Food is fuel. It’s also solice if you are stressed, and face it – it’s fun to eat. Other professions that deal with stress and physical labor have learned the lesson about not paying attention to nutrition. The culture of medicine demands a “selflessness” that borders on the absurd. It is often a badge of honor that you can go all day without eating. But, when you consider the consequences of such behavior, it is really crazy. There is no benefit to the patients, and clear harm to the doctor.
Eat often and eat well
When you are physically and intellectually busy (an average day on call in the hospital) you need to plan to eat every 3-4 hours. In general, you will have one “meal” (i.e lunch) in the middle of the day and two snacks. It’s not always going to possible to stop for lunch at lunchtime, but you should be able to find 10 minutes at some point in between 11 and 4 to eat a meal. Different rotations have different demands, and you can certainly take this into account when planning your meals. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat requires no preparation, and no refrigeration (it can even go in the pocket of your white coat). Alternatively, buy a loaf of whole wheat bread every week, and put the bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly in your locker. It takes 2 minutes to make a sandwich to put into your pocket on the way to a conference or a brief break. Bring leftovers from the previous night’s dinner to reheat and have for lunch. You need to plan to include fruits and vegetables as part of every meal and your snacks. Buy a bag of apples once a week and put them in your locker.. and then make sure you eat the entire bag every week. The snacks don’t need to be elaborate, but you do need to watch the clock and eat them – even if you are not hungry!
Examples of easy snacks for the hospital
- “Meal replacement bars” (power bars, Luna bars, Kind bars etc)
- “Meal replacement drinks” (Ensure, Boost, etc)
- Skim milk with either graham crackers/peanut butter or a banana
- Cheese stick and an apple
- Melba toast or other crackers with sliced cheese plus some fruit