Nutrition and Snacking Tips for Shift Workers

Proper nutrition is very important when you’ve got to spend long periods of time at an activity. You want to avoid peaks and troughs and instead maintain a steady rate of energy from your snacks and meals. Here are some tips to help you with achieving this goal:

1. Try to eat your “main meal” before your shift, so you don’t eat too much during your shift and become sluggish. If you work an afternoon shift, try to have your main meal around noon, or for an evening shift, around 6 pm. Have a smaller meal during your shift and healthy snacks on your breaks to keep an even energy level throughout. Eating large amounts on your shift can lead to heartburn, gas or constipation, and can make you sluggish.

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2. When choosing healthy snacks and meals, be sure to avoid those with refined sugars or flour. Avoid fatty, fried or spicy food. The less processed the better. Try to include at least two of the major food groups with each snack, such as having an apple with a piece of low-fat cheese or a handful of unsalted nuts with low-fat yogurt.

3. Keep well hydrated, drink plenty of water. It may help with staying alert and feeling less tired during your shift. Other healthy options include low-fat milk, tea, and unsweetened herbal tea and lower sodium 100% vegetable juices. If you drink 100% fruit juice, be aware of how quickly the calories add up, and that it may cause your blood sugar to rise and drop rapidly.

4. Be careful of caffeine. Though drinking coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages may help you stay alert, you shouldn’t consume more than about 400mg of caffeine in a day. That works out to the amount found in two or three small cups of coffee. Caffeine can be in your system for up to 8 hours, which can affect your sleep. You want to make sure to switch to decaffeinated drinks or water about four hours before you expect to go to sleep.

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5. It’s a good idea to have a light snack before bedtime. It can be difficult to fall asleep when you’re too hungry or too full. If you do feel hungry after work, eat a healthy snack before bedtime. Something like a small bowl of whole grain cereal with milk or a piece of whole grain toast with jam. If you find you’re too full at the end of your shift, try cutting out a snack during it.

Here are some further suggestions for healthy snacks to keep at the workplace or pack with you:

· A medium fresh fruit such as a banana, pear, apple or orange and 60ml (1/4 cup) unsalted nuts

· Trail mix: 1 oz unsweetened whole grain cereal with 1tbsp each raisins and unsalted nuts

· Single-serve unsweetened applesauce with a sprinkling of 1tbsp unsalted slivered almonds

· 1 cup of veggies such as carrots, celery sticks or cherry tomatoes and hummus

· 1 slice whole grain bread with 1tbsp peanut or almond butter

· A small homemade muffin or granola bar

*You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other nutrition program to determine if it is right for your needs.