Hey Jess, any advice on nutritious meals and snacks for a shift worker like me? As a nurse, I struggle to pick foods that keep me going, and I often end up feeling sluggish during those long shifts.
For any shift worker, prioritising good eating habits while navigating demanding schedules and unpredictable hours is a challenge. However, the good news is that there are some practical tips to keep you energised and focused through those long night shifts.
Stay one step ahead by planning in advance. Take your own meals and snacks with you to avoid falling into vending machine or fast food temptations. A good tip is to batch cook meals that can be popped into the freezer, or put an extra portion aside for when you get home. And, of course, with all the nutrients you need from food, Huel is another good shout for when you need a nutritious, fuss-free meal on the clock.
As you get ready for work, why not try porridge topped with nuts, a protein-packed omelette with beans, or a wholemeal bagel with hummus.
During night shifts, staying hydrated can be a game-changer as it keeps you focused and prevents fatigue. Keep a water bottle close for a reminder to sip and stay refreshed. If plain water isn’t for you, you can always add a twist of fruit, like a lime or strawberries, for added flavour.
Also, while a coffee might seem tempting when your eyelids are starting to feel heavy, try to moderate caffeine intake, especially at the end of your shift, to ensure a good sleep once work is done.
Each shift may vary, and timings can be unpredictable, especially in a hospital setting, but aim to find a meal pattern that works for you. Avoid prolonged periods without food and incorporate healthy fats, proteins, and fibre into your meals to feel fuller for longer.
During your shift, consider options like overnight oats, stir-fried vegetables with noodles, wholemeal pesto pasta, jacket potato with canned beans or sweetcorn, or a hearty high-protein lentil soup.
When those energy cravings hit, it’s hard to resist reaching for the leftover birthday cake or sugary treats. Here's a handy tip: go for fibre-rich foods instead, as they offer a more sustained and lasting energy boost. Ideas include:
The thought of squeezing in exercise before a night shift might seem like an impossible task, but even movement such as a quick yoga session or brisk walk can do wonders for your energy levels, while also promoting a better post-shift sleep.
And let’s talk about sleep. A lack of it can throw our food cravings out of balance, increasing the craving for calorie-dense carbs and sugary treats. While it can be challenging to sleep in the daylight when all of your housemates are awake, prioritise those ZZZs.
Boost your energy on demanding night shifts by planning ahead, staying hydrated, snacking smart, exercising & prioritising sleep. Follow these steps and those mid-shift slumps should be a thing of the past.
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