Fuel your shift: Nutrition tips and meal ideas for nurses

An image of three batch cooked meals in tupperware boxes, taken from above

Preparing nutritious and balanced meals can feel like a chore, especially after a long shift. But eating well is essential to help us all maintain energy, focus and overall wellbeing. 

In this article, we cover some quick and easy tips to help you prioritise your nutrition, and share meal ideas for nurses that can work around your busy schedule.

Nutrition tips for nurses

Find balance

The British Nutrition Foundation says that ‘healthy eating is about having a balance of different foods and nutrients in the diet for good health and wellbeing.’ That doesn’t mean fixating on or cutting out one or more food groups, but finding a balance by eating a variety. Aim to eat a mix of carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats each day, incorporating whole grains, fruits and vegetables to ensure you’re getting a diverse range of nutrients. 

It’s best to avoid or limit your consumption of processed meat and foods high in saturated fats, like chocolate, cake and crisps, if you can. Here’s some simple swaps to try instead:

🫒 Swap butter, coconut and palm oils for vegetable, nut, seed and olive oils
🥣 Swap processed cereals high in sugar, croissants and cereal bars for porridge, whole-grain cereal and wholemeal toast
🍿 Swap crisps for plain popcorn and rice cakes.

Plan ahead

As Benjamin Franklin once said, by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail. Avoid the hospital cafeteria and carve out some time to make a meal plan, then shop for and prep your food for the days ahead. You’ll not only eat healthier, but save money and cut down on food waste too.

And don’t forget the snacks. Yes, vending machine snacks are convenient, but they’re also likely to be ultra-processed and packed with sugar or salt. Choose snacks like Greek yoghurt with berries, hummus with pepper and carrot sticks or wholegrain crackers with cheese – they’ll provide a boost to your energy levels without the spike and subsequent crash in blood sugar levels.

Eat smaller meals, more frequently

If you find yourself struggling with energy crashes part way through the day, try breaking your meals into smaller, more frequent portions to maintain steady energy levels.

Hydrate

You don’t need me to tell you about the impacts of dehydration on the body and mind. Try to keep a water bottle handy and aim to drink consistently throughout your shift. 

Try to limit your caffeine intake too, which can contribute to dehydration and affect your sleep.

Meal ideas for nurses

Brighten up dinner time with these simple yet nutritious make-ahead meals.

Overnight oats

A photograph of overnight oats prepared in a jar and topped with raspberries
Photo by Alisha Hieb on Unsplash

Prepare a batch of protein and fibre-rich overnight oats with a one-to-one ratio of rolled oats and milk (or dairy-free substitute), plus chia seeds and your favourite fruits. Overnight oats can be made and transported in a tupperware or mason jar and, as the name suggests, are best prepared the night before.

Why not try:
Apple & Cinnamon Overnight Oats
Chocolate Overnight Oats
Mixed Berry Overnight Oats

Quinoa salads

A photo of a bowl of quinoa topped with chopped onions, chickpeas, sliced avocado, sliced peach and mange tout
Photo by Sonny Mauricio on Unsplash

Quinoa is packed full of vitamins and minerals, and makes an excellent base for salads. With proper storage, cooked quinoa can be kept on hand for up to five days, so it’s great to prep in bulk. 

Mix cooked quinoa with a variety of vegetables, lean protein (like chicken, chickpeas or tofu), and a light dressing. 

Why not try:
Superfood Salad with Citrus Dressing
Tuna, Avocado & Quinoa Salad
Griddled Chicken with Quinoa Greek Salad

Prep ahead burrito bowls

plan-ahead-burrito-bowl
Photo by Andrew Relf on Unsplash

Homemade burrito bowls can make a healthy alternative to fast food. Containing protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats and fibre, they’ll help keep you feeling full and energised, and they’re super tasty too. 

Try adding the following to your burrito bowl:

  • Chopped lettuce
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped onion
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Sweetcorn
  • Sliced jalapeños
  • Cooked black beans
  • Sliced avocado
  • Griddled peppers
  • A lean protein (like grilled chicken or fried turkey mince)
  • Sour cream
  • Grated cheese
  • Coriander
  • Lime, to squeeze.

Ready to prioritise your overall wellbeing, in 2024 and beyond? FuturU can help. Enrol in our free online Inner Wellness course to learn how you can take control of your emotions and feel more of the ones you want (and less of the ones you don’t). 

Explore our Inner Wellness course → 

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