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The Dangers of Prepackaged Food in Nursing

The Dangers of Prepackaged Food in Nursing

Marijke Durning | Scrubs Magazine

February 16, 2011

Changing to a healthier diet

Kim cut out a lot of prepackaged foods from her diet after she had her children, who are now seven and nine years old. She knew that the foods weren’t the healthiest choice even back then, but she still finds it hard to avoid them from time to time. She says that snack stuff and granola bars are the worst culprits for her. “There are nights where one gets a bit lazy and craves less healthy foods,” she says. She is also constantly surrounded by other nurses who are warming up their prepackaged dinners.

Beth tried to improve her eating habits by switching to steamable Lean Cuisine products that seem to be a healthier meal option. The healthier steamed option with 300 calories makes her feel as if she is making the right choice, given her options.

Telling the good from the bad

Despite the dire warnings, not all prepackaged foods are terrible, and sometimes life puts us in situations where we have to take advantage of their convenience. This is where we need to be vigilant and read labels. Reyna Franco, MS, RD, CDN, CPT, a nutrition and exercise consultant in New York City, says there are some acceptable prepackaged alternatives. “There are some prepackaged foods that are healthy and energizing, compared to the majority that contain trans fats, added sugar and sodium,” she says. Nurses need to become consistent and knowledgeable label readers. “I am a label reader,” Kim says. “I’m big on low fat, high fiber, low sodium and low sugar.”

Franco has some label-reading tips:

• Look for sodium content of less than 200 mg.
• Ensure there are no partially hydrogenated fats (these are the trans fats).
• Ensure the first two ingredients are not sugar, honey, molasses, fructose or any other form of sweetener.

Dr. Wald also points out that the frozen foods from the popular weight-loss programs often can be healthier than other prepackaged options. However, they shouldn’t be a mainstay of your diet.

How to eat a healthier diet

• Stay away from the vending machines! Unless you work in one of the more “enlightened” hospitals, vending machines almost always contain very processed and unhealthy foods.
• If you’re buying prepackaged foods, look for part skim milk cheese, nonfat or low-fat yogurt or applesauce.
• Bring food from home, such as sandwiches made on whole-wheat bread, vegetable sticks and nuts.
• Drink water.


We don’t have to go through life denying ourselves little pleasures. Unless you have an illness that contraindicates eating any processed foods or foods high in sugar, for example, it’s probably okay to splurge and enjoy a forbidden treat every so often. The key is moderation. That’s all.

Any more tips for hungry but busy nurses?

Next: How to Become a Healthier Nurse >>

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