Tips to Help Your Shift Working Clients Eat Healthier

Your clients who do shift work understand the unique challenges when it comes to healthy eating. Here's how to help.

Written by
Abigail Keeso, RN Abigail Keeso, RN
Published on

Your clients might often think shift work is hard because they have to stay awake all night. But it's really the disruption it causes to their body and the rest of their life for days after, including their eating habits, sleeping patterns, overall mood and mental health.

Eat Healthy with Shift Work

Not only does eating healthy help provide the energy your clients need to get through a long shift, certain foods actually help improve your mood. Also, avoiding common culprits can help reduce digestive issues.

Your clients who do shift work understand the unique challenges when it comes to healthy eating. Their typical meal times are completely thrown off or they sacrifice a meal just so they can get more sleep. They’re surrounded by treats that are impossible to avoid and even harder to stop once they’ve started. Loading up on refined sugar and caffeine is the norm. By the end of the shift, they’re STARVING, not thinking properly and reach for fast, unhealthy options. After catching a few Zzz's and maybe showering at home, finding the desire to cook can also be tough.

Here are healthy eating tips to share with your clients that are working shift work.

1. Eat your "main meal" before your shift

This will help keep you fuelled for the next 12 hours. If you're working a night shift, try having your "main meal" before you leave, between 5-6 pm. Then have a small additional meal and snacks throughout the night. Eating a big meal overnight can also upset your stomach.

2. Have a small "breakfast" or snack after a night shift

It can be hard to sleep well after a night shift when you're too full or too hungry. If you're hungry, try having something small like toast or fruit. If you're too full, consider cutting out one of your earlier snacks.

Blueberry Banana Bread - Add this recipe to your client’s meal plan.

3. Avoid fatty, fried, spicy or sugary foods

All these foods can make you feel sluggish and contribute to unwanted weight gain. They are even worse overnight when your digestive processes are slowed, causing heartburn, indigestion, gas and constipation.

4. Bring your own snacks

Snacks will be your lifesaver. The cafeteria, vending machines and 24-hr coffee shops typically carry foods that are high in carbs, fat and sugar. Look for protein-rich snacks to help keep you alert and focused.

Our favorite shift work snacks:
  • Veggie sticks and hummus
  • Edamame
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Fruit and nut butter
  • Homemade granola bars, protein cookies or energy balls
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • A smoothie with added protein (add nut butter, protein powder, oats, hemp seeds or chia seeds)
  • Trail mix or mixed nuts

Eat Healthy with Shift Work

5. Moderate your caffeine intake and drink plenty of water

One to two cups of coffee can help you stay alert but try avoiding it later into the shift so you can get some sleep later! Too much caffeine is also linked to depression and can interfere with serotonin production (the "happiness" neurotransmitter).

Drinking lots of water can help you stay awake, prevent dehydration and constipation, and help you feel a bit fuller.

6. Make friends with your freezer and crockpot

We're not always in the mood to cook, especially when we're tired, stressed and short on time. Set the crockpot before your shift so you can come home to a ready-cooked meal. Get into the habit of batch cooking and freezing leftovers for these desperate times. Future you will be forever grateful to past you.

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