healthcare provider with stethoscope holding out an apple
Travel Nursing June 26, 2020

By  Nanette Wiser, contributor

Heart-Healthy Snacks for Travel Nurses on the Go

10 Healthy Snacks for Nurses

Being in the health care business, you would think that nurses would be the healthiest people of all. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. Heart disease is a problem for staff and travel nurses alike, and the stress and urgency of the job itself may deserve some of the blame: you barely have time to take a bathroom break, let alone grab a healthy snack or get proper exercise.

In fact, poor heart health is a widespread problem in nursing: a 2016 survey of 10,000 RNs and nursing students by the American Nurses Association (ANA) found that 1 out of every 4 had been diagnosed with hypertension.  

So let’s do something about it.

Why Healthy Snacks are Important

Nutritious meals are vital, of course, but the food you choose between meals can make or break your whole healthy eating plan. If you aren’t watching what you put in your mouth, you’re likely to gain weight and increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes and fatigue. 

So be more mindful and proactive. Use the following ideas to snack healthier, make every calorie count, and stay energized throughout your travel nursing shifts.

Plan ahead for healthy snacking

Snacking is basically inevitable–-94% of American snack at least once a day, according to 2015 report—so busy travel nurses need to plan ahead to make it healthy. 

Go for low-calorie, high-energy snacks for maximum heart health, and eat every 3-4 hours while you’re working to stay strong. 

More tips:

  • Have fun with cooking and snack prep again, using Pinterest and other resources to find healthy options, including reviews from other cooks. Or check out these heart-healthy recipes.
  • If cooking at home isn’t your thing, discover local markets that specialize in healthy food to go including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and your local grocery store. (Always check dates for maximum freshness).
  • If you must resort to the vending machines on occasion, look for healthy snacks and waters, not a candy bar. Many hospitals now ask their staff to suggest healthy vending items to stock, promoting better visitor and nurse health.

10 heart-healthy snacks, trending now

Healthy doesn’t have to mean boring, or depriving yourself of what you like. These days, you can find a snack for every taste.

Try these healthy snack ideas to guard your heart health and keep you going at your travel nursing job:

1. Spiced-up Greek yogurt.  Add dill and smoked paprika, or get tzatziki from your local Greek deli. Best with cucumbers or pita crackers. Check out Siggi’s and Blue Hill Creamery (with parsnips!).

2. Chickpeas, lentils, dried beans & peas. Buy cooked at the grocery store or local restaurant, and grab a couple bites on the run. Instant karma for your heart.

3. Healthy jerky.  Lorissa's Kitchen and others are making preservative-free, 100% grass-fed beef jerky (no added growth hormones) and antibiotic-free chicken jerky. Flavors include Korean BBQ Beef, Ginger Teriyaki Chicken, Sweet Chili Pork and Szechuan Peppercorn Beef.

4. Better than chips. Trail mix with almonds and dried fruits always works. Or try something new: Way Better and Flamous are made from sprouted grains and are high in nutrients. Or snack on rice cakes, Sea Snax gluten-free seaweed veggies, Biena or Saffron Road crunchy chickpeas, or Blue Diamond srircha almonds. (Spice is good for the heart.) 

5. Energy bars. Not all energy bars are created equal, and many have hidden sugar and unhealthy fats. Read the labels carefully and compare. Best bets? LaraBar and Kind Bar. Look for bars with antioxidants, dark chocolate/cacao, nuts and berries.

6. Juices & smoothies. NutriBullet (or Nutri Ninja) to the rescue. A nurse friend of mine takes hers on each travel nursing job and dumps her daily kale/apple juice/ginger blend in her favorite “Nurses Rock” Tervis tumbler. 

If you don’t want to make your own, find fresh veggie and fruit juices at the grocery store or local juice shops and farmers’ markets, especially cold-pressed juices. Check out Master Brewed Kambucha, Zico coconut water chilled juices and Sambazon 100% acai berry juice.

7. Hemp snacks. What started with the flaxseed and chia craze is now all about hemp seed, chock full of veggie protein, omega 3-fats and antioxidants. Add it to your smoothie or salad. Also, check out Purely Elizabeth blueberry hemp granola for a snack.

8. Squeezable snacks. These aren’t just for kids anymore. Try Plum Organics, Earth’s Best Organics, and Justin’s all natural nut butters; delicious on sliced apples and more.

9. Fruits & veggies. Apples, grapes and hard cheese may be good, but today we have more exciting options. Make a layered salad in a mason jar or plastic container, featuring beans, greens, olives, salad fixings and dressing on the side. Fresh take-out soups (Chinese hot & spicy, Japanese miso, Italian minestrone) also make a great sip-and-go energy booster. Root-to-stem eating (i.e. turnip and carrot tops) make salads healthier.

10. Protein power. Tuna and sardines provide instant energy. So does a pre-cooked chicken cut into bite-sized chunks. Between shifts, enjoy the new trend of pre-packaged, healthy dinners delivered to your door, perfect for lunchtime leftovers and snacks. Check out Blue Apron and Plated, or your grocery aisle.

Get creative and motivated on your heart-healthy quest. Start by eating mindfully. 

Not only will your heart thank you, but your nutritious meals and snacks will give you more energy to hike, bike and explore outdoor fun on each travel nursing job. 

American Mobile Healthcare is recruiting RNs in all specialties, and all 50 states.

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