Eating Well: Shift Workers Tips
Most night shift workers encounter challenges with maintaining a healthy diet. A recent report launched by Safefood highlighted that as many as 1 in 3 shift workers missed meals, almost 8 in 10 didn't get enough sleep and 1 in 3 were smokers. As a shift worker, very often you may not feel like eating dinner or breakfast at the traditional times or your appetite may be impacted. This can result in reaching for high energy quick fixes or comfort eating rather than opting for the traditional healthy meal options. Some small changes in your diet and lifestyle can have a positive impact on your health.
To help you obtain the right amount of nutrients and energy, here are some tips that will be particularly useful to you as a shift worker:
1. Aim to have regular, balanced meals as much as possible. Ensure to include plenty of fruit and vegetables at meals – the more colour on your plate of fruit and veg the better.
2. Have your main meal before the start of your shift work or after your day-time sleep.
3. Cook in bulk, this is a really great way of ensuring you do not miss meals. It can easily happen that you finish your shift and are simply too tired to cook, which results in missing a meal or ordering take-away food. By having a meal ready to re-heat ensures this won't happen.
4. Aim to have a small portion of a light meal or healthy snacks during your shift. Eating large meals can make you feel tired and sluggish.
5. If hungry after work have a light snack before bedtime. Don’t go to bed too hungry or overfed.
6. Bring your own healthy snacks to work as making healthy choices when tired can be challenging. Choose healthy snacks such as fruit, low-fat yogurt, wholemeal crackers or vegetable sticks with hummus or a handful of nuts.
7. Sit down, relax and take your time when eating, which will aid digestion. This can also help reduce mindless eating which is associated with overeating and hence weight gain.
8. Try to avoid fatty, fried or spicy foods, especially during a night shift as they are more difficult to digest and may cause heartburn and indigestion.
9. Try to avoid sugary foods and drinks which will give you a quick energy boost but will follow with a slump in energy levels and can also upset your stomach.
10. Drink lots of water, aiming for at least 2 litres per day to help prevent dehydration, which can lead to fatigue and lack of concentration which will impact on your physical and mental performance. Bring a water bottle to work and fill it often. If not keen on plain water try adding a sugar-free cordial or fruit segments such as orange or lime for added taste.
11. Limit caffeine. Only have caffeinated drinks before or at the beginning of your shift. Switch to decaffeinated drinks or water at least four to five hours before bedtime or before the end of your shift to help you wind down and aid restful sleep.
12. Avoid smoking or alcohol before bed-time as they can interfere with restful sleep.
13. Consider taking a Vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is the sunshine Vitamin. If you’re doing shift/ night work, chances are you’re getting less sunshine than required so you may need a Vitamin D supplement.