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10 Healthy Snacks for Nurses and Allied Health Professionals

May 15, 2023

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Megan Bebout

GettyImages-1163824672-minWhen you feel your stomach rumbling from the inside out, you know it’s time to refuel. And as a medical professional, you know better than anyone the importance of eating healthy. But with the hectic schedule that comes with being a healthcare worker, it can be tough to sneak a snack break into your shift. That’s where healthy, on-the-go snacks come in handy.

To make it easy on you, we’ve broken the types of snacks into two categories: pocket snacks and lunch box snacks.

Pocket snacks are goodies that don’t require refrigeration, but whether you store them in your actual pockets is up to you (no judgments).

Then there are lunch box snacks, which are treats that might taste better when they’re stored with an ice pack in an insulated lunch box (or a fridge). These are our favorites of both kinds of snacks for nurses and allied health professionals.


10 Healthy Snacks for Nurses and Allied Health Professionals

 

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Pocket snacks

Protein bars

Looking for something quick and tasty to put the pep back in your step? Consider a protein bar! Packed with essential vitamins, protein bars give you the energy and nutrition your body needs without having to sit down for a full meal. Plus, there are a wide variety of protein bar flavors so you can find the one that satisfies all your cravings.

“It’s a snack for when you’re in a pinch,” said Stephanie Urrutia, director of performance nutrition at the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of California, Los Angeles. “[Especially] if you can’t grab a full meal.”

Pro tip: when choosing a protein bar, health experts recommend aiming for a snack bar that contains nuts, fruit, and at least 12 grams of protein per serving. Make sure you’re paying attention to the nutritional label to ensure you don’t accidentally reach for a bar with more added sugar than a candy bar.

Recommended protein bar snacks for nurses and allied health professionals include RXBAR, TRUBAR, and KIND Bars.

Mixed nuts

Nuts are an excellent choice when it comes to finding a healthy, on-the-go snack during a busy shift. Not only are they packed with antioxidants, but nuts are also full of fiber and protein, giving you the energy you need to get through the day. The best part is that munching on nuts will prevent that gnawing sensation in your stomach from creeping in.

Of course, different types of nuts offer their own benefits, so it’s key to know which ones will give you the most giddy-up.

For example, while almonds are loaded with protein and fiber, walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids and cashews are high in magnesium. To get the most bang for your buck, mix them together and achieve the highest level of nutrition! The combination of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats make mixed nuts an ideal snack choice for busy professionals who need something quick and easy.

Dried fruit

  • Fiber. ✔️ 
  • Potassium. ✔️ 
  • Vitamin K. ✔️ 

You can find all these things and then some in a package of dried fruit. Sure, fresh fruit is always a good snack option, too. The thing dried fruit has that fresh fruit doesn’t? A longer shelf life.

“Dried fruit is generally more portable, less perishable, and more practical to bring on-the-go compared to most types of fresh fruit,” said Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, functional medicine dietitian, and holistic nutritionist.

An added perk of dried fruit is all the different kinds available — from raisins to apricots to apples to bananas, the options are endless. Each type of dried fruit has its own unique taste, texture, and health benefits. If you want to shake things up, try mixing different dried fruits together or combining it with a handful of nuts.

Dark chocolate

Need a caffeine boost? Skip the coffee and go for dark chocolate instead! While dark chocolate may technically fall under the candy category of the major food groups, this snack can give you the energy you need to stay alert throughout your shift (with the added bonus of a sweet treat). Plus, the darker the chocolate, the more minerals it contains and the healthier it is.

To get the most out of this healthy snack, experts recommend munching on dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa.

Studies show that not only is dark chocolate a scrumptious snack option, but it’s also been known to help lower the risk of heart disease, reduce inflammation and insulin resistance, increase the diversity of the gut microbiome, and improve overall brain function. If plain dark chocolate isn’t your jam, try satisfying your hunger with dark chocolate-covered goodies like raisins, nuts, pretzels, or espresso beans.

Jerky

Sometimes you just have a hankering for something savory. Jerky is there for you when that happens.

This hearty snack packs a punch of flavor and gives you the sustenance you need without being heavy on calories or carbs. And with a diverse range of types and flavors, you’re sure to find the jerky that fits your fancy! Don’t eat meat? Not a problem! There are vegan jerky options available, too.

When it comes to choosing the best jerky, the trick is to go with the ones that are low in sodium, sugar, and fat but are high in protein. That way, you can reap the benefits of jerky and soak in nutrients like iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and zinc. From beef jerky to turkey jerky to mushroom jerky and more, no matter what kind you choose, your body will thank you.

Lunch box snacks

String cheese

Fact: you’re never too old for string cheese. As it turns out, they’re as nutritious as they are delicious, which makes them a perfect on-the-go snack for busy medical professionals like you.

In just a 28-gram serving of string cheese, this nutrient-dense food contains 85 calories which come from protein and dietary fat. Not only that, but string cheese also provides a wide range of health benefits like helping to maintain strong bones, aiding in muscle growth, and providing energy throughout the day.

Whether you’re looking for a quick bite on-the-go in-between patients or a simple snack to tide you over until your next meal, string cheese is always a good choice. Overwhelmed with the abundance of string cheese options? Try a part-skim mozzarella to start!

Veggie sticks

You know what they say — eating vegetables will make you big and strong. And you may need the extra boost to help you get through a long hospital shift. But when there’s so many different types of veggies to choose from, how do you know which to pack for a snack?

The good news is there’s no bad choice when it comes to vegetables. Each have their own health benefits to get you through the finish line of your shift. For example, carrot sticks offer B vitamins and vitamin C, celery is a good source of potassium, and cucumbers add magnesium to your diet. Take your veggies to the next level and elevate the flavor by pairing them with peanut butter, yogurt, or hummus.

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Whether you’re working a day shift or a night shift, grapes are always a good snack option no matter the time. Grapes will not only keep your stomach grumbles at bay, but their natural sweetness makes them a great alternative to sugar-filled snacks. Chock-full of antioxidants and nutrients, green grapes and red grapes help support your skin, bone, and heart health.

“Grapes tend to get a bad rap because they taste sweet, but they are very nutrient-dense,” said Tamar Samuels, M.S., R.D., cofounder of Culina Health. “Grapes contain a variety of antioxidant phytonutrients, including stilbenes, flavonols, phenolic acids, and carotenoids.”

The added perk of snacking on grapes is you don’t have to do any food prep and you can enjoy them without having to worry about a mess like sticky fingers or crumbs. That means that you can chow down on grapes anytime you’re not caring for patients during your medical shift.

Hard-boiled egg

You don’t have to be a culinary chef to make an exquisite, hard-boiled egg. Buy eggs. ✔️ Boil water. ✔️ Add the two together and boom, you’ve got yourself an on-the-go snack!

Not only have you easily created a delectable snack, but you’ve also made fuel for your body that will allow you to breeze through your hospital shift from start to finish. This protein powerhouse has virtually no fat or cholesterol, making hard-boiled eggs one of the healthiest snacks for nurses and allied health professionals.

Make a batch of hard-boiled eggs ahead of time and store them in your refrigerator or insulated lunch box so you always have a nutritious snack at hand when you need it. If you’re not into hard-boiled eggs, try a soft-boiled egg or a happy medium!

Greek yogurt

When you’re in a pinch and need healthy snack ideas to help you get up and go, look no further than a good, old-fashioned cup of yogurt, specifically of the Greek variety.

“[Greek yogurt is] such a great way to add a ton of nutrients to your diet,” said Maya Feller, RD, CDN, and nutritionist. “And I find that it’s super easy to incorporate into every single meal — not just breakfast.”

Wondering what the difference is between non-Greek yogurt and Greek yogurt? The main difference is the way the yogurt is strained. For instance, Greek yogurt is strained to remove the whey, which creates a thicker consistency, reduces the sugar content, and increases the protein content. Packed with protein, Greek yogurt helps maintain muscle mass and strength, while the probiotics aid in digestion and help the immune system. Add nuts or fruit and reap even more benefits!

With no advanced preparation required, Greek yogurt is one of the best snacks for busy professionals like you. Plus, it comes in many tasty flavors that make snacking fun and enjoyable, even when you have limited time to eat.

 

 

Whether you’re dashing to and from patient rooms, catching up on your charts, or racing to your next medical travel job, you’ve got to eat, and these are all healthy snacks that can accompany you no matter where you are. Even better, these snacks for nurses and allied health professionals will help you feel energized, maintain concentration, and reduce stress levels throughout your shift. That way, you can focus on providing the best care possible for your patients without the nagging distraction of hunger stealing your attention.

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