Pillars to Eating Well as a Pharmacist & Surviving Lunch hour at a Pharmacy

Pillars to Eating Well as a Pharmacist & Surviving Lunch hour at a Pharmacy

As students, every event is centered around free food…from study groups, organizational meetings, or whatever speaker provided the next free meal. If your school was anything like mine, most meetings consisted of pizza, and lots of it. Now that you are no longer a student, you’re “making that pharmacy money” you can afford to make healthier choices and choose to put better food in your body.

Now that you aren’t spending 10–15 hours a day at school, you can take back your life and most importantly your health!

It’s time to make your health a priority.

As you enter into this next phase of life, make a commitment to yourself and to your health. Focusing on improving your nutrition will not only make you feel better, provide more energy, but it will also set an example for your peers and patients. Afterall, you are a healthcare professional. You learned all the brand/ generics, you learned about drug interactions and maybe even some food-drug interactions. But one thing you most likely did not learn about- nutrition and wellness. Here are a few basics I’ve learned along the way.

1. Mindset is Everything

Do not allow yourself to fall into the “busy trap” or victim mindset- that you work in a crazy store with no time for a break. That kind of thinking is rubbish. Your body needs a break, no matter how mentally tough you think you are or how much your DM/manager, etc. might pressure you. Starting your very first day, make it a precedent that you will take a break. You have to take care of yourself first, your health and mental bandwidth. You can only verify so many prescriptions without taking a break or at least catching your breath. That being said- take care of yourself and don’t let a busy schedule be an excuse for you to eat garbage.

2. Never Skip Breakfast 

No, despite what you have been told growing up, there is no scientific evidence to support breakfast as being the most important meal of the day. BUT before stepping into a busy day in the pharmacy, you do want to make sure you have some food on your stomach.

Instead of following the traditional norm of rushing around in a whirlwind in the morning. Take a few minutes, collect your thoughts and fill your body with some nourishing foods. Make sure you stock up on a balanced breakfast consisting of fiber, protein and fats to keep you full. Here are some good examples below:

  • Eggs + Avocado & Salsa
  • Overnight oats (milk, chia/ flax seeds, fresh fruit)
  • Greek yogurt + almond butter

3. Always be prepared

By having snacks around the house, in your car, or at the pharmacy you always know you have something healthy to fall back on when you get a craving. Especially when you are running late, don’t have time to pack a meal etc. When I first started working, I found myself mindlessly eating or running out to the front of the store to grab a bag of chips or candy. Most of these decisions were made out of weakness becuase I failed to plan. Remeber keep it simple, and have small meals to eat throughout the day.

Here are some of my favorite snacks to keep around:


  • Protein Bar
  • Yogurt
  • Fruit (apples, bananas, blueberries, strawberries)
  • Old fashioned rolled oats
  • Hummus + veggies (carrots/celery)
  • Organic peanut/almond butter
  • Non-GMO Organic Popcorn
  • Healthy Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans

4. Batching/ Meal Prepping

You’ve most likely heard it, your friends might post about it on Instagram- now it’s time for you to execute- figure out what day works best for you, and meal prep for the week. This will make your life way easier in the long run and takes the mental bandwidth out of deciding what to eat everyday. Plus it will save you money and your body from eating fast food all the time. Focus your meal prepping around simple to prepare foods (crockpot chicken and veggies, soup, salad). Something that you can prepare in a short period of time and that will keep fresh throughout your work week.

5. Stay Hydrated


Always drink water. Everyday. You’ve probably heard the phrase “drink 8 8-ounce ccups of water a day.” This is easy to remember and a good general rule of thumb. The truth is, there isn’t an exact number you should drink on a daily basis but some sources recommend anywhere from 8–15 cups of water a day. Even when you are not thirsty, you should be continually drinking water to make sure your body is hydrated. You’re body cannot distinquish between your sense of thirst versus your sense of hungry. So next time you are hungry, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes to determine if your really are hungry or your body just craving some hydration.

The biggest key to focus on consuming more water rather than soda, energy drinks and other sugary drinks. Since hospital and retail pharamacists have demanding jobs, you will need a good go-to source for enegery- the best source? Real, fresh brewed coffee. We all know Dr. Waithe approves of this! Stay away from energy drinks such as Monster and Redbull since the are full of artificial chemicals and sweetners. Coffee provides a more pure and easy to process form of energy.

Take home message: Take Care of Yourself ! 

There is ALWAYS time for a lunch break, even in retail. Talk to your techs/ staff. Let them know you you are taking an uninterrupted break, even if it is just for 5 minutes. That time will allow you to collect your thoughts without the phone ringing, drive through beeping or something popping into the patient consultation window.

For all of you with hospital, industry, non traditional roles who get lunch breaks, hats off to you. Same principles still apply in regards to eating healthy, staying focused and keeping track of your nutrition. Just because you work in a hospital satellite office and never talk to a patient does not mean you should slack on your nutrition.

Develop healthy habits & Communities. Start a health challenge with your friends, family, techs, and even patients. Whether it’s a general weight loss, sugar detox, soda detox, bread detox, people love a challenge, they love having a community, people they can rely on and hold them accountable. It makes it fun when you are going through something with people you know and love. Don’t let people/ yourself feel like they are doing it alone. Develop a sense of community with your staff, patients and other healthcare providers. Leverage your visibility and time seeing patients.

Work with your staff to create a monthly pot luck. This breaks up the burden of doing all the cooking yourself and makes it fun. That way everyone has something to bring to the table and keeps you from potentially eating the same boring food everyday.

Promote physical activity.

Dr. Brandon Gerleman, PharmD, clinical community pharmacist with a focus on health and wellness at Montross Pharamcy is a great example of promoting physical activity in his community. Dr. Gerleman leads a community wide walk at noon. This is a great way to raise awareness and get people active throughout the day.

Here are a few more examples of activities to promote: 10,000 steps, push ups, laps around the building during lunch break. We should all aim to be like Dr. Gerleman and put the health back into healthcare.

— — — — — — — — — -

Other Ideas:

  1. Set goals/plan/ time your meals- by this I mean literally plan out what time and when you will eat your meals. Yogurt at 9, Apple at 11, lunch at 1, protein bar at 3. These milestones not only give you something to look forward to, they help break up the day and prevent your body from starving. All of these are easy to keep right next to your computer and most of them are very easy to eat.
  2. Other crazy ideas- if you work for an independent, work more rural- plant a community garden, that way you can have fresh fruits and vegetables around, give customers a chance to grow some of their own veggies
  • What about a chapter on Finance? Student loans? very simple financial principles- living within your means, not getting carried away with lifestyle creep- write it anyway.

Lastly…Setting a good example

we have been told time and time again in school- and most like brielf skimmed over when looking at guide lines. Diet and exercise are first line therapy. Ok next. But let’s turn the table, be examples for other healthcare professionals and our patients. Talk to them, engage with them and EMPOWER them to live healthy lives.

Is it ok to have a cheat day, mess up every now and then? Yes of course, we are not robots and not expected to eat perfect 100% of the time. The important thing is that we all set a good example. Imagine for a second you have a newly diagnosed diabetic T2DM coming in. You know how you should counsel them first and foremost on nutrion. Can you authentically and with a good conscience talk to them about that, if just a few minutes ago you slugged back an extra large cola, waffle fries and heart-attack burger? Better yet, image the patient sees you eating that or drinking a large sugary drink- they might think- well if my pharmacist does it, it must be ok.

Any time you slightly downplay or say “it’s not that bad” then patients are more likely to take that as a crutch and sometimes take it a step further. Wear your white coat proudly, be an example. Pharmacists have been trusted members of the community for decades. Keep that level of respect and allow your patients to talk to you about nutrition, eating healthy and maybe the idea of actually using lifestyle changes to reduce their medication burden (something most schools never teach about!) What’s more powerful is if you personally have struggled with a certain disease state (diabetes, hypertension, heartburn) and through lifestyle changes have overcome your condition. There is nothing more powerful or encouraging than a personal journey to health. I myself suffered from horrbile heartburn for years and was on a PPI for 5 or 6 years. I knew my heartburn was mostly related to poor diet and lack of exercise. After graduation from pharmacy scool, I decided to get serious about my health, I changed by diet dramatically and was able to stop taking my PPI almost immediate (without even following guidelines or step therapy!) So now when I counsel a patient coming to pick up medication for heartburn, I have a much better platform to talk with them about the importance of lifestyle changes, reducing the need for medication and unnecesarry risk from taking a PPI/ H2 blocker long term. Again this goes back to the point I made earlier about building trust with your patients. If they think, if my pharmacist can do it, maybe I can too!

You want to set an example for your patients- since pharmacists are ‘the most accessable healthcareproviders’ how great would it be if the average consumer came to us for health advice/ questions/ concerns!

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  • Ross Haymonds

    Thank you Dr. Tyler! As a pharmacist who just recently graduated, I want to make a difference for patients and for the health of our nation, I am so excited by your article. We can work together to make meaningful changes when we, pharmacists, are brought "off the bench" and included as a key part of the health care team.

  • Sarah Barden

    Good post !!!!

  • Luke Hardy

    Drinking plenty of water is definitely good but Is a lot easier said than done.

  • Gary Siddall

    Very important for pharmacists to eat healthy - without a clean diet it's very hard to be healthy - no matter how much you workout.

  • Jennifer Navarro

    Really great tips

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Tyler Dalton, PharmD

Pharma Expert

Dr. Tyler Dalton earned his Bachelors of Science from Auburn University in Biomedical Sciences prior to earning his Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD). Dr. Dalton focuses his efforts on improving clients lives through the power of nutrition and lifestyle changes. Dr. Dalton is a functional medicine pharmacist working to optimise patient medications and remove unnecessary medications from their daily routine. As many clinicians turn to a pill as the solution to most medical problems, recent medical literature has proven otherwise. Dr. Dalton provides a bridge between traditional medicine and the next generation approach to health and wellness. Dr. Dalton promotes living a balanced lifestyle through whole food nutrition, physical activity and lifestyle wellness. Dr. Dalton seeks to be your #1 destination for all of your medication, nutritional, and lifestyle questions and work with you on your journey of wellness.

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