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This week is National Nutrition Week so we want to share some simple and effective ways that health care shift workers can maintain a healthy food intake whilst at work.
Proper nutrition is important in any workplace but particularly important when working shifts. Shift work can really affect the way you eat and the challenge to eat healthy, nutritious foods can increase.
Shift work often causes people to skip meals, eat too many ‘snack’ foods and not enough nutritious foods or adequate meals. Poor eating habits like this can lead to a greater risk of developing chronic diseases and can affect overall productivity and concentration. The long, demanding hours and busy schedules that shift workers endure can make grabbing an unhealthy snack, going through the drive through on the way home, or even not eating at all seem like the most convenient option, however, this can poorly affect long term health.
Here are some tips for better eating habits when working shifts:
- Plan ahead! Preparing and packing food at the beginning of a week or even the night before a shift helps to avoid the temptation of grabbing a quick snack from the vending machine or not eating at all. Food prepping also means you can freeze meals ahead of time, making it quick and easy to grab and re-heat a meal for your next shift. It may also help to plan an eating schedule for each shift so you know you are consuming enough meals consistently throughout the day.
- Eat foods with carbohydrates and protein. When working shifts, particularly a night shift, it is important to provide your brain and muscles with enough energy and fullness. Even when grabbing a quick snack in between meals, ensure it is balanced with a combination of protein and carbohydrates. A balanced diet is important even when not working a shift also!
- Avoid overly sugary, processed or greasy foods. Greasy foods can leave you feeling sluggish, whilst sugary, processed foods such as a chocolate bar only provide a short boost of energy which is not always beneficial for a long shift.
- Keep hydrated! Drinking plenty of water is crucial to staying hydrated and avoiding headaches and lack of concentration. If you’re someone who struggles to drink a lot of water, try adding fruit like lemon or strawberries for some extra flavour!
- Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine can definitely be beneficial to increase alertness and energy during a shift, however, it is important to not consume too much and to be mindful of the times of day you do consume it. Avoid caffeine close to sleeping to avoid any negative impact on your quality of sleep.