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Ideas for food loving doctors and residents


EmilyG
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Hi All.

I'm starting my 3rd year of medical school in a few days, and near the top of my list of fears and apprehensions is... what am I going to eat during those 24 hour shifts?

I have a locker, but I don't know whether I'll be able to visit it regularly, so I need to prepare an arsenal of snacks that I can tuck into my pocket between my reflex hammer and my PDA. Any ideas other than trail mix and energy bars?

What about snacks of other sizes that can stay in my locker for the long haul?

Thanks in advance for your help.

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They give you time to eat nowadays? :raz::laugh:

Seriously, trail mix is one of your better bets as are fruit such as apples and oranges that can be washed and peeled. Beware of treats like chocolate that can melt and leave a mess. That might be better off in a backpack than in your white coat pocket. Little bits of cheese in a wrapper can come in handy. Don't forget your little bottle of Purell though if you are going to be snacking while in clinical situations.

Good luck!

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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Oh god, I remember those days. Of course these days you get to go home the morning after call, we got to finish the day first.

I had to lose 50 lbs after my residency. When you are totally bagged, only the greasiest food will do.

I used to make a whole bunch of fajitas with grilled meat and veg, a bit of cheese, some sour cream and then freeze them. I'd take a cooler bag along to put in the locker. There is always a microwave around to warm things up. I'd cook batches of stuff on the weekend and freeze it in containers, soups, stews, bean dishes. They would be approaching thawed by the time I was ready to eat and would keep the rest of the stuff in the cooler bag cool. Instant noodles worked rather well on occasion too.

Things baked in a bread wrapper like calzone or pyrizhky pack well (and generally freeze well too).

I recall I used to make some rather good homemade granola bars that would fit well in a pocket. Of course I used to do a lot of baking and take it along to work, so there was always that to snack on too.

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I highly recommend the chocolate flavored South Beach Protein Bars - they fit in the pocket, you don't need access to water to wash hands (just carefully peel back the wrapper - Purell is all good, but what about places where C. dif runs rampant?) and they don't have that typical this-is-going-to-sit-in-my-stomach-for-days feel that protein bars typically do (at least for me). I feel your pain - I've tried to come up with more creative solutions but ultimately, this is the easiest and most portable. Don't count on easy access to a locker or a microwave.

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Wow...they give MS3's lockers? I never rated a locker as a student. :angry: I agree with everyone above...fruit leather, nuts, granola bars, dried fruit in general, and would add in bottled water to bring in your backpack (with some of those drink mixes...Capri Sun now has an electrolyte mix for bottled water...I'm not a fan of soda). Purell? Probably don't have to bring your own. They probably have big bottles of the hand gel on every ward (if not in every pt room) at the hospital (and possibly in the clinics). But, I much prefer actually washing my hands before eating anything!! (actually that's our workplace policy too). Bring a small tube of hand lotion...your hands will need it after all the handwashing!!!!

When you're on-call, it's very important to procure food before the cafeteria closes (unless you're lucky enough to be near some places that deliver to the hospital). As long as you have the food, you can always eat later that night. (Hopefully it'll be sometime before midnight...not to say that I haven't eaten dinner at around 23:00 to 00:00 before :hmmm: ) Sometimes you get too busy to get to the caf before it closes. In my residency, there was a Thai place that would deliver to the hospital up to 02:00. (good and cheap! :biggrin: ) Some hospitals provide meals to students on-call, some don't. (at least in the past, the VA hospitals would be pretty good about feeding students...but the food was pretty awful). Ask the residents on your first day of the rotation, if you're really that concerned.

Do you know anyone in the class above you? You can ask them also about whether you have time to get to your locker or not. Probably would be dependent on what rotation you're on, no? Do the residents (or nursing staff) have a lounge/kitchen on the floor? If they do, you could even potentially store food from home in the fridge. If you do bring a backpack, find out where you can store it. Things of value can go missing if you store it in a very public place.

Good luck on your 3rd yr!

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I'd suggest you head over to a Whole Foods or other supermarket that has a large selection of natural foods and wander the snack-food aisles. You'll find that the organic and natural foods industries have been hard at work designing exactly the sort of individually wrapped, highly concentrated energy foods that you need in such a situation. The main reason I'm familiar with these items is that we have a toddler, and this is the stuff we keep on hand for whenever we need to take him out for a few hours: individual portions of tasty, relatively nutritious foods that don't require refrigeration, cooking or anything else.

Here are a few of the things we've been getting:

- Apple sauce and variants. There are dozens of choices here. The benchmark are the Earth's Best Organic Apple Sauce Cups. They come in a six pack of 4oz cups and are delicious. You can eat them quickly, and they provide a nice energy boost for only 50 calories. There are also all sorts of variants, like Santa Cruz Organic Apple Blackberry.

- Cheddar crackers. There are several companies making high-quality cheddar crackers (like Cheeze-Its but better) in boxes of eight one-ounce bags.

- Pretzels. Again, there are plenty of good pretzel choices that come in packs of small bags.

- Shelf-stable milk. Parmalat makes something called Lil' Milk. These are three-packs of 8-ounce boxes of milk in several permutations (regular, chocolate, various percentages of fat).

- Of course, once you have your shelf-stable milk, you're all set to utilize individual cereal packs. There are many, many options here. At the most convenient end of the spectrum, there are the packages that are actual plastic bowls with peel-back lids. You eat right out of them, so all you need is a plastic spoon. For a broader range, you can get whatever cereal you like and pack it in pint-size deli containers, which do nicely as cereal bowls.

Depending on how liberal you want to be about refrigeration, you can also go with:

- Individual servings of yogurt. Me, I wouldn't hesitate to let yogurt go unrefrigerated for a 24-hour shift. If you don't eat it, throw it out. There's very little expense involved. If you haven't checked out the yogurt products available these days, they're quite good. Total Greek Yogurt, for example, is terrific and comes in individual packs in various levels of fat.

- Cheese. Those Mini BabyBel cheeses aren't the greatest cheeses in the world, but they're "100% all natural" and the individual wax wrappers make them pretty stable.

- The frozen bread trick. If you make a cheese sandwich, peanut butter sandwich, etc., on frozen bread it will last a good many hours in your locker. You just buy a loaf of good-quality sliced sandwich bread, freeze it, make your sandwich on the frozen bread, wrap first in foil (to maintain the shape) then in a zipper baggie (airtight and an odor barrier).

Also, be sure to equip yourself. Your locker should have in it all the various condiments, utensils and other items that you need. If there's a 24-hour rec-room-type area with plastic utensils and napkins, that's great, but if not you should keep all that stuff on hand. Just start accumulating it from various fast-food restaurants: straws, napkins, forks, spoons, knives, salt packets, sweeteners, ketchup, etc.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If you were training "back in the days of the giants" before the limitations on hours spent in the hospital and other lifestyle improvements for students and house officers, I would have advised you to buy bigger clothes. All students but the most metabolically active gained weight starting as juniors. I was a lean, mean, 24 year old fighting machine when I started the 3rd year and gained about 15 pounds over the next 6 years. You work long hours so you have little time and little energy for exercise and, with call, you usually end up eating an extra meal around 2 AM or so if you can get 10 minutes to do so.

Now, with the relative wussification of medical training, I think your only problem is going to be getting hungry in the middle of the night while on call. If you train at a heavy duty place such as Hopkins or Wash U, you should be busy enough that there's not much time to get a real meal so a granola bar or something will have to do. If you train at a west coast cush place, you'll probably find more time to spend in the cafeteria.

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Laughing Cow cheese, string cheese, hummus, peanut butter, pretzels, whole grain crackers, wasa crisps, apple slices, carrot sticks, all in any combination together to get some fiber and protein. I personally have no issues with keeping any of the above at room temp for 24 hours.

I buy the very small gladware containers for the hummus and peanut butter and throw those in my purse. Sunday is my "baggie" day of putting my snacks into individual serving size bags or little gladware containers so that I can easily throw them in my purse at the last minute or keep a stash of them in my desk drawer.

... and I forgot to mention nuts!! Nuts are king for a high protein portable snack, along with the trail mixes that other folks have mentioned here. Sometimes it's hard for me to find trail mix that doesn't have a lot of crap in it too (like M&M's), but they're out there.

Edited by viva (log)

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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All students but the most metabolically active gained weight starting as juniors.

The other exception is that the ones who are already fat often lose weight. I've seen this with several of my New York doctor acquaintances.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Here's my usual arsenal of easily portable snackage that can handle being toted around in a pocket.

Beef jerky

small snack sized bags of those baby carrot things

fruit leather

freeze dried fruit slices

pepitas or sunflower seeds (sans shells in your case)

snack sized bags of pretzels

shelled edamame in a baggie.

If you don't mind "kids foods", you could get those Yoplait GoGurt type things (I've seen organic versions too), freeze them overnight, and they'd be okay in your pocket for a while.

Cheryl

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Come to think of it, as a medical student/house officer/attending, you should not carry food around in your pockets.

It is unprofessional.

Unless you have a legitimate medical condition that necessitates eating at regular intervals, you should not carry food in your coat.

Just my opinion.

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I think it's unprofessional to carry around a cheeseburger, and entirely professional to carry around a granola bar. In between those extremes, I suppose one has to use one's judgment.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I remember when my mother was in the hospital, there was a resident who used to come around with the doctor. She carried a backpack and in it she always had things like granola bars, ziplock bags of cheese, breadsticks and other assorted easily portable foods that seemed relatively healthy. She never ate in front of the patients, but I got to know her quite well, and she would dart into the nearest staff room to nosh in between rounds.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Come to think of it, as a medical student/house officer/attending, you should not carry food around in your pockets.

It is unprofessional. 

Unless you have a legitimate medical condition that necessitates eating at regular intervals, you should not carry food in your coat.

Just my opinion.

Of course if you are in the OR and pass out and break the field, the surgeons might throw things at you.

I'd carry a protein bar - as long as you're not eating it in front of the patients (especially if they're NPO) you'll be OK.

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Come to think of it, as a medical student/house officer/attending, you should not carry food around in your pockets.

It is unprofessional. 

Unless you have a legitimate medical condition that necessitates eating at regular intervals, you should not carry food in your coat.

Just my opinion.

Of course if you are in the OR and pass out and break the field, the surgeons might throw things at you.

I'd carry a protein bar - as long as you're not eating it in front of the patients (especially if they're NPO) you'll be OK.

That's why it's really important to at least eat a good breakfast in the AM before scrubbing in. Surgical services tend to round really early in the AM, so try and prep a breakfast at home the night before, so that you'll have something in your system. No one likes a "man down" in the OR. If you feel woozy, it's time to scrub out.

As for carrying things in the pocket...depends on how many pockets you have, and the size of them! :biggrin: I mean, you don't want your pockets overflowing with stuff. (consider a fanny pack?). I agree...a ziploc of food in your coat that's visible, isn't very professional. Definitely do not eat in patient care areas (not professional, not very hygenic, and I think it might be a JCAHO violation IIRC).

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In addition to the other things mentioned, I'm a fan of having some very small candy bars and/or an extremely good-quality bittersweet chocolate bar around. Every now and then I've just got to have some chocolate. Currently I'm in possession of a Dagoba bittersweet bar, but my preference is Lindt. Just one or two squares, for me, is the equivalent of a slice of cake or bowl of ice cream. But it has to be really good chocolate. :smile:

I also like getting on the Amazon website and ordering A's do Mar tuna, at a little over $3.50 a can. Expensive, yes, but a real treat, and an easy way to store some really high-quality food. (You may be able to find it locally; I have to order it. Taylor's market, thru Amazon, has about the best price I've found.)

Walnuts in baggies is another must-have for me. Use a Sharpie to put the date on the baggies, so that if you fish one out of the back of your locker sometime, you'll know how long it's been there.

Bananas are a great pick-me-up, but you have to keep an eye on them.

And if you have room and the inclination, some really good vinegar and good-quality olive oil, with a small container to shake it up in, can transform a sad-looking salad into something palatable. If you can find small packets of Dijon mustard to store with it. . .and a pepper grinder. . .and a small container of sea salt. . .maybe some fresh dried herbs. . .well, then you have the makings of a feast. Those little single-serving wine bottles, after you've used the wine in a soup or sauce at home, are great for storing vinegar and oil at work. Put it all in a plastic box together, and your salad kit moves quickly between the locker and the cafeteria.

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Thanks everyone for all the great suggestions!

I never intended to carry around a Thanksgiving dinner in my pockets, just a couple of small things to snack on (hence the thread title).

Keeping condiments in my locker is a fantastic idea. I'm on vacation in San Francisco right now and I've been swiping jams and jellies from the breakfast table, and little ketchups and mustards from discarded room service trays. Is rummaging through other peoples' trash unprofessional too? Gosh, I hope not.

I even found organic beef jerky at the Ferry Building. That's definitely going into the locker.

Room temperature dairy products gross me out a little, so thanks for the tip on freezing the go-gurt. Apple sauce cups sound great. I'm definitely going hunting in the Whole Foods snack section when I get home.

Thanks for all of your support!

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I think, in addition to specific foods, there's some strategic advice to be offered here.

The med-student scenario echoes a number of others where the combination of high stress, limited time, unpredictability, too many conflicting priorities and inability to access a home kitchen can combine to create terrible eating habits. In all those situations, whether you're a business traveler, a busy young professional or a cop on the beat, the decisions you make hour-to-hour, day-to-day and month-to-month will cumulatively determine how well you eat.

For example, if you maintain your intake of the foods you've chosen, grazing in a relatively controlled manner so that you don't ever become excessively hungry, you'll be much better equipped to resist the crap from the vending machines and bodegas. I'm sure there's other advice that can help, but what do I know -- I'm like a million pounds overweight as it is.

Emily, I hope you'll keep us posted on your culinary adventures, or lack thereof. Even just keeping the dialog open might be helpful in terms of maintaining the focus and not slipping into bad habits.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In med school I lived on coffee and chips.

Residency is much worse. Your best friend will be Pepcid AC.

Good luck!

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." ~Winston Churchill

Morels- God's gift to the unworthy human species

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Hi All.

I'm starting my 3rd year of medical school in a few days, and near the top of my list of fears and apprehensions is... what am I going to eat during those 24 hour shifts?

No offense, but this is what bothered me about this post. When I started the junior year and my PGY1 year (more responsibility-don't need a cosignature), the priority of my concerns was more like this:

1. Geez, I hope I don't goof up and hurt someone.

2. How do I manage my school/work responsiblities against other responsibilities?

3. Have I adequately prepared myself for this?

4. How do I better prepare myself for the physical and mental rigors of the clinical years?

5. God, please don't let me goof up and hurt someone.

I was a foodie then but worrying about what I was going to eat on call did not even appear on the list.

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For all we know, food was her number 6 concern, but since we're in a food discussion forum it's the only one relevant here . . .

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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For all we know, food was her number 6 concern, but since we're in a food discussion forum it's the only one relevant here . . .

Fat guy - that is what I assumed as well. I am pretty damn sure that EmilyG has many more "validated by some" concerns at the top of her list...but why would she bother listing those here? She wouldn't!

I suppose EmilyG would sign on to a website that discusses 'Efforts in Keeping Patients Alive' and follow the links to the "God I hope I don't kill one of my helpless patients" forum and post those types of concerns there....

HAHA

Back to the TOPIC of THIS post...

Emily, let's see...healthyish compact foods that are easy to prepare/unwrap:

Fiberone bars...they are the size of a granola bar but even better...no joke. 9 Grams of fiber will help keep you full and energized. They are about 150 cals a pop with 4 fat grams or so I believe. They come in three flavors I believe (peanutbutter something, chocolate chip, and oatmeal raison something-an-other. Not bad at all.

I eat baby carrots or normal carrots (peeled and cut up) with laughing cow light cheese wedges - delish when I want to eat my veggies which I usually don't like to take the time to prepare...so these are a huge help for me.

Everyone else already mentioned my other ideas :)

Hard boiled eggs? No nevermind...in a locker those could really create a smelly issue, and I am sure you wouldnt be the first to make any new friends that way either :)

"One Hundred Years From Now It Will Not Matter What My Bank Account Was, What Kind of House I lived in, or What Kind of Car I Drove, But the World May Be A Better Place Because I Was Important in the Life of A Child."

LIFES PHILOSOPHY: Love, Live, Laugh

hmmm - as it appears if you are eating good food with the ones you love you will be living life to its fullest, surely laughing and smiling throughout!!!

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No offense, but this is what bothered me about this post.  When I started the junior year and my PGY1 year (more responsibility-don't need a cosignature), the priority of my concerns was more like this:

1.  Geez, I hope I don't goof up and hurt someone.

2.  How do I manage my school/work responsiblities against other responsibilities?

3.  Have I adequately prepared myself for this?

4.  How do I better prepare myself for the physical and mental rigors of the clinical years?

5.  God, please don't let me goof up and hurt someone.

I was a foodie then but worrying about what I was going to eat on call did not even appear on the list.

wow...so i guess she should also be stressed about not being stressed in the right order, on egullet. damn, med school blows!

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