So, being in nursing school generally means that there is very little free time in my life. The key to my being able to handle everything and still eat well is that I plan out my meals (and the fitness routines that go with it). It may seem excessive but it means that I don’t need to think about what to make and am less likely to grab something quick and (probably) very processed in order to eat. I thought I’d share what next week’s food and fitness routine looks like so that you can get an idea of how I plan. A disclaimer though: please don’t copy this for yourself. I put a lot of time and research into what I eat and how much exercise I do, including speaking with a nutritionist. I work to balance out my calories and they are specific to me and my needs. They may not meet yours.
Monday I have a (my third!) test, so it’s going to be stressful. That means the morning starts with a run. I run for 30 minutes before class to help me destress. That means I need to be fueled for that run before I leave the house (I have been using the track at my Y to run on since it’s indoors). Breakfast will be overnight oatmeal made with apples, almond milk and cinnamon. I will bring along a Quest bar for afterwards, in case I need it. That provides me with protein and fiber. I usually only eat half of the bar at a time. The flavor will be whatever I feel like that morning. After class will be lunch time, when I’ll have a cannelloni bean salad. It’s mostly beans and tomatoes with some garlic. It’s roasted in the oven and then I store it in the fridge. Dinner will be a pasta bake. There’s a lot of cheese in that so I’ll roast some veggies to go with mine – zucchini and carrot probably (I have some rainbow carrots to use up). If I have a lot of calories left (I try to stay at less than 200 left over), I’ll have some popcorn or some cottage cheese as a snack.
Tuesday is a really busy day for me since I have a presentation at a health fair at school that I’ll be doing. Breakfast will be a yogurt bowl with graham cracker crumbs and berries. I have plain yogurt, since it has no sugar in it. Since I have the presentation, I won’t have time to go home for lunch. I’ll be bringing a pasta salad with corn and cucumber in it. It uses yogurt instead of mayo to keep the calories lower and it should be filling. I’ll probably bring along some fruit (apples are my first choices) and a Quest bar, just in case. Dinner will be baked chicken. I have some rainbow mashed potatoes to use up, some green beans and I’ll find another veggie to add to my plate. I have peas in the freezer and some snap peas, as well as some baby carrots. Probably one of those choices. I’ll go to yoga from 7-8:30 at night.
Wednesday will be a little more relaxing since I’m through the worst of the week. Breakfast will be some scrambled eggs with spinach and parmesan cheese and a slice of sprouted wheat bread toasted. I’ll probably have some grapefruit with it too. I’ll have a run in the morning as well, so I’ll expect to need more calories just like Monday. Another Quest bar as a just in case and I’ll bring a cottage cheese to class with me as a snack. Lunch will be simple with some hummus, baby carrots, some tomato, some sliced turkey breast and a little bit of cheddar cheese. I try to avoid the bread in the afternoon if I can and this day I certainly can. Dinner is easy tonight. I’m making a veggie dog for myself (sausage and hot dogs for everyone else). I’ve got some sweet potatoes that I can dice and bake for a side or some tater tots (or both!) and I’ll probably have some pickles and whatever veggies look good.
Thursday is going to be an early morning because I have OB clinical, so I have to leave my house at 6am. This is another overnight oatmeal morning since I can eat it on the way to clinical. Today will be banana instead of apple though. For lunch, I’ll bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some veggies and berries (I have strawberries, blueberries and raspberries). I may also bring along some ginger cookies I picked up at Trader Joe’s if there are any left. We get out of this clinical earlier than normal, so dinner is a stir fry. I have some tofu and I’ll use chicken for everyone else. Then I have a whole bunch of veggies that I can use – green onion, broccoli, carrot, and sugar snap peas. I have a teriyaki marinade I can use and it’ll be delicious and quick. I’m also planning to go to yoga from 6-7, instead of my normal Friday class. That’s good because…
Friday I have clinical again. That means overnight oatmeal again (it’s a good thing I like it!) probably with some berries, if there are any left. If not, apple and banana are both great options. Lunch will be a turkey sandwich, with an assortment of veggies and some fruit again. Dinner will be a pizza. I make it homemade, so I can add whatever ingredients I want and I know what’s in everything. Plus, it’s quick and yummy. I mean, pizza!
Saturday and Sunday are always the same challenge. I work twelve hour shifts, so pretty much all my food is eaten at work at some point. I’ll make something for breakfast the night before (I’m thinking a breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, vegetarian sausage patty broken up, and broccoli on Saturday and Sunday… not sure yet but possibly some Rice Chex with banana). Lunches are typically my main meal and so, I try to make them filling. I’m going to spend some time Friday making lunch for the weekend (like I usually do, and I also grocery shop on Fridays typically, which makes this easier). Probably a black bean and corn salad for one day and a quinoa salad for the other. Then I just bring a Quest bar with me and pack some extra veggies and fruit for the rest of the day. Working a twelve hour shift is just hard to plan meals around, especially since I only get one actual meal time.
The one thing you don’t see above is my water. I try and drink water constantly. In fact, with the exception of coffee or tea, all I drink now is water. Even if I go out to eat, I still drink water. This is pretty impressive since I used to not like the taste. It’s much better than before, as long as it’s cold!
All this planning takes some time and most people would probably argue that it takes to much time. I say that my health is worth a little time and honestly, if I wasn’t meal planning, I’d be watching tv so I might as well meal plan. I watch very little tv now anyway (just my Doctor and my favorite FBI profilers). The addition of Quest bars is new but they are helping me out so, so much! They fill my sweet tooth since they are all sweet flavors and they all taste amazing. I mean, I almost died when I tried the first one. I couldn’t believe how good they were and they are actually pretty nutritious. They are pricy but again, I feel like it’s worth it to spend the extra money on things that are good for me and will help me be healthy. I have a couple more weeks in this semester and then a couple of weeks off. Those weeks off are going to be awesome especially because I know that summer semester is going to be eight weeks of crazy.
This is work, for sure. I wish that I didn’t have to think about food so much but the world we live in pushes cheap food that is just not good for us to eat as much as we do. I would love to see more healthy options show up in stores and actual whole foods become dominant instead of quick, cheap alternatives. Maybe as more people move toward a healthier lifestyle, that will become reality. I’m afraid it’s just going to result in more food that claims to be healthy but really isn’t. Either way, I hope that my journey helps you see how you can make changes. It can be done. Until next time folks, find that little thing to change to become healthier!