National Nutrition Month: Prioritizing Nutrition in Nursing Is Vital

By Sarah Knight, ShiftMed Content Manager//Holidays and Celebrations, Nursing Profession, Nurse How-Tos
A nurse holds a plate of fruits and vegetables while another holds a clipboard in celebration of National Nutrition Month.

Nurses play a vital role in promoting wellness and longevity among their patients. However, despite being staunch health advocates, many nurses struggle with their own dietary challenges. So, with March being National Nutrition Month®, we're shining a spotlight on why prioritizing nutrition in nursing is vital.

Research shows that approximately half of the nurses in the United States are overweight or living with obesity. While nurses fully realize the value of a healthy lifestyle, the long hours, work overload, shift work, and high stress that come with the profession make it easy to develop poor eating habits.

Remember, you deserve the same care you bestow upon your patients. You don't want to forsake your health to care for others because, in the end, it doesn't do you or your patients any good. By eating a nutrient-rich diet and participating in physical activities you enjoy, you'll feel better, perform better, and be more productive at work.

It also helps to find ways to calm your work stress and practice self-care. According to a Healthy Eating for Healthy Nurses article, stressors can influence your nutrition intake and body composition. Chronic distress from one or more stressors can increase your appetite and cravings for high-fat and high-sugar foods.

So, if you rely on the nearest vending machine for sustenance or feel a pang of guilt as you discuss healthy eating with patients after downing a donut, it's time to reclaim control over your eating habits. This blog post will show you how.

The image shows a plate with fruits, vegetables, and nuts with a heart-shaped bowl in the middle. It includes text that describes National Nutrition Month as an annual campaign that started in 1973.

4 Healthy Eating Tips for Nurses

Proper nutrition provides the cognitive function, concentration, and physical stamina you need to deliver high-quality patient care. So, how can you revitalize your relationship with food and prioritize your health with unwavering determination?

1. Avoid Pitfalls

Bring your own food to work to resist the temptation of cafeteria or fast-food options, which can lead to overindulgence or an unbalanced diet. And when stress hits, skip the sugary fixes and opt for supportive conversations with colleagues.

2. Meal Plan

Maximize your well-being during demanding shifts with a strategic meal plan. Take charge of your nutrition by prepping wholesome meals for the week, which helps ensure ingredient control and diverse options and shields you from unhealthy choices. Check out these 32 meal prep ideas for healthcare professionals.

3. Drink Water

Stay hydrated and energized by making water your beverage of choice. Unlike sugary sodas or cappuccinos, water contains zero calories and offers unmatched benefits for your body. Fuel your shift with hydration and feel the difference in your well-being. Mild levels of dehydration can cause mood changes and impede your ability to think clearly.

4. Practice Moderation

While it's heartwarming to enjoy a treat from a grateful patient, moderation is key. Resist the temptation to overindulge and keep your caloric intake in check by sharing the kindness with your colleagues. Moderation is also crucial when vendors bring in free food.

An image of a nurse drinking water while taking a break outdoors, with text that lists five tips for nurses to stay hydrated at work.

Nutrition for Busy Healthcare Professionals

Navigating nutrition amidst a sea of information can be daunting, even for nurses. Translating nutrition knowledge into personal habits can be a challenge despite your expertise. Yet, by embracing fundamental principles like consistency, portion control, and variety, you can pave the way for healthier eating habits.

Consistent Intake

Consistent nutrition is vital for health. Regular meals and snacks help the body utilize nutrients efficiently, reducing the risk of excess fat storage. This principle holds whether you're on the day or night shift. Nurses should prioritize routine eating patterns for optimal well-being.

Portion Sizes

Accurate portion sizes are pivotal for nutritional success. Avoid common pitfalls by understanding calorie needs based on validated equations. Utilize food labels to guide portioning and prevent overconsumption. Consulting a registered dietitian ensures personalized calorie recommendations. Stay mindful of portion sizes to curb excess calorie intake and mitigate the risk of obesity.

Food Variety

Diversify your meal plan with vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and lean meats. Then, opt for fiber-rich whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins for sustained energy. Choose whole fruits over juices for more nutrients and satiety. Enjoy vegetables, both raw and cooked, without added calorie-laden sauces. Incorporate antioxidant-rich foods like spinach, sweet potatoes, and sunflower seeds to combat inflammation and oxidative stress.

A self-report of fruit and vegetable intake found that when subjects consumed five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, they saw higher plasma and serum concentrations of antioxidants and lower biomarkers of oxidative stress. This significant finding offers a relatively easy way to decrease oxidative response in the body.

Quick and Healthy Nurse Recipes

Focusing on better nutrition doesn't mean your meals have to be blah and boring. Check out these nutritious, mouthwatering meals courtesy of the doctors, nurses, and dietitians at Kaiser Permanente. Not a fan of cooking? Check out these 13 meal prep recipes for nurses who hate cooking on the Midlife Nursing blog.

Healthy Snacks for Healthcare Workers

A study on Snacking Among Shiftwork Nurses found that nurses who work nights tend to consume fewer meals and eat more snacks compared to their daytime counterparts. Such snacking can contribute to higher saturated fat intake, leading to an increased risk of chronic disease.

But whether you're working during the day or at night, consuming healthy snacks is essential. Check out these 14 healthy, energizing snacks to help you through long shifts.

When you have time to sit down, consider snacking on fresh fruit with a high-water content, such as melons, berries, or grapes. These fruits serve a dual purpose by keeping you healthy and hydrated.

Nutrition Resources for Nurses

You might consider a nutrition app if need help keeping yourself accountable to meet your nutrition goals. Here are some worth checking out:


When you're a nurse, prioritizing your nutrition is vital to your well-being and setting a standard of health for you and the patients in your care.

By addressing the unique dietary challenges of your profession and implementing practical strategies like meal planning, practicing moderation, and staying hydrated, you can foster a culture of health within the healthcare community.

Remember, small changes in nutrition habits can significantly improve your overall health and performance. So, celebrate National Nutrition Month by committing to healthy eating and inspiring others to do the same.

Related Content

Want the flexibility to work when, where, and how often you want? Download the ShiftMed nursing jobs app today!