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iEat with Vanessa Thornton

How the clinical head of emergency care at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital stays healthy during the holiday mayhem.

Vanessa Thornton
Dr Vanessa Thornton.

Dr Vanessa Thornton has been clinical head of emergency care at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital for five years. We wondered how she maintains her own health during the hospital’s “ridiculously busy” holiday period.

Is it usual for emergency department doctors to miss meal breaks on busy shifts? There are no timed meal breaks – you just squeeze one in when you can. We try to encourage at least one 20-minute break [per shift].

So how do the doctors maintain their energy levels? Do you find yourself eating muesli bars in the corridor at midnight? The cafeteria closes at 7pm – that’s when we start the fasting 2-5 diet: no eating until the next morning. There are always the dreaded [snack] machines, but most of the team bring their own food from home.

What’s your favourite childhood food memory? Eating ice cream in the sun at the beach.

My typical childhood summer holidays were spent … camping at the beach.

Is healthy eating a priority for you? Yes, absolutely.

My typical breakfast is … muesli with blue-top milk.

My go-to workday lunch is … typically nuts, crackers and cheese grabbed on the run.

My typical evening meal is … salad and steak.

How often do you snack and what foods do you snack on? I rarely snack, but if I do it’s crackers, dried fruit and nuts.

My favourite meal is … lamb, potatoes and salad.

What’s the biggest food-related issue in New Zealand? Too many sugary drinks and [large] portion sizes.


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