Staying energized during a shift is critical — especially given that, on an average working day, a nurse can expect to walk upwards of four miles. Energy drinks and coffee may give you the stamina boost for the time being, but there are other healthier ways that will give you the same kick, packaged with vital nutrients.
After reaching out and asking our Facebook fans what their favorite snack is to keep them energized through a long shift, we compiled a list of the top energy-packed super foods for nurses.
1. Popcorn: “Natural popcorn on overnight shifts. It gives me a snack without messing up my schedule.” – Angela Napoli
The Verdict: Popcorn has caught some attention among health enthusiasts and nutritionists. The craze? Fiber — a filling nutrient that helps to improve cholesterol, digestive health and blood sugar, says Liz Vaccariello, editor-in-chief for Reader’s Digest. As an added extra, popcorn has been shown to contain antioxidants, which are anti-aging compounds that promote healing and helps to ward off cancers. While popcorn may not be a substitute for fruits and vegetables, it sure can beat potato chips, pretzels and other less healthy snacks.
2. Greek Yogurt and Almonds: “Greek yogurt with almonds... and lots of coffee!” – Shanna Coldwell-Foley
The Verdict (Greek yogurt): Compared to traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt tends to contain more calories and protein, providing more energy for a long shift, says Brian Willet, Livestrong writer and personal trainer. On average, a 6-oz. serving of fat-free, plain Greek yogurt contains 100 calories and 18 grams of protein, where as a 6-oz. fat-free plain traditional yogurt contains only 80 calories and 8 grams of protein. When it comes down to it, Greek yogurt is a solid choice for a high-impact snack.
The Verdict (Almonds): A snack so small yet so powerful! Almonds contain vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant. Not to mention, an ounce of almonds contains 6 grams of protein and 160 calories. They are also rich in B vitamins, fiber and essential mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which contribute to lowering LDL cholesterol, says Katie Horwitch, a writer for The Chalkboard Magazine. In addition to delivering a power kick, a handful of almonds could help reduce your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
3. Apples: “Anything as long as it is healthy! Sliced apples, protein shake...” – Shelley Edwards
The Verdict: Apples contain natural sugar, which is what makes them so sweet. Your body converts the natural sugar into energy, keeping you on the move for longer. And here's something you may not have known about apples:
“An apple will have the same effect as a cup of coffee without the side effect of an energy crash,” says Kathi Casey, wellness coach, author, trainer, and owner of Healthy Boomer Body Center in Otis, Mass.
4. Bananas: Several Facebook fans recommended eating bananas during a long shift, and we figured out why:
The Verdict: While bananas may only have about 1.5 grams of protein, that protein supplies 12 milligrams of tyrosine — an amino acid that helps to produce norepinephrine. When your norepinephrine system becomes activated, it employs large-scale effects on your brain, ultimately increasing levels of alertness, says Maia Appleby, a writer on healthy living for the San Francisco Chronicle. Finally, bananas contain a healthy amount of natural sugars (about 16 grams) that your body converts into energy.
Here are some additional suggestions for quick and easy snacks for nurses on the go:
5. A Dose of Protein: Hummus
This fiber- and protein-rich super food makes this a healthy and powerful choice. Try eating hummus with veggie sticks to gain more essential vitamins along with that kick of protein, says Tracy DeLuca, Yahoo! Voice contributor. “A small container of hummus and a zip bag of vegetables is easy to take on the go as well!”
6. Delectable Boost: Dark Chocolate
A study conducted by the University of Nottingham found that dark chocolate can increase blood flow, boosting energy levels to vital areas of the brain, for as much as three hours. There is one simple rule when it comes to chocolate: the darker the better, because it contains less sugar and includes more healthy compounds.
7. Rich in Vitamin C: Red Bell Peppers
One red bell pepper contains 380% of your daily dosage of vitamin C. That's nearly 3 times more than your average orange! Vitamin C plays a special role in the healing process, helping you to feel less fatigued, says Stephanie Rogers of EcoSalon. Red bell peppers is yet another great snack that's easily portable. Try them with hummus!
8. Energy Lifter: Edamame
Edamame may be one of the greatest snacks to keep your hunger at bay with its slowly digestible fiber, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. This super food packages 16 grams of protein and less than 200 calories per cup, says Karen Ansel, RD, writer for Cooking Light.
Do you have additional power snack ideas for our nurses? Please tell us in the comments below!
By John Loafman
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