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Top 15 Snacks Snacks for Long Shift Hours

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Key Takeaways

  • Nurses are often in search of easy, on the go snack options during long shift hours.
  • Foods like bananas, apples, eggs, oats, and popcorn are high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
  • Versatile options like turkey and tuna can be used in sandwiches or cut into salads and are high in protein.

Many nurses are on their feet for upwards of 12 hours, and caring for patients can be an exhausting endeavor. Nurses may not get the break opportunities to eat meals–like lunch–the way other workers do. Ensuring that nurses and other hospital staff consume adequate, hearty, and easy to access is essential for the health and safety of both clinicians and patients. 

Consider these the top 15 slow-burning snacks that keep nurses’ engines running throughout a 12-hour shift.

1. Eggs

Eggs are healthy, versatile, and nutritious. A single large egg has about 78 calories and 7 grams of protein, plus tons of other nutrients like Vitamins B and D. Before heading out to your shift, consider scrambled eggs or an omelet, or bring a snack of hard boiled eggs to eat on the job. 

2. Oatmeal

Oats have an incredibly high amount of fiber and take longer for the body to process. Foods high in fiber, therefore, are much more filling and can sustain you throughout the day. Oats have 4 grams of fiber per cup and are a great breakfast choice, especially paired with fruit or nut butter–or both. 

3. Trail mix

Homemade trail mill, filled with roasted nuts, dried fruit, and seeds, is one of the better on-the-go snacks. Keep nuts as the base; walnuts, almonds, and cashews are filled with heart healthy fats and hunger-blocking protein. Keep it simple with the classic GORP (“good ole raisins and peanuts”). Or get creative — add Chex, dark chocolate chunks, or dried pomegranate seeds.

4. Popcorn

Popcorn is a carb, but surprisingly, it has a lot of fiber and can ward off hunger pangs. Popcorn is also extremely convenient and can be stashed in work bags, desk drawers, and office cabinets. 

5. Greek yogurt

Some yogurts have a high percentage of sugar, but Greek yogurt that has no added sugar and a higher percentage of milkfat can be extremely filling and nutritious. Greek yogurt that’s as close to the source as possible, or contains active cultures such as L. Acidophilus (and other live cultures), which will promote healthy digestion. Yogurt with a higher fat, similar to protein, is essential to a healthy diet and to staying fueled.

6. Cottage cheese

Before Greek yogurt became a trend, we had cottage cheese. Cottage cheese has similar benefits to Greek yogurt but tons of more protein (28 g per cup, to be exact). Cottage cheese is also delicious with mixed berries, pineapple or peaches and can be a great alternative to yogurt. 

7. Apples

Apples, especially with peanut butter, can be a super quick and easy lunch alternative. Apples are filled with healthy carbs, sugars, and fiber and can promote a regulated and stable gut. Apples have a long shelf life and are a super easy grab-and-go option. 

8. Sweet potatoes

Microwaved sweet potatoes can be a nutritious and filling snack. Sweet potatoes have more vitamins and nutrients than regular potatoes and 4 grams of fiber per serving. They can be eaten for breakfast with scrambled eggs or as a lunch option with some turkey and cut up fruit. 

9. Protein bars

Many protein bars now count as meal replacements and are a great option when your work bag is on the smaller side. Substituting a meal with a protein bar is a quick and easy way to get the filling nutrients you need without taking a long break. Not all protein bars are the same, and it’s important to choose the type that’s right for you. 

10. String cheese

String cheese, when paired with crackers, is a quick and filling snack. A stick of cheese typically offers around 6 g of protein and can fit in your lunch box without taking up too much space. 

11. Turkey

What’s more classic than a turkey sandwich? Most deli turkey has around 9 g of protein per serving and is an extremely versatile option. Turkey can be rolled up in lettuce wraps or cut into a salad. If too much bread results in a carb crash, consider turkey and cheese roll ups with some pretzels on the side. 

12. Bananas

Bananas are filled with healthy sugar and potassium. They are easy to stash in your work bag and don’t require any refrigeration. Bananas can help support alertness and brain function thanks to an amino acid that helps produce norepinephrine.

13. Tuna

Tuna has around 25 g of protein per serving and, like turkey, is a versatile option. Tuna fish sandwiches are incredibly filling, but tuna can also be incorporated into salads. It’s affordable, filled with healthy fats, and contains fiber, especially when mixed with celery. 

14. Edamame 

Edamame may be foreign to some, but they’re soybeans that are similar to other beans like garbanzo or kidney. They’re salty and offer 16 g of protein per cup. Plus, they’re the only vegetable that contain all 9 essential amino acids. 

15. Chocolate

Saving the best for last, chocolate can amp up your energy–but also make you crash. Chocolate can provide a small amount of caffeine, and it’s easy to stash in desk drawers. It can also provide health benefits, especially chocolate with a higher percentage of cacao; these types tend to be darker in color and taste. 


15 slow burning foods to keep you fueled for your 12-hour travel nursing shift. TotelMed. Published August 26, 2018. Accessed June 28, 2021.

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