Although there are many benefits of nursing, you’re probably no stranger to long shifts. After working hours on end with little time for meal breaks, you’ll begin to feel the effects of hunger fairly quickly. When paired with the physical labor nursing requires, this hunger can lead to sluggishness, headaches, and lightheadedness.

If you are wondering how to prepare for a night shift? One of the first rules is avoiding getting “hangry” on the job. It’s important for nurses to keep a few satisfying, nutritious snacks in their toolbox each day. If you’re looking for inspiration, read on for the top 5 nursing snacks to help you stay energized throughout a long shift!

#1 Protein Bars

Everyone needs protein—but especially individuals who work physically demanding jobs. Proper protein intake can help build muscles, keep hunger at bay, and provide the long-lasting energy that nurses need. Nutritionists say that the average person should get about 10%-35% of their daily calories from protein,1 but this can be hard when you’re eating on-the-go. 

Common protein sources include meat, fish, and boiled eggs, but few snacks tend to have adequate amounts of these protein-rich foods. That’s why we recommend bringing protein bars to your long nursing shifts.

A protein bar is a great snack and is easy to eat, takes up little space in your bag, and requires no reheating or preparation. This trifecta of convenience—along with ample amounts of macronutrients—make protein bars the perfect pick-me-up for hard working nurses. 

#2 Fresh Fruit and Veggies

Are you looking for a healthy snack idea for that long shift? In addition to protein, it’s also important to have fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.  In fact, the USDA recommends eating between five to nine servings of fresh vegetables and fruits per day.2

Meanwhile a smoothie packed with these nutritious foods may seem like the perfect solution—blending your fruits and vegetables can actually hinder their beneficial properties. According to the NHS, fresh fruit juice and smoothies only count toward one serving of fruits and vegetables per day.3

So, how does a busy nurse stay up to date on this essential food group? By packing fruits and veggies that are easy to transport in their lunch box. Opt for fruits with sturdy peels that will stay fresh throughout a long shift, like clementines and bananas. You can also opt to have salads made of avocado, sweet potato, and add in some chia seed for a twist. As for veggies, baby carrots, celery sticks, and broccoli are some great options that pair nicely with sealed packages of dips—like ranch or hummus. 

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#3 Yogurt

Yogurt is an easy, portable healthy snack that packs a big nutrient punch. Rich in calcium, protein, and live cultures to help aid digestion, there are plenty of health benefits to eating yogurt daily.

Yogurt is also great for a night shift nurse because it’s already packaged into single-use portions. All you have to do is toss one in your bag, find a spoon, and you’re ready to go! Yogurt or Greek yogurt can be enjoyed on its own, or with additional toppings for maximum satisfaction. Crushed granola bar and fruit are two popular options many nurses use to turn their single-serving yogurt or greek yogurt into the heartier snacks for nurses.

#4 String Cheese

Another great source of protein, snacking on mozzarella cheese, is a quick way to boost energy and satisfy hunger during a busy shift.

Packaged, single-serving string cheese will work best for nurses on the job. One stick provides about 6 grams of protein—or 12% of your daily recommended value. String cheese also contains about the same amount of fat, which is another necessary macronutrient that adults should consume in moderate amounts. 

Pair your string cheese with some healthy nuts or tree nuts, like the peanut, almond, cashew, or even a crushed granola bar for a delicious flavor combination and an even bigger protein serving!

#5 Dark Chocolate

During a stressful day at work, a sweet treat can help boost your mood, energy levels, and give you something to look forward to during your next break. For a sweet treat that packs some health benefits, we recommend eating dark chocolate chips or a few squares of dark chocolate.

Unlike milk chocolate, dark chocolate contains fewer sugars and calories, meaning you’re less likely to experience a sugar high (and subsequent crash) after consuming it. Dark chocolate also contains higher levels of caffeine due to its increased cacao content, which helps this treat double as a pick-me-up. Chocolate also sports moderate amounts of tyrosine—a chemical that the body converts into dopamine.4 So, according to science, chocolate really can turn a bad day into a good one. 

Find Your Next Nursing Job with Host Healthcare

Snacks can help quite a bit, but the food you eat can only do so much when you’re in a rut. Here at Host Healthcare, we understand that many nurses crave change and adventure from their career. That’s where we come in. 

Host Healthcare is one of the top travel nurse recruiters in the nation. Our experienced recruiters help nurses find new job assignments across the globe. As a traveling healthcare professional, you’ll receive high-paying, short-term assignments every few months—so you’ll never have to worry about being stuck in one place. 

The process is easy: apply to be a traveling healthcare professional on our website, wait for approval, and start seeing the world with each assignment. Get started on your new journey today with Host Healthcare!


  1. WebMD. Protein: Why Your Body Needs It. 
  2. CBS News. For a Longer Life, Researchers Say Eat This Many Fruits and Veggies Per Day. 
  3.  NHS. 5 A Day FAQs. 
  4.  Nurse Buff. 7 Super Snacks for Night Shift Nurses.