Whether you work in a hospital/clinic setting or drive a vehicle doing ambulatory calls all day, it can be hard to eat a healthy diet, especially if you are stressed and behind schedule. Gobbling down a gas station hotdog or a limp piece of pizza when you are already crabby from hunger will do little to make your body feel better. Even if you have every intention to stop at that great little bistro that makes fabulous roasted vegetable wraps, that will surely be the day you get an emergency in the opposite direction.
A little planning when you head to the grocery store can help solve this problem. Every week, buy seven to 10 servings of fruit that you can eat without a fork or making a mess—think grapes, bananas, apples, blueberries or other berries in season. If you have the energy to do some prep, buy a cantaloupe or honeydew melon that you can dice into bite-sized pieces for a week’s worth of portions.
While you’re at the market, pick up a few reusable plastic containers that are the perfect size for your daily dose of fruit. You should also buy a six-pack-sized cooler in which to carry your food.
Since you might be eating breakfast and lunch on the road or at the clinic, buy some individual yogurts to have with your fruit. If you struggle with mid-morning hunger, consider a box of peanut butter Ritz Bits to give you a protein boost when you begin feeling hypoglycemic and irritable. Trail mix bars are another good choice to satisfy hunger.
Next, head to the cheese cooler. Spend the extra money to buy pre-sliced cheese that fits on crackers or sandwiches. Alternatively, choose your favorite flavor of hummus as a protein source. If you feel energetic, get cans of tuna that you can open and load into a container with whatever condiments you prefer (or buy pre-packaged, seasoned tuna).
Make sure you get enough protein for an entire week. Decide what you want to eat with it—crackers, bagel crisps, pita bread or leaves of crunchy lettuce—and remember to get that, too. Avoid deli meats because they are typically high in fat, sodium and preservatives.
If you work in a clinic setting, consider packages of soup with a reasonable shelf life. Avoid canned soups with high fat and sodium. Single-serving microwaveable soup mugs are available in most grocery stores. These make an easy meal option.
For vegetables, purchase baby carrots, mini cucumbers or grape tomatoes to munch on. Or you can bring leftover cooked green beans, broccoli or cauliflower from a previous night’s dinner. Make sure to remember containers. And if you prefer to dip your vegetables in ranch dressing, get a little container to carry it in or purchase containers that have separate food spaces under one lid. Another great addition is a picnic set of salt and pepper to keep in your truck’s center storage console or your desk drawer.
Many afternoons are not complete without something sweet, so consider buying a package of dried apricots, bananas or other dried fruit. A few Werther’s hard butterscotch candies or Jolly Rancher candies can also help you get through a tough afternoon. Keeping an emergency stash of nuts or trail mix as a healthy snack to eat is essential to keep you going when the day unexpectedly gets longer.
Lastly, make sure you drink water all day long by bringing a refillable bottle and keeping it by your side. Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue and muscle weakness.
By developing healthier eating habits, you can feel better and perform better.