When you’re rushing from patient to patient, it’s hard to think about eating well. You’re often so bombarded with immediate tasks that even microwaving popcorn seems too labor intensive. But as a medical professional, you know that relying on processed foods that are high in fat and sodium and low in nutrients increases your chances of developing chronic illnesses. Furthermore, candy bars and salty snacks won’t give you the sustained energy you need for hours of caregiving.
Here are seven ideas to help you eat more nutrient-packed, energy-building foods that will keep you healthy, happy and out of the hangry zone.
Snack often, but snack healthy
Rather than trying to find the time for a big meal, nosh on something small every two to three hours. Bring snacks with you to work so you don’t have to make runs to a convenience store, which is loaded with sugary food products that will make you crash.
Energize with whole grains
Snacks with complex carbs and proteins will boost your energy. Try multigrain crackers or bread with honey, cheese or almond butter. Instant oatmeal is also an excellent option, but don’t add too much sugar and try to mix in some seasonal berries.
Be a nut
Dried fruit, nuts and seeds are healthy snacks that are easy to transport and eat on the run, so you can pop a few into your mouth between patients. Try a festive mixture of dried blueberries, almonds, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. Prepare a small container of your favorite mix ahead of time so you can keep your portion size reasonable.
Power up with plant protein
Proteins are your body’s building blocks. You demand a lot from your body every day—bending, stretching, reaching and twisting—so you need healthy protein in your diet to help repair muscle cells and make new ones. Try pinto beans, black beans, hummus and tofu for a good energy lift.
Have fun with fruit
Fruits are a good source of dietary fiber. Choose easy-to-eat fruit snacks like bananas with peanut butter, sliced apples with a dash of cinnamon or blueberries with a drizzle of honey. The American Heart Association says 4 1/2 cups of fresh fruit and veggies per day will keep the average adult on the go.
Vary your veggies
Eat fresh, raw, portable vegetables for sustained energy. Choose grape tomatoes with olive oil and basil, fresh spinach with olive oil and a hard-boiled egg, or baby carrots and broccoli with hummus. Many stores carry frozen veggies that can be nuked in the microwave in their original packaging in about three minutes.
Drink plenty of water
Be aware of indoor dehydration. Dental practice risk factors include warm air temperatures, indoor radiant heat sources (e.g., autoclaves, chemiclaves, dry-heat sterilizers, towel warmers and computers), limited air movement, physical exertion and personal protective equipment. A study in the National Academies Press recommends women ages 19 and older drink 2.7 liters of water per day and men drink 3.7 liters. Remember to drink water before you become thirsty in order to maintain optimal hydration.