6 Healthy Eating Tips For When You’re Stuck Working The Graveyard Shift

healthy eating tips for shift workers

Unsplash/Kelly Neil

If you’re not a nine-to-fiver, you know the struggle of consistently eating well when you have to run in and out of those awkwardly timed shifts all week long. We get it — no one wants to cook a real meal when getting home from the graveyard shift. But there are ways to navigate the bizarre timing of your life and your nutrition goals like a boss — six of them, in fact. Here are our tried-and-true tips for keeping you healthy no matter what time you clock into work each day.

1. Never go to work hungry.

If your shift starts at 9 p.m., you definitely want to eat a nutritionally balanced dinner before heading in to work. This is probably the most crucial meal of the day for you because it serves several purposes. First, it keeps your mealtimes in sync with your circadian rhythm, helping you sleep better when the time comes and avoiding eating too much right before going to bed. And second, it ensures that you walk into work energized and focused rather than susceptible to any food-related impulse that crosses your proverbial desk.

healthy eating tips for shift workers


2. Meal prep, meal prep, meal prep.

To guarantee that those pre-work dinners and even the meals you come home to are doing your body good, you gotta meal prep. Designate the same time window every week to go grocery shopping and cooking said groceries, setting up your fridge with ready-to-eat breakfasts, lunches and dinners. It takes the guesswork out of nutritional planning in the middle of the week when you’re feeling wiped out and would resort to ordering another pizza because you can’t be bothered to make anything yourself.

3. Keep quality snacks on hand.

Speaking of meal prep, get those healthy snacks ready, too. We’re talking hard-boiled eggs, pre-cut veggies with hummus cups, fresh fruit slices with nut butter packs, whatever floats your boat. You’re going to need them at work when hunger strikes and the only things available either come from a vending machine or a late-night bar kitchen. Just chuck them in a little lunchbox with an ice pack (throwback to your grade school days!) and you’ll be good to go.

healthy eating tips for shift workers

Unsplash/Leon Ephraim

4. Stay away from sugar.

We know it tastes delicious, and it gives you that temporary energy boost you probably need when the clock strikes 2 a.m., but it’ll make you crash sooner than you realize and then you’ll really be in trouble. Not to mention, it’s worth virtually nothing in the land of nutrition. It just exacerbates inflammation in the body and ups your risk for a slew of health problems. So do yourself a favor and stay away from the candy aisle.

5. Drink all the water.

On the flipside, the more you hydrate before, during and after your shift, the better off you’ll be. Drinking enough water throughout the day prevents unhealthy cravings from creeping up, keeps your mealtimes consistent and even helps you sleep more soundly when it comes time to collapse on your bed. Sure, you’ll have to take more bathroom breaks while at work, but it’s worth that added annoyance.

healthy eating tips for shift workers


6. Watch your caffeine intake.

When it comes to shift work, caffeine falls into a land similar to sugar. You’re tempted to lean into it for extra energy and alertness, but it’s incredibly easy to overdo it. At that point, you feel jittery and irritable, and your sleep will inevitably suffer when you get home, perpetuating the vicious cycle. It takes 12 hours for the body to fully process caffeine, so stick to one cup of coffee and then switch over to water.


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