Nutrition for Shift Workers

Nutrition and shift work can be challenging. With 1.5 million Australians employed as shift workers, there are many who struggle to balance nutrition and work. So we thought we would help support those who work around the clock to support the community. 1

When shifts get irregular, research shows that it can be difficult to manage your health as a result of the possibility of having irregular sleeping patterns, skipping meals, over-snacking or eating too much “convenience” foods. The way you eat affects your health in a holistic view, where your energy levels, your mood, your performance at work will be eventually influenced. Consequently, this leads to an increased risk of getting obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 2

Nevertheless, there are some simple and easy steps that shift workers should take for a healthier lifestyle:

Being prepared is key. 

Plan your meals ahead of the week if you are being rostered into a schedule. Utilise as little as 10 minutes to half of your day off to plan your meals, get your groceries, cooked your meals in batches and freeze them, will be an effective way to avoid finding yourself buying treats from the vending machine or Maccas drive-thru.

Have small & frequent meals.

Choosing smaller serves or meals can boost your alertness and reduce the frequency of being drowsy while working during a night shift. This helps to improve your work performance while working through the middle of the night.

Stay hydrated.

Drinking plenty of water would always be the wisest choice. If not, choose your coffee strategically, depending on the time you drink it, it could either improve your productivity at work or causing difficulties in sleeping after your shift ends. 

It will be wise to choose decaffeinated drinks, artificial sweetener drinks option and plain water, most of the time. As opposed to caffeinated drinks, these drinks provide a lesser effect of alertness and anxiousness.

Enjoy a nutritious meal. 

Choose high-fibre and low-GI foods as your main meals, fuel your meal plate with loads of vegetables from a variety of colours, lean protein options and choose wholegrain carbohydrate-based products such as: wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice, wholegrain wraps. 

Go for high protein snack option so that it keeps you feeling full and prevent you from feeling peckish at work all the time, some easy examples include: boiled eggs, tins of tuna or beans, vegetable stick with hummus/peanut butter, popcorns, trail mix, wholegrain crackers with cheese. 

Eating the right food at the right time provides your body with energy when you need it, and improves your sleep quality which consequently enhances your productivity and health.

Written By: Ms Kee June Ooi (Accredited Practising Dietitian)

References:

  1. Monash University, 2021. SWIFT STUDY – Shifting Weight in Night Shift Workers https://www.monash.edu/medicine/swiftstudy
  2. Zhao, I. and Turner, C., 2008. The impact of shift work on people’s daily health habits and adverse health outcomes. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, The, 25(3), pp.8-22.

 

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