07/22/2015 05:12 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

9 Secrets for Quick Snacks for When You Don't Have Time to Eat


ER doctors don't get lunch breaks (we don't get bathroom breaks either, but... well... another post, another day). Getting even a quick bite can feel like a cross between The Hunger Games and Survivor -- finding the time between patients and securing the last peanut butter and graham cracker is a challenge worthy of reality TV.

The same probably goes for your day -- finding time to eat (let alone something healthy) can seem impossible. But it's not -- plus, after working too many long (and hungry) ER shifts, I learned that WHAT you eat is crucial for operating at peak capacity. So, here's what I keep on hand.

Rule of Thumb: Measure out portion sizes. Snacks should be in the 150-250 calorie range per serving. If you're having these for a meal, stick to 350-500 calories.

If you have 30 minutes:

Roasted Chickpeas

Five-Bean Salad

If you have 10 minutes:

Make-Your-Own Trail Mix: Make it nutritious and make it fun. Nutritionist Marisa Moore, RD, suggests even throwing in pistachios and pumpkin seeds, since they're "full of protein, fiber, minerals, and healthy fats." I also like adding dried fruit (cherries, mangoes and blueberries for me) and some low-fat kettle corn popcorn.

Edamame with a pinch of sea salt: Buy edamame in the freezer section and microwave for just a couple of minutes.

Hummus and veggies: If you're in a pinch, you can buy hummus/pretzel combos, but I find adding veggies more filling.

Cheese and fruit: One wedge of cheese (think something portable), plus a piece of fruit.

If you have no time at all:

I stash these in my desk at work or in the refrigerator:

Peanut butter (I buy single-serving containers): Peanut butter is a great source of protein and perfect for spreading on a banana or cracker. (Or with a finger or spoon, when I'm desperate. Yes, I said it.)

Greek yogurt: Creamy Greek yogurt is filling and another great protein source. Sprinkle in nuts or fruits if you have them.

Salmon jerky: Moore also suggests this option, available at specialty grocery stores. I love it for a portable protein. Besides, I'm a die-hard beef jerky fan, so I was thrilled to have a nutritionist endorse jerky!

I'm not a fan of any weight-loss diet that truly "bans" anything, but there are a few foods I avoid if I need to keep up my energy. While I used to reach for a bag of candy midway through a shift, that post-candy crash an hour later was awful. Same for sweetened sodas or heavy carbs -- they just leave me needing a nap.

The busier you are, the more energy you need, and the more "you are what you eat" rings true. You need to be at tip-top performance, all day, every day -- so make sure that what you're putting into your body is ready to meet the challenge.

This content originally appeared on Check out more articles by Dr. Darria Long Gillespie:

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