As a busy nurse, I know it is hard to find the time to make and prepare foods. Or worse yet, it is hard to find the time to take a lunch break! Even though we know what unhealthy foods and skipping meals does to us, at times, we still maintain these harmful routines.
Instead of missing meals, going hungry and not knowing what to eat, how can we approach food and our relationship with it so that it is healthier and more wholesome? How can we be role-models for our patients each and every day?
Here are some simple, yet effective strategies for creating healthier nutrition for ourselves:
- Food is unique to an individual. First off, not every food is meant for every single person. So while some people may do well eating certain ways or following certain dietary guidelines, these do not apply to the universal population. We must make and take time to figure out what our own individual body needs and what foods are “healthy” for us.
- Food is more than just a physical object placed into our mouths. Food is necessary to keep us going, to provide energy, and to sustain our bodily functions, but food is not the only source of nourishment. Some schools of thought see what we eat as a secondary form of “food” and that our lifestyles are really what nourish us, first and foremost. Look at your career, relationships, activities, and spirituality. Is there another area of your life that is not “full”? Could that be a reason you approach the food you eat with an unhealthy attitude?
- Food is meant to be enjoyed. Slow down and take time with your meal. Observe how you are eating. Do you shovel it in? Are you eating on-the-go? Where are you eating: in the car, standing up, in between patients? Be mindful of your mealtime processes. Chew each piece of food. Make space for your meal. Doing these things makes the nutritious qualities of foods more absorbable and usable for the body.
- Food with your day. Do not wait until you are seeing spots, hearing buzzing sounds, and feeling hot-cold flashes. Do not wait to eat until you are about to pass out. Carry healthy snacks. If you are unsure if you will get your lunch, bring nuts, fruit, or something healthy you can snack on in between meals. Space it out, be prepared, and plan ahead. Not only will eating with your day ward off starvation and roller coasting blood sugar levels, but it will help you avoid binging on a huge dinner later on!
- Avoid fad diets. If you are looking to eat healthy, monitor your intake, or implement some new habits. Beware of dieting. This only leads to restricting, binging, and unhealthy mindsets. Instead try something different: crowd out. Replace the bad foods with the good. You can still eat what you are trying to avoid, just less of it as you replace it with healthier options. But stay away from just “not eating” something. That temptation will likely cause you to fail. Eat most things in moderation.
- Eat food, not too much, mostly plants – M. Pollan. Eat foods that are whole. Take in nutrient rich items that come from nature. Eat vegetables, fruits, animal products, nuts, whole grains, etc. Just eat things that are not processed, refined, preservative-packed, and with ingredients that you cannot pronounce! The ingredient should be the food from nature (or something as close to that as you can come by). But avoid things that have over 5 or more ingredients on the label. Watch portion sizes. Load your plate with fresh vegetables. The meat product does not have to be the size of your fist. It doesn’t need to be the main focus of every single dish!
- Drink more water. Staying hydrated is helpful and necessary on so many levels. Being dehydrated leads to irritability, constipation, lack of focus, headaches, and fatigue, to name a few. Try to take in at least half of your body weight in ounces of water. Drink water as soon as you get up, with each meal, and during your day through a carry-along water bottle.
Eating healthy is a process. Changing our life-long engrained patterns will not happen overnight. Pick one healthy habit and stick with it. Value your body, mind, and spirit and you will approach how and what you eat differently.
Email me with questions/comments firstname.lastname@example.org!
Click here for more information on and articles by Elizabeth Scala.
Become a member of Elizabeth’s NurseTogether group page and stay up-to-date with her latest events and articles.
Nurses, if you enjoy writing on nursing career, education or lifestyle related issues and are interested in becoming a NurseTogether.com contributor, please click here.