How to eat for shift work

We’ve just finished our first clinical placement shadowing dietitians in busy London hospitals.

This got us thinking about how hard it is to stick to a healthy schedule if you work nights or regularly do shift work. Often time restraints mean fitting in exercise is hard and less healthy convenience foods are the easiest choice.

So we’ve put together some tips on how to stay healthy when you work long shifts

🍣 🍌 🍵 Healthy Snack Ideas 🍣 🍌 🍵

When you’re tired you’re more likely to reach for junk food because it’s easier. This is why it’s really important to have healthy snacks on hand.

-Celery, carrots, cucumber sticks with dip (hummus, salsa, raita)

-Walnuts and radishes – sounds weird but actually a good combination!

-Chunks of apple and cheese – we prefer plain cheddar, but feta or brie is also great

-Yogurt with fresh fruit

-Oatcakes and peanut butter

– Cereal bars: choose carefully!

Stick to bars that have a sugar and fat content of less than 5g / 100g

💧 💦 💧 Stay hydrated 💧 💦 💧

-Thirst is often confused for hunger so can be a cause of over eating

-Take a refillable bottle of water to work with you

– If you find water boring try adding red berries or mint and cucumber to jazz it up a bit

🏂 🏼Exercise when you can🏂 🏼

– It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you do, just making a small effort will make all the difference

-If you have a job that means you sit for long periods of time- try standing up at your desk while you’re on the phone or writing emails – it all makes a difference!

-Find stairs at work and walk up and down them a few times during your shift.

-You could even bust out a few lunges while your waiting for the kettle to boil!

💤 💤 💤 Night Shifts 💤 💤 💤

-If you can roughly stick to the ‘regular’ meal times then even better!

-If you are working the night shift try eating breakfast as soon as you get home, lunch when you wake up and dinner before you start work.

-You can then pack healthy snacks to take to work and incorporate protein into these so you stay feeling full.

-Eating large meals during the night can cause heartburn, gas, or constipation. It can also make you feel sleepy and sluggish. Be careful not to overeat on the job.

-Implementing a schedule and sticking to it day by day will help your body get into a routine and your metabolism will be running smoothly if it has regular feeding times.

-It can be hard at first but try not to skip meals, this will only slow down your metabolism and leave you feeling tired and grumpy.

📝 📚 🍜 Plan your meals 📝 📚 🍜

-Planning and pre-preparing all your meals key to eating healthy on a busy schedule- this can also help you save money as you only buy the foods you know you will use from the supermarket.

-The last thing you want to be doing is cooking when you are tired and hungry, so its easy to go for less healthy ready meals or snacks when you get home.

-Cook as much as you can beforehand so that all you have to do is heat up your food when you get home (or wake up if you’re working night shifts)

-This can be doing things such as grilling chicken breast, steaming vegetables, boiling rice/ pasta. It helps to do this for a few days in advance so you aren’t spending time each day doing it. We normally do one cooking day on Sunday and another on Wednesday when we are at university.

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