It’s likely if you are working in a hospital or GP surgery and reading this that there have been some significant changes to your working life amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps you are working longer hours, haven’t had a day off in weeks, have been covering for colleagues, working in a different department or, you’re living apart from loved ones. These changes are placing your mind and body under significant additional stress, in what was already a very demanding job.
Your priority right now is to care for your patients and get through the day to day and it’s easy to neglect your own health during this time. It is however, as important as ever to fuel your mind and body in the right way to maintain your health and energy levels during this demanding time.
Here I share five simple, quick and easy habits I picked up during my time working as a junior doctor and a GP. These are intended to maximise your nutrient intake and minimise foods that will leave you feeling drained and lethargic.
Shop the rainbow
No brain space to think up what to cook for the week ahead? Be inspired by colour - shop for a variety of different coloured vegetables - this will give you a range of nutrients, reduce the amount of beige food on your plate and help you achieve your five-a-day to keep you well nourished.
For those moments when your energy levels are dropping and a lunch break is a distance memory - snacks are a must! At the beginning of the week put together a little bag or tin stashed with unsalted nuts seeds, dried fruit and dark chocolate - these will give you a much-needed pick me up whilst minimising refined sugar and salt.
Think outside the (veg) box
I have found the following really useful to have in the freezer to add to curries, omelettes, stir fries or to give any meal that quick nutritional boost: frozen spinach, peas, carrots, chopped onions and sliced peppers. Frozen veg is better than no veg! You can also up your veg intake by swapping rice for cauliflower. This is super quick and easy, low in calories and tasty. A large cauliflower will last you the week. Cauliflower rice goes great with curry, stir fried veg, stew or a chill. Click here for my quick and easy cauliflower rice recipe: drhelenlawal.com/meal-snack-ideas/quick-and-easy-cauliflower-rice
Cook once eat twice
Your time is precious. Whenever you cook, plan to cook double the amount you need. This way, you always have extra for leftovers to take to work the following day. You could take a smaller portion and add some leafy salad greens and cherry tomatoes. Or quickly boil up or steam a couple of portions of frozen veg and add them in.
Upgrade your drinking water
Lastly, It’s easy to forget to drink during a long busy shift. To avoid reaching the end of your shift and realising you are anuric(!), give your drinking water a refreshing face lift. Add a slice of lemon or orange, or a few mint leaves to your water bottle. Or, fill it up with chilled fruity herbal tea and a splodge of honey for your own homemade ice tea.
Stay Well. Stay Safe.
Dr Helen Lawal