Nutrition as Self-Care: A Guide for Remote Nurses

I distinctly remember the moment I knew I had to leave bedside nursing. I was a new ICU nurse, only a year out of school, and I had the worst shift of my life. For six hours straight, my patient coded, and we did our best to save him. 

Many hours later, I realized I had eaten nothing during that 14-hour day.

Finding homeostasis as a remote nurse can take a while when you leave a stressful role. Of course, you know skipping meals and water is unhealthy, but it’s challenging to shed those self-sacrificial habits that nursing deeply engrains in you.

Self-Care as a Remote Nurse

Whether it’s due to short staffing, scope creep, or skyrocketing patient acuity more is expected of hospital nurses daily. Of course, something has to give in this equation; historically, that’s been the nurse’s well-being.

If you’ve changed from a bedside role to a remote one, you may still feel that anxiety and push toward perfection. After all, you know remote positions are highly coveted, and you want to do a great job.

But here’s the thing, you can only be your best if you’re taking care of yourself first.

That’s right. I said FIRST.

Learning to prioritize your health after years of being praised for self-sacrifice takes work, but it’s the best thing you’ll ever do.

Nutrition Basics

No matter what kind of remote role you have, you’ll likely have much more time to build healthy habits around nutrition and hydration. And that’s what self-care is: a habit. The more you practice, the easier these new skills will be to stick to.

How to Eat Healthier Working Remotely

Many new remote nurses wonder how to stay healthy in a sedentary job. While there are many ways to increase your activity working from home, you have even more control over your nutrition.

Here are seven tips on how to eat healthier at home.

Prioritize Balanced Meals

Eating a balanced meal, including all three macronutrients (carbs, fats, and protein), keeps you full, focused, and energized throughout the day. Try easy make-ahead complete meals like sandwiches, wraps, soups, salads, or bakes that include:

Lean protein: Think of foods like chicken, turkey, tofu, tempeh, fish, and greek yogurt.

Carbs, simple & complex: Think of foods like pasta, grains, wraps, beans, leafy veggies, and fruits.

Fats: Think of foods like oil (olive, sunflower, coconut, and canola), avocados, nuts, and fish. 

Protein is King

When it comes to macronutrients, protein runs the show. This is because lean protein sources keep you full, fight hunger, and reduce large blood sugar spikes and crashes that leave you tired, cranky, and unfocused.

Protein also helps you build muscle, which improves your metabolism, helps burn fat, and keeps you strong as you age. So make protein the center of every meal and snack, and watch your cravings and afternoon energy slumps disappear.

Boost Fiber

As a nurse, you know the importance of fiber, but how often do you actually get the recommended 25 grams per day? Fiber is essential not only because it also helps keep you full but it also lowers your cholesterol and your risk for chronic health conditions like stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

Increase your fiber intake by including berries, beans, and whole grains. You can also add a scoop of fiber powder to your smoothie or shake for an added boost.

Eat Slowly

Eating slowly is the single best way to improve your nutrition, yet it’s also the most overlooked.

As a bedside nurse, you likely had to scarf down your food as fast as possible if you had any chance of finishing a meal. Thankfully those days are behind you, but that may be a tough habit to break.

By consciously slowing your eating pace, you will digest your food better, feel fuller longer, and savor your food more.

As a fun exercise, time yourself while you’re eating lunch. Try to add one minute each day by taking small bites and enjoying each mouthful. No matter what your health goal is, eating should be an enjoyable experience!

Don’t Over-Restrict

This tip can be the hardest to apply, especially if you’re trying to lose body fat. However, it is the most important. Resist the urge to try the latest fad diet–they don’t work and can do far more harm than good.

Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, work from a framework of addition.

●  What delicious fruits, veggies, and lean proteins can you add in?

●  What exciting new recipes can you try?

●  What exercises and training styles do you love?

Focus on finding foods and movements you enjoy, and do more of those. Most importantly, choose to celebrate your body exactly as it is today.

Don’t Overdo the Caffeine

Now, before you cry heresy, know that I LOVE caffeine. I’m an ADHD girlie, and I need my fix every day. However, if you’re like me, you may have developed a caffeine problem from your bedside days, especially if you worked nights (I used to chug two XL energy drinks just to keep my eyes open). This left me feeling wired, anxious, jittery, and gross.

Now that you’re working a new schedule,  you may need to re-examine your relationship with caffeine. Start with one serving in the morning and go from there. Everyone is different, and you’ll find the dose that’s right for you– preferably one that doesn’t cause tachycardia and sleepless nights.

Embrace this New Opportunity

Above all, your remote nursing role offers freedom and flexibility that other traditional nursing roles do not. This is a beautiful opportunity to dedicate yourself to self-care and redefine your relationship with nursing.

● What kind of nurse do you want to be?

●  How will you use this role to build the life you’ve dreamed of?

● How will you change your habits around food and work to feel healthier?

Key Takeaways

Bedside nursing relies on nurses ignoring their own needs to care for others. Remote nursing allows you to take your power back and build healthier habits.

Eating slowly and choosing well-balanced meals filled with protein, fiber, fruits, and veggies will keep you full, focused, and ready to take on your day. You should also avoid fad diets and over-caffeination and celebrate this transition to remote nursing. Nutritional self-care is a habit you can start today and enjoy for a lifetime.

Interested in remote nursing but need help figuring out where to start? First, check out the Nurse Fern resources, and then take a peek at the job board for the latest remote nursing job postings.