5 Ways for Travel Nurses to Eat Healthier in the New Year
By Alex McCoy, Contributing Writer, Owner of Fit Travel Life
After working with lots of travelers both in a group setting and through one on one coaching, I have found a certain pattern that comes up with both nurses and all healthcare travelers in regards to eating healthy. Most travelers struggle the first week or two on assignment, find a good rhythm in regards to meal prep or eating better, and then fall off again towards the end of a contract.
The beginning and end of a travel nurse contract are the hardest times to eat healthy for several reasons. Whether you are just arriving or getting ready to leave, chances are your options for ingredients to make home-cooked meals are slim. In addition, eating out becomes more frequent at the start and end of an assignment. You may resort to eating out due to a lack of groceries, or you are busy trying all the places you read about or want to try before you leave.
The key is to strike a healthy balance between splurging on fun food, eating what you have at home, and keeping your stress over what to eat low. Although this balance might sound near impossible, with a few small changes you can take control of your eating habits and feel better about what you are putting into your body this year.
1. Make a trip to the grocery store ASAP when you first move in
When you first arrive at a new location running out to get groceries is often the least appealing task. You are tired, you’ve likely driven for hours on end, and most of the time the first thing you want to do is get unpacked and settled in. However, I promise you will be even less motivated to get some healthy snacks and food into your fridge after unpacking and getting organized. My best advice is to empty out your car and then head straight to the store to pick up a few staples–this will also save you money from eating out the first several meals at each assignment.
2. Get familiar with healthier options at fast-food restaurants
As great as it would be to pack days and days worth of healthy snacks and meals on the road, it isn’t always feasible. Nowadays most fast-food restaurants have helped with this issue by having healthier options on their menus. Whether you are at Taco Bell or McDonald’s, take some time to pay attention to calorie counts when deciding what to eat on your road trip stops.
3. Don’t treat every meal out like your last meal on earth
Travel nurses may end up eating out more simply because we like trying all the new food in each city. As a foodie myself this is one of my favorite things to do. But we do not need to go all-out on drinks, apps, entrees and dessert at every single restaurant. Splurge on items that are truly worth it, but don’t go overboard just because you are eating out. If all else fails, pay extra attention to the calories you are drinking and “save” some of those to enjoy a little more decadent meal.
4. Get creative when it’s time to clean out the fridge
At the end of an assignment, you may find that pickings are slim for home-cooked meal ingredients. Obviously you won’t want to make a huge grocery haul if you may not have time to use it. On the other hand, it is nice to be able to use what you have and try to eliminate food waste. Start by picking out what proteins and meats you have left, and try to build meals around those. Usually, you can then pick up a few supplemental items at the grocery store without buying so much that you will have to throw it away before you leave.
5. Realize that small choices do add up
If your goal is to maintain or lose weight this new year the best reminder I can give is that weight loss is based on how many calories you consume versus how many calories you burn. All the “little” cheats, snacks at work, or extra sugary cocktails can really add up. Don’t underestimate the power of small positive changes that may be easier and less stressful than a whole diet overhaul.
While traveling and getting healthier at the same time can be difficult, it is not impossible. Focus on ways that you can make better choices yet still enjoy your life. Making dramatic changes or cutting out whole food groups or indulgences will often lead to a less successful change overall, so be sure to make small, easily implemented changes to help you establish better habits long term that benefit both your physical and mental well being.
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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