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How to: Eat Well When You Work Night Shifts

Megan Dumas

If you’ve ever worked a night shift, you know that it can throw a huge wrench in your normal healthy routines! You’re coming home from work when others are getting off to bed or waking up for their jobs and your mealtimes don’t match up with anyone else’s. So how do you stay on top of your healthy choices while working an overnight or late-night schedule!?

1. Steer clear of sugary foods & drinks.

One of the most important things to remember is that your body will perform at its best when you’re feeding it lots of nutrient-rich green foods, moderate amounts of yellow foods, and the smallest portions of the calorie-dense red foods. The sugary drinks and snacks (think energy drinks or candy) that give you a small boost of energy and eventually lead to a crash, can be replaced with healthier green and yellow foods to keep your energy up and your daily calorie count down!

2. Moderate your caffeine

On the same note of maintaining your energy levels, it helps to avoid large amounts of coffee. Working through the night can be tough! Sometimes that coffee is the only thing keeping your eyes open. But as a natural appetite suppressant, too much coffee can have a negative effect by masking your hunger and causing you to not adequately feed your body. That means that you might not realize how hungry you are until you’ve gobbled up a huge meal after your shift! If you’re feeling that your energy level is a bit too low and you need that coffee, try focusing on your bedtime routine and the quality of your sleep.

3. Follow a regular schedule for meals & snacks

Our bodies love routine! When you are able to sleep, eat, exercise, etc. at roughly the same times each day, your metabolism tends to run more smoothly and you can see a huge positive impact on your energy levels throughout the day. If you’re just starting off on the night shift or feel that you haven’t fully adjusted to it yet, it can help to eat your meals at roughly the same times each day in order to get your body running on a routine. Try setting reminders on your phone to eat your meals and snacks at similar times throughout each day!

4. Plan your meals ahead of time (and pack them, if you can!)

Just like you can plan when you eat, you can also plan what you eat! When you’re operating on a “backwards” schedule, it might not feel natural to eat a dish with meat or veggies when you’d normally be eating a bowl of cereal. But you can choose some healthy meals you’d like to incorporate and see how they fit into the schedule you set for eating them. Try writing out a meal plan before your week starts (include your meals at work and outside of work!) so that you know you’ll be ready to make healthy choices throughout the week. You can try grocery shopping at the beginning of your week and meal prepping for a few days or the full week, as well!

5. Stock up on healthy snacks

If you find that you like to munch on snacks throughout your shift, a great way to set yourself up for healthy choices is to have the healthy snacks on hand and avoid having to choose the “least unhealthy” option from the vending machine or work cafeteria! The foods available in work places are notoriously high in sodium and high in caloric density, but you can pack healthier options to keep at your desk, in a lunchbox, or in the fridge and reach for those when you’re in the mood for a snack!

So what does this all boil down to? Working night shifts presents unique challenges that people working daytime shifts may not face, but with proper planning and preparation, you can keep your energy levels high and make healthy food choices that work for you and your schedule!