plan Ahead
Meal planning for nurses doesn’t have to be a complicated process if you plan ahead. At the beginning of the week, make time to sit down and plan out your meals for the remainder of the week. Think about the kinds of foods that make you feel good when you eat them for lunch, and especially those that are simple and straightforward to make. Consider whether you have access to a refrigerator or microwave when you put your meals together.
A few lunch planning apps that you might find useful for meal planning:
Food Planner: This app lets you import recipes from websites and blogs to customize your perfect meal plans, grocery lists and inventory lists. (4)
Mealplan+: This app allows you to drag and drop meal tags into a weekly schedule to create your own meal plans, and email them to others. (5)
Mealboard: This customizable app brings together recipe management, meal planning, groceries and pantry management in one app. (6)
3. Buy Groceries in Bulk and Utilize the Freezer
Having to shop more than once a week can add unnecessary stress to an already busy schedule. When it comes to making meal prep simple, buying in bulk is the way to go. You can then save what you aren’t ready to use in the freezer.
Some things to buy in bulk that are also easy to make in big batches are: (7)
Grains. From rice to quinoa to pastas, grains keep well for long periods of time and are great for tossing in a crockpot or pressure cooker to make a week’s worth of hearty, ready to grab meals.
Frozen veggies. While fresh is best, you don’t always have time to keep fresh produce on hand. Veggies mix nicely into grains, too. Broccoli, peas, carrots, corn off the cob, spinach and so much more thaw up nicely for quick meal prep.
Frozen proteins. Fish, chicken and even beef all keep for a good long time in the freezer if well-wrapped. Thaw out enough protein for an entire week, toss it into a crockpot with some grains and veggies and the seasonings of your choice, and then parcel the meals into individual Tupperware containers for a week’s worth of ready to go meals.
Even better, you can freeze any meals you don’t plan to eat that week for later on. These back-up meals can then be popped into a microwave when you get off a nursing shift for meals at home that are just as convenient as those you eat at work.
4. Food Storage Containers
Every nurse needs a good lunch box or bag to make lunch prep a breeze. Lunch boxes, bags and thermoses come in a variety of shapes and colors depending on your needs, and are easy to wipe down and clean.(8) Many reusable plastic containers are even dishwasher safe, so you don’t have to think twice about cleanup.
For meal prep storage, consider several options. The simplest way to go is freezer bags, great for storing leftovers, loose food like grains or fruits, easy to mark with a sharpie for identification later. These, however, don’t keep food for as long as containers do.
Consider reusable, stackable storage containers that you can neatly organize in your refrigerator and freezer for ease and less clutter. (9)
For the more sustainably minded, glass meal prep containers contain no plastic (unless you use a lid) and stack neatly in your refrigerator. Pyrex bakeware containers can go straight from the oven into the refrigerator. (10)
5. Use Pinterest and Google
Nurses may be better at finding a vein than a new food idea, but interesting new recipes are at your fingertips with a little searching on Pinterest and Google. You can even customize your searches for types of foods, including vegetarian, vegan or gluten free options.
Some sample meal plans:
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