How to eat well on shift work
Many of us work long hours or shifts, and find it very hard to keep healthy and regular eating patterns.
We know that working irregular hours disrupts the body’s natural body-clock, may affect eating patterns and have a negative effect on health, putting shift workers at a higher risk for weight gain and chronic disease.
With that in mind we prepared six tips to help you stay healthy while working irregular or shift hours.
1. Plan your meals
If you’re working nights aim to have your main meal before you go to work. This will keep you feeling full while at work and prevent you snacking throughout your shift. If you’re going to sleep when you get home, just have a small meal after your shift as it can be hard to sleep on a full stomach.
2. Prepare your meals in advance
Preparing your meals on your day off means you can have healthy options within reach. Invest in lunchboxes for easy storage and transport.
I just skip lunch and just have a coffee and a bit of toast, and then I’d be starving by the time I get home but inevitably you’re tired. I’d just get a Chinese or something on the way back.”
3. Make the freezer your friend
Cook items in bulk and freeze extra portions for healthy meals when you don’t have time to prepare anything. Dinners such as shepherd’s pie, lasagne, chicken casserole, beef casserole and spaghetti Bolognaise can be made in bulk and frozen, ready to reheat when you are busy.
Your routine is completely gone and you’re not on night duty for long enough to adjust in one way… so you tend to not eat very well”
4. Bring your own snack
Reduce temptation to turn to vending machines and snacks high in sugar and fat by bringing your own snacks to keep your energy up. Snacks such as fruit, vegetable sticks and hummus, yoghurts and rice cakes are full of healthy nutrients. Choose high-fibre carbohydrate sources such as wholegrain breads and pastas. High-fibre carbohydrates release their energy slower, keeping you feeling fuller for longer during your shift.
When I go home from shift work I'm too tired I wouldn't be bothered cooking. So I just go to the supermarket on the way home and get a roll or chicken wrap or something.”
5. Keep hydrated
Bring a bottle of water to work and keep it at your work station. You can infuse water with fruit for more flavour without the calories.
6. Moderate caffeine intake
It may seem like a great idea, having caffeine to keep your energy up throughout your shift but it will disturb your sleeping pattern further.
I often don’t eat breakfast. Just dinner, that’s the main kind of, the whole day. The one main meal a day and then snacks in between… coffee.”
Planning and prepping are they keys to success, says Shane
Making time for regular meals, and eating better food has really lifted Lorraine's spirits.
Quotes above were taken from our 2016 Managing food on shift work report.