By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
As a travel nurse and business owner, I can confidently say I understand the concept of being busy. Even before I started traveling I found it difficult to balance good nutrition, workouts, and sleep especially when working back-to-back shifts.
About a year into my nursing journey I hit a point where I realized I had to find some shortcuts to make my days go smoother. I knew compromising nutrition was not an option, and hospital cafeterias are a breeding ground for bad food choices. Because of this, I have a handy arsenal of quick meals I can throw together after a long shift or assemble quickly for lunches. Most of these aren’t too fancy, but they are all delicious and keep me full through long, hectic nursing shifts.
1. Shredded Crockpot Chicken
- Now the chicken by itself doesn’t make a meal, but this quick (dare I say it?) recipe is a staple in my house. Simply throw fresh or frozen chicken in the crockpot with a ¼ cup of water and salt and pepper.
- For frozen chicken cook on low for eight hours, with fresh it will be done in six. Shred with a fork and have easy protein on hand for meals at home or work.
- Some favorite ways I eat my shredded chicken are:
- Taco salad with salsa and a few tortilla chips
- Whole wheat pasta with red sauce and low-fat mozzarella
- Topped with teriyaki sauce on a bed of rice and steamed veggies
2. Plain Greek Yogurt with Granola
- Greek yogurt is a fantastic quick meal thanks to the high protein content compared to regular yogurt. The key here is to keep the sugar content as low as possible. I always buy plain Greek yogurt so I can sweeten it with my preferred sugar substitute. I suggest keeping some Splenda in your lunch bag (or stealing it from the coffee station).
- When adding granola, be sure to check portion sizes before loading up your yogurt. The carbs in granola add up fast, so just use enough to add a little crunch to your cup of yogurt.
3. Cauliflower Stir Fry
- I really can’t express how happy it makes me that you can buy riced frozen cauliflower almost anywhere these days (thank you Green Giant). I buy a few different blends, but the stir fry one in particular works great in this recipe.
- Sautée half an onion, add in the meat of choice (or some of your shredded chicken) and cook through.
- Dump in your bag of cauliflower rice and ¼ cup of water.
- Simmer on low for 15 minutes or until cauliflower is cooked through.
- I season this dish with salt, pepper and onion powder and also top it with some low-sodium teriyaki sauce.
4. Ground Turkey Pasta with Zoodles
- Another great convenience item I keep on hand is pre-made zucchini noodles. Target almost always has them in their fresh section, and I am seeing them more in the frozen aisle as well.
- Pro tip: Costco sells bulk packages if you have a membership
- This recipe is as easy as it sounds:
- Cook your ground turkey, season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning.
- Add in tomato sauce of choice, but try to pick one with lower sugar content.
- If you are feeling fancy, add a splash of reduced fat alfredo sauce and you have a delicious rosa sauce.
- Steam your zoodles per package directions and top the whole thing with parmesan cheese!
5. Chick-Fil-A Grilled Nuggets with a Side Salad
- All right guys, let’s be real. Some days we oversleep or we get stuck at work until nine o’clock and we just don’t have the time or energy to even whip up a quick meal.
- Unless your luck is completely gone that week and it happens on a Sunday, I suggest hitting up good ole Chick-Fil-A in these instances. When I lived in a hotel for one assignment, I ate my fair share of grilled nuggets.
- Choose dipping sauces and dressings that are lower calorie (I like buffalo sauce for the chicken) and wash it down with a diet lemonade if you need something besides water.
- Just because you are eating on the go doesn’t mean you have to go all out, especially if it is just out of necessity.
While all of these meals are not elaborate or complicated, they are quite tasty. They can also be tweaked to fit your current nutritional goals.
Having an arsenal of quick, easy recipes was a game changer once I started putting my health first as a nurse. You don’t have to sacrifice good nutrition when working in healthcare, it just takes a little preparation on days off so you can have some easy nutritious meals ready to go on your work days.
Alex McCoy currently works as a pediatric travel nurse. She has a passion for health and fitness, which led her to start Fit Travel Life in 2016. She travels with her husband, their cat, Autumn and their dog, Summer. She enjoys hiking, lifting weights, and trying the best local coffee and wine.
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