Healthy Food Choices For Your Busy Travel Nurse Shift

Medical Staffing Options

Being a travel nurse is exciting and often comes with perks like room and board payments and traveling to new places. Most nurses have a travel nurse agency, like Medical Staffing Options, and work with a travel agency recruiter that does most of the work for them like finding the job, lining up the schedule, and even finding, obtaining, and paying for housing. Travel nursing has many perks including flexibility of scheduling, more time off between assignments, and the ability to travel the world. However, it also can be difficult to be living out of a suitcase and far away from family. One thing that is often difficult is making healthy choices when it comes to eating. 

What is travel nursing

Travel nurses are registered nurses that work for short periods of time in temporary contracts in a variety of locations, such as hospitals and outpatient clinics. These nurses are usually employed by a travel agency that helps healthcare organizations fill gaps in employment with the most common contract length being 12-13 weeks long. 


During COVID, travel nurses have become essential all over the world as the rates of infection rise and fall in different countries at different times. This has made travel nurses an invaluable resource in the healthcare community. 

The normal diet at home of a busy travel nurse 

Being a travel nurse usually means living in a temporary apartment or even a hotel in an area you’re not familiar with.Sometimes it means there is no access to a full kitchen. This can really inhibit your ability to make healthy meals


Travel nurses often eat out for most meals and when they do eat at home, it’s a frozen meal they can heat up quickly after a long shift. This usually isn’t as healthy as making fresh meals for yourself at home. 

The normal diet during a shift of a busy travel nurse

Every nurse has shifts that are so busy you don’t get to go to the bathroom, let alone eat. For the majority of the shifts, you do get time to eat something. For these shifts, it’s important to have healthy options available so you don’t feel compelled to visit the cafeteria or the vending machine. 


Travel nurses are especially vulnerable to falling into unhealthy eating habits with fewer routines in place, whether it’s with grocery stores they’re unfamiliar with or lacking access to an actual kitchen for meal preparation. This can lead to a lot of cafeteria trips for that greasy, but delicious pizza, or to the vending machine for candy and cookies.

5 Tips To Healthy Eating While On Your Travel Nurse Assignment

While it can be challenging to eat healthy while on a travel assignment, it’s not impossible. Here are a few tips to help: 


  1. Try not to eat out for every meal. Keep your fridge and your lunch bag full of healthy options so that when you get hungry, you have something immediately available. 


  1. If you are going to eat out, look up restaurants ahead of time. Whether this is prior to starting the assignment, or just the start of every week so that you have healthy restaurants picked out instead of going to the closest fast food drive thru. 


  1. Track your food. This can be hard to fit in every day, but apps MyFitnessPal or Fitbit can help you see the health facts of what you eat. When you understand your habits better, it’s easier to make healthy adjustments. 


  1. Request a fridge in your apartment or hotel. Most of the time, travel agencies will accommodate this if it’s not already there. Having a fridge to store healthy snacks, leftovers, and meals makes it easier to make healthy choices. 


  1. Meal prep. Making your breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners ahead of time can really prevent those last minute fast food choices. Take one day a week to plan and prep your meals so that you can break down the decision fatigue throughout the week.


Being a travel nurse can be exciting, but also challenging in areas of daily life and physical health. Take back control of your diet with these simple steps to improve your health, while continuing your exciting career and travel the world.



Alison Shely, DNP, FNP-C

Alison Shely is a nurse practitioner, nurse coach, and nurse content writer who specializes in articles, guest blogger, and healthcare worker wellness. She has been in nursing since 2014, working in intensive care, women’s health, and primary care as a registered nurse and family nurse practitioner. She has written for a variety of publications including Rncareers.org and is also the winner of the 2020 Shift Report writing contest for Next Level Nursing. Her specialty topics include mental health, health and wellness, yoga philosophy and practice, and community health. She also serves as a health coach and mentor to other nurses and healthcare workers concerning healthy lifestyles and mental health.

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