meal prep ideas for a 12 hour shift

If you’re a registered nurse or in healthcare, you may be familiar with working long 12-hour shifts. I’m sharing some of my favorite healthy meal prep and snack ideas.

Healthy Foods for your 12- hour Shift

I have worked as a bedside registered nurse for the last eight years. Before that worked as a nursing assistant for about four years, so I am familiar with long 12-hour shifts and night shifts. Working as a nurse, many families and friends always love to thank the healthcare staff for caring for their loved ones by bringing in food, snacks, and sweets! Which is always super generous; however, sometimes not the healthiest option, or when you have the sugar crash, start feeling fatigued and still have hours before your shift is over.

My number one piece of advice is to be Prepared

12-hour shifts in healthcare can be exhausting. It’s important to decide what meal prep to bring to work! And foods to keep on hand when wanting a healthy option to keep you energized through the long shift.

Meal prep ideas for registered nurses or those who work 3- 12 hour shifts a week, depending if you work them in a row or space them out a few days. These are some of my favorite meal options.

When planning, remember you want food that will not make you super sleepy, I know some of my friends prefer to have more snacks than one large meal, and you also don’t want to let yourself become hangry.


salads are a great stable to make, and you can personalize them to your liking! A few signatures could be

  • Tuna salad (I will say that you be careful if you bring fish or any food that can have a strong odor in the breakroom)
  • Chicken salad

Build a Salad:

  • Greens
    • Lettuce, spring mix, spinach, or kale
  • Chopped veggies
    • carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, celery, onions, mushrooms
  • Nuts & Seeds
    • pistachios, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts, chia seeds
  • Fruit
    • Dried cranberries, apricots, mango, or raisins
    • Fresh berries, apples, oranges, and cherries.
  • Extras:
    • Roasted Vegetables: (are great too)
      • Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, onions
    • Hard-boiled eggs
    • Avocado
    • Tofu
    • Edamame
    • Olives
    • Corn & salsa
  • Fresh Herbs
    • basil, mint, rosemary, parsley, sage, or cilantro.
  • Cheeses:
    • Soft: mozzarella, feta, goat, bleu, ricotta, or cottage cheese
    • Hard: best-shredded cheddar, gouda, or parmesan
  • Grains:
    • Brown rice, quinoa, barley
  • Legumes or Beans
    • Black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, soybeans, pinto beans


When considering salad dressing keep in mind that bottled dressings can have extra added sugar and sodium! You can make a few healthy salad dressing recipes from scratch with a few simple ingredients. But overall, be conscious of how much dressing you’re using and not drowning your salad.

Also, using oils and vinegar as a dressing is a healthier option.

Sandwiches or Wraps: another great option and can be personalized with any wrap or sandwich.

Consider eating a healthy sandwich that includes the following:

  • A lean protein
    • Chicken
    • Turkey
    • Fish
  • Bread/ Wrap
    • Multigrain
    • Whole wheat
    • High fiber
  • Spread: 
    • Mayo
    • Oils
    • Mustard
    • Salad dressing
    • Hummus
  • Vegetables/ Fruits
    • Cucumber
    • Tomatoes
    • Lettuce
    • Pickles
    • Onions
    • Berries
    • Apples


I find that eating a salad or sandwich is an excellent choice for me and helps me feel my best! But let’s be honest, and I can’t always prep for that! So if I am in a pinch and need something! I will keep some frozen meals on hand if I’m running late, it’s not my first choice, but it beats an overpriced lunch in the cafeteria.  BUT a frozen meal is sometimes my go-to>> and convenient i usually love AMY’s frozen meals!
if I’m ordering out, the chipotle chicken bowl or salads are full of vegetables and healthy brown rice with lots of flavors! 

Also, the Waba grill menu has some great healthy options, including bowls, salads, adding in extra vegetables, and a protein source.

Again Chiptole and Waba Grill may be considered fast food.
if i pick the right options, rice/starch, veggies, & protein, I don’t think it will give you the FAST food hangover or the super sleepy feeling…

Suppose i am an overachiever and PREP for the week

Meal prep ideas: 

i typically like to do white (basmati) rice, veggies (stir fry), and chicken (i know im pretty boring). It’s just a standard, and i don’t really mind eating the same thing often. (honestly) 


I try to add more fruits or pre-packaged trail mix in my bag as different sides!

I love fruit! Try always to pack grapes, berries, apples, oranges, etc. or fruity snacks! the smart sweets are so yummy!  of course, I always have coffee and water with me! ( to survive) 

Some great snacks and meal ideas to have on hand include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Fruits
    • Apple, Bananas, Berries, Grapes, Oranges, Kiwis,
  • Nut Butter
  • String cheese
  • Popcorn
  • Ranch dressing and veggies
  • Hummus

Being a nurse might not have time to sit down and eat, and you don’t want your blood sugar level to drop, so these are my go-to’s when I only have 30 seconds to eat and help me stave off hunger.

To be honest I get a 45 min lunch! Which is amazing!!! But i always don’t wanna eat my fruit or veggies. I want to eat the chips or sweets in the break room, or go to the cafeteria and eat fries.

BUT honestly, when i eat fruits and vegetables… I FEEEL better? I mean no shocker there. So I try to pack “HEALTHY” snacks and sides. BUT yes, i always pack a piece of chocolate with me.

Ever since I was in school, my mother would always but a piece of chocolate in my lunch bag. My parents taught me the importance to not deprive myself. So I would always have a small amount of chocolate, and I still bring one to work as my little dessert.

One thing I think is essential to stress on…. something during work hours… i tend to STRESS eat…. and yeah, i could be so busy and not have time to sit down. BUT when I feel like I’ve had a horrible shift… or I’m upset with how my day went.. instead of eating healthy… I’m like, oh well…. im getting FRIES…

EAT what you brought first…. eat what you planned to eat that day for lunch … and YES, plan it…
If you’re still craving the fries and sweets after, then okay… Have a donut! BUT i think it’s important to plan something.. whether you’re bringing snacks to work for your 12 hour day or your packing your lunch!

Working over 12-13 hour days in healthcare! BRING snacks… and snack options

Let's be real...

don’t you feel better or more accomplished when you pack your snacks or bring healthy options!?! and eat them….
It may take time to create a habit! But i also HATE paying overpriced prices in the cafeteria or the vending machine for snacks. knowing i can get it so much cheaper on AMAZON.

I also think it’s vital to pack snacks!!! Always good to have options!

In addition, as i am very blessed to work somewhere where i get a 45-minute lunch break!!! so i do get time to eat!!

In California, all nurses must get a lunch break!!! It isn’t like this everywhere… (again SOO GRATEFUL) but since i have time to eat…. i want to be as mindful as i can!

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I’m Sara Lynne.

My day job is a nurse practitioner but in my free time, I love to share fashion, beauty, lifestyle, shopping, makeup, and more! 


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