When you are short on time but still want to eat healthily, meal prep is the answer. These meal prep tips for busy people – like nurses – are just what you need.
Have you seen those pretty little meal prep lunch boxes online and ever wondered how they do it? Eating healthy at work is possible, and it doesn’t have to be a lot of extra work. When you work full-time, it’s tough to find some to figure out what to pack for lunch.
Meal Prep Tips
These are all the secrets about meal-prepping that will save you time and help you eat healthy at work. You already know that eating right will give you sustained energy for your entire shift, so let’s look at how to do that.
1. Cook Your Meat For the Week In One Day
The most time-consuming part of meal prepping is cooking the meat. You can save lots of time by preparing an entire week’s worth of lunches on your day off.
What meat do you make for meal prepping?
That is entirely up to you.
Some people prefer to just cook up one type of meat because it’s easiest. Then they just package it differently each day. For example, they might put some chopped chicken on a bed of lettuce one day, and make a chicken caesar wrap the next.
If you prefer variety, then give yourself a little extra time and cook a few different types of meat.
Some time-saving meat ideas include:
- Use rotisserie chicken from the store
- Make lunch with lunchmeat
- Use summer sausage and cheese as your protein
2. Plan Meals A Week Ahead of Time
This next step will help you bust through meal-planning in no time at all. Sit down and make a plan. Write down what you are going to pack for your lunch every day for a week.
I personally love finding ideas on Pinterest. There are so many easy ones.
After you have your meals planned out, you can make a shopping list and create a list of how you are going to pack them. If you do this right, you should be able to make all your meals for the week in one day.
3. Use a Meal-Planning Service
Finally, if you really want to save yourself a ton of time, you can use a meal-planning service like eMeals.
These services will give you a week’s worth of meal ideas and a shopping list. Then, all you have to do is go grocery shopping and do the prep.
I don’t know about you, but after making tons of important decisions all week, sometimes I just don’t feel like making another one. It’s so nice to have the list emailed to me and just pack my food without having to think about it.
Meal Prep For Night Shift Nurse
The night shift is an entirely different monster. It seems like when we are tired, we reach for the “fun” foods faster – the chips, pizza rolls, and donuts. Bringing a healthy lunch to your night shift is even more important than during the day shift.
Here are two tips that are specific for night shift nurses.
Pack Healthy Snacks
When you work the night shift, your snacky side will come out. Prepare for it by packing healthy snacks that will give you sustained energy all night long.
Some healthy snack ideas that are easy to grab and go include:
- Apples and almond butter
- Protein bars
- Cheese sticks
- Mixed nuts
What To Pack For Night Shift Meals
If your body doesn’t like to eat the same things at night than it does during the day, here are some ideas of what to put in your lunchbox.
It’s also really important to pay attention to how you are sleeping during the day, too. When you don’t sleep well, your body’s hunger hormones elevate and this causes you to crave high-calorie foods.
The best things to pack for your nigh shift are fresh vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Here are a few example lunches:
- Chef salad – fresh lettuce, hardboiled egg, chicken, chopped carrots, sunflower seeds
- Beef Stew
- Whole-wheat pita – filled with chicken, avocado, spinach, with an apple on the side
Healthy Meal Prep For Nurses
Now that you know some ideas and tips for healthy meal prepping, let’s look at exactly what to pack in your lunch. These are the specific types of foods that are easy to prepare and will give you healthy and filling lunches.
Lean Protein Sources
Every lunch needs protein. Whether you are vegan or don’t mind eating meat, there are some fantastic ways to pack a protein in your lunch.
- Shredded chicken breast
- Lunch meat
- Summer sausage
- Roast beef
Fruits and Veggies That Pack Well
Next, fresh fruits and vegetables will give you a natural source of sugar for extra energy. It’s ok to pack pre-packaged fruit in a cup. Just make sure and pick the ones packed in water, not syrup, in case you are watching your weight or calories.
The best fruits and veggies that pack well are:
- Baby carrots
- Whole apples
- Mandarin Oranges
- Fruit in fruit cups
- Cucumber slices
- Grape tomatoes
- Sliced bell peppers
Whole Grains for Lasting Energy
Finally, whole grains will give you energy that will last your entire shift. Whole grains take longer to digest than over-processed carbs like white bread or pasta.
The best whole grains for meal prep are:
- Brown Rice
- Whole wheat bread
- Whole grain pasta
Meal Prep For Nursing Students
Nursing students, you have an entirely different challenge when it comes to meal prep. You juggle life between your school and clinicals. You might not have a refrigerator for your lunch box.
Here are some meal prep tips just for you.
Pack Things That Don’t Need Refrigerated
Keep your pantry stocked with a variety of things that are shelf-stable. There are shelf-stable things that are still good for you.
Some of the things to keep on hand that you can grab and go (and won’t go bad in your lunch box) are:
- Beef jerkey
- Protein bars
- Whole apples and almond butter
- Mandarin oranges
Stock Your Pantry With A Variety
Next, it’s important to keep your pantry stocked with a variety of things. You’ll be less likely to grab drive-through food when you actually enjoy what you packed yourself.
Avoid food-boredom by trying new foods and including a few healthy treats too.
Pack some bacon jerky, for example, along with some flavored mixed nuts.
Low-Carb Snacks On-The-Go
Sugary, high-calorie foods might be what you crave, but they won’t keep you very full and you will crave more of them. It’s a vicious cycle.
Instead, pack some low-carb snacks that won’t go bad in your lunch bag. Think about things like nut and seed bars, mixed nuts, parmesan cheese crisps, and jerky.
Meal Prep Tips: Final Thoughts
The best meal prep tip I can give you is to do what fits your lifestyle. Don’t stress out over having a pretty lunchbox with all of the food groups. The most important thing is to take care of yourself. Feed yourself all the nutrients you need. Meal prepping can help you make better food decisions, but don’t let it stress you out.
More Nursing Resources
Here are some more nurse lifestyle articles you’ll enjoy next!
- 25+ Nurse Jokes That Will Have Your Nursing Friends Rolling
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