Here are simple ways to get the necessary nutrition and feel energized during a hectic shift.
Imagine this. You arrive at work with a hot cup of coffee. The pharmacy opens at 8 a.m. sharp, and already, 4 doctors have called in scripts via voice mail, 5 people are waiting at the pick-up window, and the lead tech is late, again. An hour later, you go to take a sip of your previously hot coffee and notice that it is cold.
A few hours later, you pick your head up, only to realize that you have not had anything to eat or drink in the past 3 hours of a 13-hour shift. Your stomach grumbles. You give a quick, longing glance at your packed lunch and know that even if you try to take a bite, your name will be called to counsel a patient, reconstitute a medication, or take a call from a doctor. If only there was a way to hook up an IV bag.
Although we cannot give ourselves total parenteral nutrition, there are some quick, portable snacks that can help get you through the day, so that you do not have to survive on soda and Twizzlers from aisle 3. My fiancé, who is a retail pharmacist, always packs snacks that he does not have to chew.
Here are 5 portable snacks for busy pharmacists:
1. Greek yogurt. Low-fat Greek yogurt was a staple for me when I worked in a retail pharmacy. It is quick to eat and loaded with protein. Greek yogurt has about 23 grams of protein per cup and will help keep you full in between meals. A note of caution: There are many yogurt brands that have added sugar, granola, and other higher calorie add-ins. Steer clear of those. Chobani and Fage are great options. If you need some flavor, choose a plain Greek yogurt and top it with berries, a small amount of honey, or slivered almonds. If you hate yogurt, try low-fat cottage cheese.
2. Homemade protein smoothies. You can literally drink your food. Maybe that doesn’t sound appetizing, but remember, that the snack should be simple and easy to consume. These smoothies have 4 ingredients: a base (almond or soy milk), greens (kale or spinach), fruit (banana, blueberries or peach), and any boosters or supplements. Start with 2 cups of the base and add in 2 cups of greens. Blend. Then add 2 cups of sliced fruit, and continue to blend. As an option, add chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp, cacao, or even nut butters to fill you up with healthy fats. You can also add protein powder to increase nutritional benefits.
This type of smoothie is easy to prepare and takes less than 5 minutes to make. My fiancé and I have a Vitamix, but there are plenty of blenders that can get the job done. Purchase a no-spill container, and you have your portable smoothie.
3. Oatmeal with berries. Oatmeal is packed with fiber, which satiates any busy pharmacist. It also has beta-glucan, which has been shown to support reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Like yogurt, you can add your favorite toppings to the plain version, including blueberries, cinnamon, dried cranberries, or a drizzle of honey. You can also add protein powder to oatmeal to pack some added nutrition.
4. Sweet potato puree or pumpkin puree. I know it sounds like it belongs on a Thanksgiving table, but it is delicious and a quick way to get in some fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin A. Add some cinnamon powder or nutmeg with chopped nuts for some healthy fats and to balance blood sugar. If you choose the pumpkin puree, make sure it is actual pumpkin puree and not pumpkin pie mix. The containers look the same, and it is an easy mistake to make if you are in a hurry.
5. Do-it-yourself iced coffee protein shake. We all need coffee. Well, I do, anyway. Why not add some protein and shake up your morning java? Try this simple recipe: 2 cups ice, 1 cup cold brew coffee, 1 scoop vanilla or chocolate protein, 1 small frozen banana, and 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk. Stay caffeinated, my friends.
Here are some other handy tips:
1. Plan snacks the night before or the morning of before a shift starts. Weigh out and pack the yogurt or sweet potato the night before. However, it might be better to make the smoothies right before leaving for work.
2. Select a day to go grocery shopping, and make a list using the items that you would like to make for that week. The last thing you need is to run to the grocery store the night before a 13-hour shift. Writing a list also minimizes trips during the week.
3. Make it fun. Add your favorite ingredients to snacks so work will be just a little bit more enjoyable.
So, the next time your stomach grumbles at the pharmacy, reach for one of these ready-made snacks and smile. You are not going to starve today.