Nutrition for Nurses
Did you know that according to a health risk appraisal conducted by the American Nurses Association, nursing students and RNs have an average BMI of 27.6? That is in the overweight range, and that is a problem. The funny thing is that we’re talking about nurses. Nurses know what to do. In fact, nurses very often are the ones creating and implementing patients’ nutrition plans; which begs the question. What is happening here; why is nutrition falling to the wayside when it comes to nurses caring for themselves?
The answer is simple. Nurses work very long hours caring for the ill which exposes them to myriad stressors that lead to poor food choices. It also doesn’t help that according to the aforementioned study, 28% of participants claimed that there were no healthy food options in their workplace, 31% stated that their workplace didn’t offer nutrition and weight management classes, and 38% felt that prices for healthy food options in their workplace were far higher than other food prices. So what’s a nurse to do? Read on for some strategies which will help promote healthy eating. Remember it WILL require a commitment from you, but it can be done.
Don’t Skip Meals
This is a biggie. Many people are under the impression that by skipping meals and ‘saving’ calories, you’re doing your body a favor. You’re not, and as a nurse you knew that. But life happens, work happens, and wadaya know? Skipping meals happens! But what happens when you skip a meal is that your body goes into fasting mode, your blood glucose level drops, which in turn leads to fatigue and irritability. In short, your body enters a state of ketosis, which is not a good thing for someone expected to make split second decisions. Skipping meals can also lead to cravings and even sudden blood glucose spikes. These spikes are what trigger increased triglyceride production, which is then stored as body fat leading to dum-du-dum… weight gain!! Basically, avoid skipping meals at ALL costs. And on that note-
Don’t Binge Eat
Skipping meals tends to lead people to binge eat. Don’t. You’re simply loading your body with too many calories at one shot, and it simply cannot handle it. You want to divide your calorie intake over the course of the day.
Ahhhh good ole’ H2O. Not only is water essential for bowel function, circulation and maintaining normal body temperatures, it is also responsible for carrying nutrients throughout the body. So be sure to drink at least 8 cups of water daily. If drinking that much water seems to be a daunting task, at least drink 8 cups of a decaffeinated beverage. While caffeine is a great stimulant if you need a jolt, too much, and too close to bedtime, can cause insomnia and exacerbate GI problems.
Bring your own food. Since a fair share of RNs felt that there were either not enough healthy food options at work, or that they were significantly pricier than less healthful options, this is a great solution. Yes, it requires prep time and a commitment, but it can be done, and once you get in the habit of bringing prepared meals with you it’ll become second nature. You may even want to consider purchasing a quality cooler in which to stock all your personal goodies.
Don’t stress about the whole food situation. Or about anything for that matter. Stress tends to act as an appetite suppressor, making it all too easy to skip meals. So just try to take a few deep breaths before meal time, thereby allowing your body to properly digest the food. And keep in mind that at times there will be crazy shifts where you will not have the liberty of sitting down to a proper meal. When this happens, make the effort to find just a minute or two to consume a high fiber protein bar or a meal replacement drink.
Alright my scrubs clad friends; here’s to a healthier you, and happy National Nutrition Month!