Kitchen Hacks for Busy Nursing and NP Students

By Nurse Practitioner Student and Personal Trainer Justin Groce

I'm in nursing school so I get it. Instead of making dinner every night you'd much rather be using that free hour to study or actually do something you enjoy-like...crafting flashcards. So, as a nurse practitioner student myself I've come up with a few strategies to expedite my (healthy!) meal preparation for the week. 

Strategy #1: Make Meals in Bulk

Rather than spending 7 hours each week cooking, ths strategy allows me to spend just 2-3 hours preparing my food for the entire week. This method has also helped me curb frivolous spending on take-out, encouraged me to eat much healthier, and having food ready to go saves me time when I'm in a hurry. My strategy? Bulk cooking (it's obviously far superior to per-meal prep). 

The concept of bulk-cooking is to allot an amount of time one day each week to think through buy for, and prepare your food for an entire week in one sitting (or, standing really). This way your food is ready when you need it and you don't waste time needlessly or make poor food choices during the week. 

For example, I like to prep proteins, like chicken breasts, in bulk. Using a baking pan create three separate sections (or one...or two...depending on how bulky you want your biceps). The reason I create three sections is so I can bake three different flavors of chicken breast simultaneously. By having three options at once, I'm saving three times the time not to mention creating triple the flavor. In this photo I'm baking lemon pepper fish on the left, buffalo chicken in the center, and BBQ honey chicken on the right.

My egg quiche muffins are also a winner when it comes to prepping bulk breakfast meals. See the end of the post for the recipe.

Strategy #2: Choose Healthy Convenience Foods

Choosing healthy convenience foods seems simple enough, right? Most of you are probably already eating plenty of convenience foods. But, instead of tucking a tube of Pringles away in your pant leg or constantly having cookies on your person, there are some much healthy alternatives you can have on hand. Not to mention, you won't possess the aromatic essence of high fructose corn syrup. Here are a few of my favorite convenience foods:

  1. Quest Bars- These bars are low carb, high protein, high fiber, gluten free, all natural, and contain right around 200 calories each. Really, you have no excuse for choosing any other snack- so step away from that donut and put your hands where I can see them!
  2. Night-Before Smoothies- Like smoothies? Sure ya do. But, don't drop by the local smoothie shop on your way to class and spend $6 on a blend. Instead, put all the ingredients for your smoothie in the blender the night before and place it in the freezer (minus the milk or water). After you roll out of bed all you have to do is add milk or water and press blend...or grate...or pulse.
  3. Edamame- If you're a sushi lover (which you should be) then you're familiar with Edamame. Edamame are soy beans that can be enjoyed raw, boiled, or roasted. I know you might be thinking that soy beans sound disgusting, but I assure you they are quite tasty. They also pack a powerful nutrient profile. Personally, I like throwing a massive bag of frozen edamame into a boiling pot of water for about 5 minutes and lightly dusting them with sea salt. I portion them into individualized servings in sandwich bags. 

Strategy #3: Meal Share

Meal sharing is kind of like having a time share...except with food...and no beaches. But, there are books! Every week after our clinical sessions were over, my clinical conference group and I would meet to debrief about our week and learning experiences. Since these post-clinical conferences were anywhere from 4 to 6 hours long, we would get hungry mid-meeting. As part of a joint effort to battle stress and eat healthier, each member of my group took a turn supplying food for our conference session. The caveat? The recipe had to be healthy, sharable, and one we could easily teach each other to make. Now that's my style. 

NP students- do you have an healthy eating hacks to share?

 

As promised, here's my recipe for Egg Quiche Muffins (makes 12 muffins).

Ingredients: 

3 large whole eggs + 7 egg whites

2 pieces Jennie-O-turkey bacon

1/4 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup chopped bell peppers

1/4 cup chopped tomatoes

1/4 cup Kraft shredded reduced fat cheese

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Begin cooking turkey bacon on a non-stick pan. While waiting for the turkey bacon to cook, whisk the eggs and egg whites in a mixing bowl beating vigorously. Add a dash of salt and pepper.
  3. Chop cooked turkey bacon.
  4. Add chopped veggies, turkey bacon and cheese to the egg mixture.
  5. Spray a muffin tray with olive oil cooking spray. 
  6. Pour the egg mixture into each of the spaces in the muffin tin. Place in the oven for 12 to 16 minutes or until each muffin is firm. 

One serving (2 muffins): 100 calories, 5.4g fat, 2.4g carbohydrates, 10.8g protein

 

You Might Also Like: A Personal Trainer's Advice for Avoiding Nursing School Weight Gain 

 

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