We know the drill: After a long day on the job, you’re too drained to cook when you finally walk through the door, so you wind up ordering takeout instead.
As a healthcare worker, you already know a busy schedule can put a damper on your eating habits. However, you can find ways around this culinary crunch. If you’re looking to balance your busy schedule with a better diet, read on for tips on how to start eating healthy.
Why is eating healthy important?
This question may seem redundant. After all, who doesn’t want to be healthy? As a medical professional, you surely know that eating clean and avoiding certain foods lower your risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure.
Additional benefits of eating healthy include increased energy, better sleep patterns and more consistent weight loss. Eating right has a domino effect. It helps you stay on top of your game so you can help your patients stay on top of theirs. It’s a win-win scenario, no matter which way you slice it.
Why healthy eating is a challenge for healthcare workers?
You work long shifts, which rarely fail to wreak havoc on the rest of your schedule. It coincides with other things you have to take care of, like seeing your kids off to school, making sure you’re all caught up on errands like washing your scrubs and underscrubs or even simply commuting to work. Instead of buying the raw ingredients to make a meal, you may end up with pre-made burgers and fries that you just stick in the oven to “get it over with.”
This is why it’s sometimes a good idea to meal prep to figure out how to start a diet plan.
10 ways to start eating healthier
Make sure to eat healthy snacks regularly
A little snack here or there isn’t going to harm you. Quite the opposite, as it’ll keep your blood sugar from crashing. However, the problem with snacking is that it’s typically chips, candy, sugary drinks and other unhealthy foods. To make sure you find the healthy boost you need, choose fresh berries, nuts or trail mix instead.
Avoid processed foods
If you want to know how to eat healthier, keep in mind that overly processed foods carry long-term risks. However, they’re easy to avoid.
This means that instead of choosing white bread for your sandwich, you pick whole grains. Or, instead of low-fat diet foods, which ironically have a lot of added sugar to compensate for the taste, simply use proper portion sizes for your “healthy fats.” Eat more whole foods, like fruit and veggies.
Try cooking your meals at home and taking them to work
Want to know how to start eating healthy on a budget? Cook your meals from home. Unless you’re eating at an establishment that prides itself on its health-conscious options, neither restaurants nor fast food joints can act as a reliable source of non-processed foods.
In contrast, home-cooked meals give you better portion control and let you know what processed foods you’re consuming. There’s less risk that you’ll be eating deep-fried treats high in cholesterol.
Set realistic goals
When you start a new diet, there’s usually a strong urge to set unrealistic goals, especially if others preach about the dangers of obesity or shame you for your current weight. However, the best way to stay healthy is to take smaller, reasonable steps until you weed out the habits you don’t want.
For example, tell yourself, “This month, I will order takeout only one day a week.” Then, once the month is up, try switching your goal to once every two weeks.
Exercise when you can
Working toward a healthy weight doesn’t mean you need to go on a shock diet or tackle intensive exercise. Instead, simply work some fitness training into your routine alongside your meal plan.
If you’re strapped for time and your energy levels are low, your “fitness training” that day may be walking to work. Or, it can simply be walking up and down the stairs in your scrubs uniform and exercise-friendly underscrubs instead of taking the elevator. Maybe you do a lap or two around your workplace to stretch your legs during your lunch break.
Stay hydrated and drink water
If losing weight—on top of staying healthy—is your goal, it’s essential to keep hydrated. Not only does drinking enough water keep you healthier but also it helps fight food cravings. A good rule of thumb is to avoid sodas and fruit juices. If you’re a coffee drinker, make sure you skip the sugar.
Go grocery shopping
When it comes to shopping for the right foods, using a beginner’s healthy eating grocery list will help you weed out processed foods in favor of whole ones.
Plan out your meals in advance. When you’re at the grocery store, look for healthy items like brown rice, fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish and eggs. You can make a shopping list of the essentials, so you don’t accidentally shop hungry and impulse buy.
Prioritize fruits and vegetables
Fill your diet with fruits and vegetables. Not only are they low in calories and processed sugar, but they’re also high in fiber. When eating a salad, try to pick a healthier oil-based dressing, like olive oil mixed with a light vinaigrette.
Eat more fish
It’s a good idea to pair your greens with another whole food, like fish. Although fish can be fatty (in a good way!) and occasionally high in calories, it’s rich in protein and better for you than a red meat alternative. The same goes for eggs.
Add probiotics or supplements to your diet
Sometimes, eating healthy and exercising right is not enough to reset your diet. When that happens, you may need a little “supplemental” help. If you’re lacking in a particular area, such as vitamin D, consider taking daily capsules. Probiotics can help with your internal digestive health, too.
For more self-care ideas for eating healthier, read up on our best gift ideas for nurses.