Survival eating

by Christina on May 22, 2012

80-hour work weeks and lots of lonely night shifts explain my severe lack of recent blog activity — sorry! Only one more month of being an intern.

I recently got this email from my co-intern friends from Pediatrics, Patrick Peebles:

Dear Christina,

I need help!

I’ve been working a lot of nights this year and I always fall into the
trap of eating a lot of unhealthy food during these shifts.

The cafeterias are closed at night, so I have to rely on bringing in
food.  However, we get a short 10 hours off between shifts to go home,
sleep, shower and come back again.  It doesn’t leave much time to cook
good food.  I often end up eating prepackaged foods (energy bars) or
pizza from the late-night coffee shop.  I know that you work a lot of
nights too.  Do you have any suggestions for easy healthy foods to
pack at night??


(This is Patrick not in the hospital!)

He sent me some pictures of his recent night-food:

(photo credits for above food pictures, Patrick Peebles)

I wish I had a good answer, but I need help, too! The cafeteria isn’t open, sugary sweets and baked goods abound, and my body shifts into survival mode bringing on the sugar-fat-salt cravings.

After struggling through many night shifts this year as an intern, I’ve been trying to be more prepared:

My overnight snack bag is filled with food that’s 1) easy to buy or quick to make, 2) relatively healthy, and 3) falls under one of the following essential 3 categories:

1) Something fatty

Avocado, hard-boiled eggs, greek yogurt, and nut butters.

Celery & almond butter - this is the most vegetable I can get myself to eat overnight.

Greek yogurt (full fat), strawberries, chia seeds - best if mixed with oatmeal (see below).

Mixed with oatmeal.

2) Something sweet

Dark chocolate or no-cookie-cookies.

Vegan, gluten free, no refined sugar, chewy, and delicious.

Closer look

3) Something salty

Salted rice cakes or my favorite bags of chips:

But no matter how prepared, I still end up eating the leftover pizza or pastries lying around in the middle of the night. Help! Is it just a matter of discipline?

Anyone have survival-mode food tips?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Palmer May 23, 2012 at 1:05 am

Is it possible to build a medical career around the role of nutrition in causing/inhibiting disease? It seems to me to be an idea whose time has come. More and more peer-reviewed studies show that a healthy diet can make a huge difference in patients’ lives. How many lives would be improved, even saved, if cruciferous vegetables replace greasy cheeseburgers? Or do doctors just want to continue cutting us open and feeding us expensive and powerful drugs?


Liska June 3, 2012 at 3:21 pm

I’m not stuck working overnights, but I am usually away from home for 12-15 hour stretches during the week. I survive on Sunday afternoon prep – putting together lots of grab-and-go options at once. Lunch is typically a grain + a legume + a veggie or two, topped with dressing or hummus. As long as you don’t overdo the water, you can cook rice, quinoa, lentils, or beans days in advance.

I’ve come to terms with paying a little more for pre-washed snap peas, baby spinach, green beans, etc – if it’s the difference between eating veggies and eating junk, go for it!

Hummus and dressings I pack in single-serving containers – a half dozen at a time, so I always have one ready to go. One easy dressing that tastes good on just about anything is to mix miso and peanut butter in a 1:2 ratio, add water to thin it out, maybe spice it up with some fresh ginger if you have a chance. Goes great with salads, cooked or fresh veggies, rice, lentils, tofu… you name it!

Good luck!


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: