Busy Woman's Guide: Quick Snacks to Fuel Your Day

Busy Woman's Guide: Quick Snacks to Fuel Your Day

ER doctors don’t get lunch breaks. Getting to eat – even a quick snack -- can feel like a cross between The Hunger Games and Survivor. Finding a minute between patients, fending off competitors for the last peanut butter and graham cracker in the staff room and secretly inhaling said snack before the “Infection Patrol” (staff who discard food in patient areas) throws it out is a challenge worthy of reality TV.

The same probably goes for your day -- whether you’re working in the ER, the office, or driving the kids between their multiple activities, finding time to eat something healthy can seem impossible.

It’s not. Plus, after many long, [hungry] shifts in the ER, I’ve learned that to operate at peak capacity, what you eat is as important as eating at all. Good news: You don’t have to be Martha Stewart (I wouldn’t even know where to begin) to have an arsenal of healthy snacks on hand. You’ll also find that many of these snacks are perfect foods for weight loss.

Rule of Thumb: Measure out portion sizes. Snacks should be in the 150-250 calorie range per serving. 

So whether you have 30 minutes, 10 minutes or no time at all to prepare, here are some of my favorite options.

If you have 30 minutes:

If you have 10 minutes:

  • Make-Your-Own Trail Mix. Make it nutritious and make it fun. Nutritionist Marisa Moore, RD, suggests even throwing in pistachios and pumpkin seeds, since they’re “full of protein, fiber, minerals, and healthy fats.” I also like adding dried fruit (cherries, mangoes and blueberries for me) and some low-fat kettle corn popcorn.
  • Edamame with a pinch of sea salt. Buy edamame in the freezer section and microwave for just a couple of minutes.
  • Hummus and veggies. If you’re in a pinch, you can buy hummus/pretzel combos, but I find adding veggies more filling.
  • Cheese and fruit. One wedge of cheese (think something portable), plus a piece of fruit.

If you have no time at all:
I stash these in my desk at work or in the refrigerator (and hope it doesn’t get thrown out!):

  • Peanut butter (I buy single-serving containers): Peanut butter is a great source of protein and perfect for spreading on a banana or cracker.
  • Greek yogurt: Creamy Greek yogurt is filling and another great protein source. Sprinkle in nuts or fruits if you have them.
  • Salmon jerky: Moore also suggests this option, available at specialty grocery stores. I love it for a portable protein.

I’m not a fan of any weight loss diet that truly “bans” anything, but there are a few foods I avoid if I need to keep up my energy. While I used to reach for a bag of candy midway through a shift, that post-candy crash an hour later was awful. Same for sweetened sodas or heavy carbs—they just leave me needing a nap.

The busier you are, the more energy you need and the more “you are what you eat” rings true. You need to be at tip-top performance, all day, every day – so make sure that what you’re putting into your body is ready to meet the challenge.

Medically reviewed in November 2018.

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