Powering Through Your Day

Healthy Eating For the Busy Veterinary Professional

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healthy eating

Was it the enema on the constipated German Shepherd you just finished, the CCL repair you did this morning, or the intensive equine dental you performed just after lunch that has you feeling like that five o’clock quitting time is weeks away? Maybe it’s something else entirely. It’s no secret that the professional life of a veterinarian isn’t spent sitting behind a computer and desk; it’s more on your toes, constantly moving, putting your back into it kind of work. While your body can get used to and even start to appreciate this kind of punishment, it’s not going to respond well without the proper nutrition. You could end up feeling tired and sluggish well before the last patient of the day leaves your reception area.  

Eating the right foods does more than just help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet will help power your body and mind to get you through even the longest days, help you sleep better, and believe it or not, make you more productive. You might be wishing you could eat more healthy but don’t think that you have the time in your busy schedule to make nutritious meals and snacks. After all, most nights you’re lucky if you have the time and the energy to throw one of those frozen dinners into the microwave. It doesn’t have to be that difficult or time-consuming. Let’s look at some healthy eating tips that are not only easy but take very little time. Don’t feel like you have to incorporate them all in order to benefit. Start small with just one or two ideas and then add more as you see fit.

Plan Ahead

Carving out a little time in your weekend can help you set up for a healthy week ahead. Erin Green, a registered dietician, nutritionist, and wellness coach, suggests that you “Look at your life in the coming week and sketch out when you’ll need meals/snacks to take to work, then build your grocery list from this outline, focusing on the fruit/veggie options and protein sources, since those are the hardest to grab on the go.” Also, plan the meals that you will have at home and build an ingredients list to shop for those. Whole foods are by far more nutritious and healthy than processed, fully prepared, or nearly prepared foods.

You can use your weekly meal outline for more than just streamlining your grocery shopping; you can also prep your meals and snacks ahead of time. If you’re planning a salad for lunch three days this week, chop the veggies, divvy up the dressing and protein, and package those meals into individual containers or baggies ahead of time. That way when you’re frantically trying to get out the door in the morning all you have to do is grab one and you’ve got a healthy lunch ready to go. Pack snacks this way, too. For nonperishables, you can build a small stockpile of snack-sized portions to have anytime you need them.

Expect the Unexpected

As a veterinary professional, “expect the unexpected” should already be your mantra. It seems that nothing is ever cut and dry in your daily medical rounds. Adopting this outlook into your daily eating is another great way to boost your healthy food intake. How many days have you had to work through your lunch break or you didn’t get home until it was nearly time to go to bed? In those times did you reach for a processed snack that didn’t do much to elevate your energy and still left you hungry? You’re not alone. Since you know that missing lunch or getting home late is a definite possibility in your field, keep an emergency ration of some of those pre-portioned healthy snacks that we previously talked about. You can also keep a freezer stash of healthy dinners that can easily be heated once you finally get home.

Make Healthy Eating the Easy Choice (or ONLY Choice)

Erin Green notes, “Processed snack foods are often over consumed because they’re just so easy to grab in a hurry!” Here’s her recommendation: “Prep some nourishing options so it is impossible to pass them up—cut-up fruit, portioned-out nuts, single-serve salads. Surround yourself with colorful, nourishing options that are quick and easy!” If healthy food options are the only options available to you, it’s almost impossible to not make the right choices.

Befriend Your Slow Cooker

We’ve talked a lot about how to make your lunches and snacks at work healthier, but what about your meals at home? While there are many processed, pre-cooked items made with the busy professional in mind, there are also many quick and easy whole-food, nutritious recipes out there, even for those who swear they can’t cook! If you haven’t yet, look into the world of slow cooking. Nothing’s easier than throwing some healthy ingredients into the pot, turning it on low, and coming home to a nutritious, home-cooked meal no matter what time of day it may be. Slow cookers can make anything from your morning oatmeal to meat entrées to delicious soups and stews.

Batch cooking is also your friend. With or without your slow cooker, make a double batch of whichever recipe you decide to cook over the weekend or during a little downtime. Then freeze half of it in individual containers for later. Doing this with three or four recipes will quickly fill your freezer with a variety of nutritious meals in the same amount of time that it took you to prepare one dinner.

Practice Mindful Eating

Veterinary professionals have mastered the art of multitasking. How else could you run blood work on one patient while prepping another for surgery while charting in records while munching on breakfast? Multitasking is great and even necessary in order to get your daily work to-do list done, but it’s time to stop when it comes to eating. When you get that much-needed lunch break, don’t pore over records, return phone calls, or even check out the latest breakthroughs on DVM Insider. Instead, focus completely on your meal. That way you’ll be more aware of what is going into your body and getting more of a sense of enjoyment and satisfaction. For an even greater experience, take your meal elsewhere. Shake off the stresses of the day with a quick break outside or at your favorite coffee shop, or even catching up with non-work friends while enjoying a healthy bite.

Involve Your Family (Furry or Otherwise)

Sitting down to a meal with your family, whether that be your kids, partner, or your goldfish, Ted, really lends itself to mindful eating. Family dinners allow you to slow down, think about the food that’s going into your body, and most importantly reconnect with those you care about. If you have kids, it’s important to remember that they are the next generation of busy (maybe veterinary) professionals and need a positive, healthy-eating role model to follow!

Healthy eating is about more than just your waistline; it can affect whether you’re dragging at three in the afternoon or ready to tackle the next tough case. Your clients and patients depend on you to be at the top of your game, so be sure that you’re fueling your body and mind. It’s easier than you think!

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