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Good Diet for Night Workers

Professions that require you to work night shift such as nurses, security guards, factory workers, convenience store staff all face significant lifestyle changes due to their profession. Their work starts when others are normally about to end their day and go to sleep. This causes significant changes in the body and often affects people’s physical health as well as their mental health. This kind of work is not only challenging in and of itself but it can also have an adverse effect on your life outside of your work shift.

Working the night shift causes your circadian rhythm or your body clock to shift from its normal schedule. Humans are diurnal in nature which means that they wake up and are productive when the sun is up and they start to feel tired and sleepy when it gets dark. Inverting this process have caused negative consequences for those unable to adapt to the night shift.

Of course, sleep routines are disrupted and even eating habits are disrupted. This forces your body to shift gears which causes unnecessary stress given that you’re already working outside of your body’s natural working hours. Night shift workers, on average, tend to gain more weight than day shift workers. Night shift workers are also more prone to develop insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, fatigue, and certain types of cancer. They’re even more likely to get into accidents than day shift workers. Even worse, people who are often working the night shift are more likely to experience depression and other types of mental health problems.

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Fortunately, there are ways to cope with and even reverse these issues. Just like with other lifestyles, diet and exercise play a major role in maintaining the health needs of your average night shift worker. It can be tricky, though, because night shift workers may need to adjust their routines to their unconventional schedule making time to exercise and prepare meals a little challenging compared to everyone else. Additionally, night shift workers also need to be selective in their food choices to accommodate their irregular schedule and prevent negative consequences.

To make things a little easier, here are is a recommended meal plan and foods for night shift workers to include in their diets.

Breakfast

For breakfast, whatever time that may be, it is recommended to make one that is extra healthy for your body. This means that you need a hearty, filling breakfast to start off your day. This will give you the energy that you can use throughout your night shift. Try to avoid fried and sugary foods as these types of foods will only weigh you down and provide you with little energy you need for work. Instead, go for fresh ingredients, whole grains, and lean protein. This will provide you with sufficient energy without weighing you down and making you feel tired.

Here is a recipe for a Turkey Chef’s Salad that is ideal for a night shift worker to eat as a healthy meal that can boost their metabolism and get the brain awake.

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Lunch

For lunch, it is important for a night shift worker to make this the main meal of their day. Lunch should contain the most calories in your meal to give you the energy that will help you last through the second half of the night shift. You can drink caffeine during this time, but don’t overdo it. Make sure to watch your sugar intake as too much sugar can tire you out much quicker. It is ideal to eat light proteins with vegetables and healthy carbohydrates for this meal and maybe a light dessert afterward.

Here is a recipe Creamy Potato Chicken Salad with Carrots, Beets and Fresh Herbs Recipe by Chef Boy Logro ideal for night shift workers to eat for their lunch. The various vegetables and herbs with the chicken give you enough calories and energy that will help you last the rest of your shift.

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Dinner

For dinner, night shift workers are recommended to have a light, healthy meal consisting of poultry or fish along with vegetables. It’s best to avoid fat on this meal as well as caffeine, sugar, and processed foods. It’s also best to avoid red meat, spicy food, fried food, and butter. Don’t go for the food the vending machine offers! It’s important to try to eat healthy for this meal. Too much food eaten will result in ending your day with a heavy stomach and might result in feeling tired after you wake up. Eating too much on this meal can also keep you from getting your much-needed rest and sleep.

Here is a recipe for Fish Tinola that is ideal as a dinner dish for night shift workers. Not too heavy on the stomach but also very delicious!

Snacks

Of course, your day wouldn’t be complete if there are no snacks. Night shift workers are notorious for snacking throughout their working hours because there’s quite little excitement happening on their schedule if any. Many night shift workers are reportedly overweight and snacking throughout the night plays a huge factor in weight gain. But of course, you need a snack to sustain yourself for your work. You just have to be smart about it a have discipline. Do not eat a snack unless you’re stomach is growling and avoid vending machine foods. Those won’t sustain you, only give you more unneeded calories.

Instead, go for dried fruits, nuts, baked crackers or other healthy food that you can pre-prepare for your night shift. These options will provide you with the energy that you need as well as maintain your weight. Here is a Fruit n Nut Cake Recipe that are ideal snack items for night shift workers.

Other Important Tips for Night Shift Workers for A Good Diet

What you eat is extremely helpful to achieve a balanced diet, especially for an unconventional schedule of eating for the body like the night shift. But there are some more things that you can do to maintain your health while you’re working the night shift.

1. Avoid Caffeine Drink Water Instead

It’s okay to drink one or two cups of coffee during your work schedule but it’s important to not abuse it and to moderate your consumption of caffeine. Drinking too much caffeine can lead you to build a tolerance of its effects and this is a real possibility for night shift workers because they are required to stay awake when the body is normally about to go to sleep. This could result in a further increase in coffee intake and bring negative consequences for your mental health.
Of course, if you drink coffee just before your shift is gonna end, you will have trouble falling asleep. What’s worse is that drinking too much coffee is linked to depression and the interference of serotonin production, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making the brain feel “happy”.

Instead of coffee, just drink plenty of water during your shift. Not only can this hydrate you it will also make you feel fuller, refreshed and prevent constipation.

2. Prepare Your Meals and Snacks Before the Start of Your Shift

Most night shift worker’s reason for not eating healthy enough is that they have nowhere to go to get their healthy food. Almost everything is closed at night and there’s no healthy food available. Well, the solution to that is to prepare all the things you need to eat at home and bring it to your shift to eat. Nothing beats a homecooked meal and even snacks. This makes you certain that the foods you eat are fresh and unprocessed. You also have more control over what you eat.

3. Take Active Breaks

During break times, night shift workers are more lightly to snack to pass the time and eat as a way to entertain themselves. Again, this can result in weight gain and always having a full stomach which will result in fatigue because your body is constantly using its energy to digest the foods that you eat. To avoid this, it is recommended to take active breaks whenever you can. Go for a quick walk around your workplace, stretch, do jumping jacks and other light exercises. This will help both your mind and body stay alert and awake. Even just getting some fresh air will do wonders for your body and mind.

If you really want a snack, see the section we have on recommended foods to snack on above. Additionally, you can chew on raw vegetables, such as baby carrots, celery, peas as an option to satisfy your urges to snack. These raw vegetables are great sources of nutrients and are low in calories as well.

 

References:

Bradley, K. (n.d.). Meal plan for people who work late. Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/524453-meal-plan-for-people-who-work-late-nights/

Margolis, R. E. (2018, December 20). The best diet for working night shifts. Retrieved from https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/diet-working-night-shifts-2169.html

Reinagel, M. (2012, January 11). Nutritional tips for night shift workers. Retrieved from https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/healthy-eating/nutrition-tips-for-night-shift-workers

Hopkins, A. (n.d.). How to eat healthy with shift work. Retrieved from https://blog.thatcleanlife.com/how-to-eat-healthy-with-shift-work/

Kapoor, S. (2016, January 18). People working night shifts. Retrieved from https://www.practo.com/healthfeed/healthy-diet-tips-for-people-working-night-shifts-4779/post

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