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When you’re asked to pull a double, you may agree because you need the extra money or because you know how short-staffed your hospital is. What doesn’t come to mind (at least not immediately) is the toll that working for 16 hours will take on your mind and body. You can always count on coffee, tea and energy drinks for a temporary pick-me-up, but if you want a healthier approach to staying energized, you need to add protein-rich foods to your diet. With some mindful shopping and food prep beforehand, you can arm yourself with these five energy-boosting foods that will make your double bearable.
Salmon is an energy-rich food that’s high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which affect energy levels by improving brain function and reducing inflammation. The reason omega-3 fats are so important is that they help with healthy brain function, the heart, joints and overall wellbeing. Oily fish, such as salmon, should be included in your diet at least three times a week to optimize your body’s supply of these essential fats. Salmon is also great source of vitamins and minerals, including potassium, selenium and vitamin B12.
Salmon tastes great when it’s baked, broiled, steamed or grilled. Just make sure to reheat it in a place that doesn’t bother your fellow co-workers! If you’d prefer a quick no-cook snack, opt for smoked salmon that can be kept in the fridge and eaten as is.
Magnesium is essential in your diet because your body uses it to produce ATP, which give your cells energy that make your muscles function. The recommended daily intake is about ¾ of a cup of almonds because of their overall health benefits.
Regular consumption of nuts, not just almonds, is linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Use this recipe to create a protein-rich and healthy-fat-packed energy bar that you can eat on the go. When you’re working a double and you’re short on downtime, these make a filling and nutritious snack. The added sea salt, Sriracha and lime zest make this bar stand out from your typical grocery store options.
NUTS! Bars – from Camilla Saulsbury’s Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook
Customize them with your favorite spices. Makes 10 gluten-free, vegan bars.
¾ cup chopped walnuts
¾ cup chopped almonds
¾ cup chopped pecans
½ cup light corn syrup
1½ tbsp. flaxseed meal
¼ tsp. fine sea salt
2 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1 tsp. finely grated lime zest
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some paper overhanging. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until well blended. Transfer to baking pan and firmly compact mixture using the back of a spoon or a sprayed sheet of parchment paper. Bake 17 to 20 minutes until browned at edges.
3. Let cool 20 minutes on wire rack, then use parchment liner to lift bars onto a cutting board. Cut into 10 equal bars. Cool before wrapping in foil or plastic wrap. Can be packed for four days.
Tofu is one of the best energizing foods because it has amino acids that convert the neurotransmitters in the brain to muscle energy in the body. Also known as bean curd, tofu is derived from soya. It has high-quality protein and all eight essential amino acids. Tofu also gives you iron, calcium manganese, selenium and phosphorus as well as magnesium, copper, zinc and vitamin B1. Replace your yogurt with creamy silken tofu topped with fruit for a healthier, more energizing alternative.
A nutritious, healthy way to get chicken in your diet is with chicken soup. Misha Ruth Cohen, O.M.D. L.Ac., told Natural Health magazine that chicken “broth is a general tonic for the system, restoring qi,” which is the Chinese word for energy. Each spoonful has calcium, magnesium and phosphorus from the chicken bones and the combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates will keep you energized.
Since canned soup can be high in sodium, make a large batch of homemade soup that you can eat throughout the week or freeze for later. Include leafy greens or ginger and chili for an added nutritional punch.
Nutrient-dense legumes give you healthy doses of energy. They’re low-fat and high in protein with lots of vitamins and minerals. Thankfully, there are nearly 13,000 varieties in the legume family, including beans, peas and lentils, so you can choose your favorite. Immature legumes include pod beans, snow peas, edamame and fresh lima beans. Mature legumes are black beans, kidney beans, lentils and split peas. Almost all of the legumes listed provide protein, fiber, B vitamins, iron zinc and more, but, as a general rule, the mature legumes provide more nutrients.
Legumes are called the “poor people’s meat” because they’re a cheaper way to provide plant protein. Legumes are cholesterol-free, though, and have almost no saturated fat. They have so much fiber and carbs that they are an excellent source of energy. Make a lentil salad by mixing green lentils with mustard, vinegar and olive oil, for an easy snack.
Making Smart, Healthy Choices
Making smart, healthy choices by eating whole foods, as opposed to processed foods, will keep your energy up for longer. Bagels and coffee may be convenient and tasty, but they’ll leave you crashing in the break room instead of on your feet and ready for your double. These five foods will give you all the nutrients you need to get through your double shift and will leaving you feeling healthier overall.