If you’re one of the many people out there who do shift work or work at odd hours you may find that keeping a healthy diet is a bit of a challenge.
For many shift workers, it can become too easy to hit the vending machines or grab another cup of coffee to keep energy levels up during a shift. But what most people don’t realize is how working around the clock can affect their appetite, body weight, and overall health.
Research confirms that shift workers are more likely to develop heart disease, stroke and hypertension. Because of the work hours, shift workers also experience more sleep disorders which can influence their ability to maintain a healthy weight.
More often shift workers also complain of digestive problems, which is typically because they are eating larger meals late in the evening when their metabolism is naturally beginning to slow down. Fats, consequently, tend not to get cleared as efficiently out of the blood stream and blood sugar is more difficult to regulate.
So, if you are working an overnight shift how should you structure your meals? The most important thing to remember is to eat according to your shift and not the time of day!
So, if you are getting up at four in the afternoon to head off for a night shift, you should plan to eat breakfast when you wake up at four o’clock, and not ‘dinner.’
This is a common mistake that shift workers often make. They’ll get up, eat dinner, go to work, eat another large meal, and they’ll eat large meals throughout the entire day.
A better way of eating on an overnight shift would be to get up in the afternoon, eat a wholesome breakfast, a midsize meal on your first break, another midsize meal on your second break, and finally a small snack two to three hours before the end of your shift.
The same healthy eating rules otherwise still apply for both shift workers and non-shift workers.
Focus on eating small, low-fat meals and snacks throughout the entire day. This will not only give you more energy during a long shift but it will be much easier for you to digest your food.
Do’s and Don’ts for healthy eating on a night shift
Bring meals and snacks with you:
-Sandwiches with lean turkey or chicken breast, lettuce, tomato, etc.
– Bean soups (can help with constipation, which is a common problem with shift workers)
– Salads with chicken breast, beans, canned salmon
– Fresh fruit
– Low-fat yogurt
– Low-fat granola bars or energy bars
Drink plenty of fluids
(Men: 3 liters; women: 2 liters)
Eat high-fat foods like potato chips, chocolate bars, burgers, crackers, and other vending machine snacks. These foods are hard to digest and will make you feel more sluggish throughout a long shift.
Eat spicy foods. They are hard to digest late at night and can lead to indigestion or heartburn, two common problems. reported in shift workers.
Drink caffeine late at night. Avoid all types of caffeine four to six hours before the end of your shift as this can disrupt sleep.