Working in the night shift can change your life in many ways. The human body is designed to work in the day, and rest at night. But when you work during night shifts, working against your natural body rhythms poses special set of challenges, which adds extra stress. Shift workers may need to pay more attention when trying to maintain their mental and physical health. Adequate sleep and making healthy food choices are two major factors that you need to focus on.
Research has repeatedly confirmed that night shift workers weigh more than day shift workers. Weight gain is also associated with other health problems also.
But worry not. To prevent weight gain and other health problems you need to manage a bit by simply following the below mentioned do’s and don'ts.
- Protein-rich foods keep you alert, which makes them a good choice for meals and snacks eaten during an evening or night shift.Read to know how protein rich breakfast helps you lose weight.
- Always try to carry fresh and homemade food as much as possible.
- Since large meals can also decrease alertness and makes you sleepy, smaller meals should be eaten during the night shift.
- Snack lightly during your shift.Know more about healthy office snacks.
- After your shift is over but before you go to sleep, eat a small, light meal which should be a balanced combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. At night, your body naturally slows down digestion and the metabolic process, so eating a small meal will provide better quality sleep, and get digested easily.
- 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. is the time when you tend to feel more tired and sleepy. This is because your body is naturally programmed to be resting around this time. You need to choose healthy protein option which will give you the burst of energy without making you sleepy.
- Night workers should eat their main meal before their shift starts, preferably at regular dinner time between 5:00 p.m. To 7:00 p.m.
- Keep yourself hydrated with water instead of caffeinated or preserved beverages. Ensure that you drink at least 8-10 glasses of water.Read to get more information on health benefits of drinking water.
- As much as possible, reduce your intake of preserved and packaged foods and go for fresh preparations instead.
- Avoid tea/coffee/alcohol for at least 4 hours before bedtime to reduce their effects on sleep because such caffeine and alcohol can remain in your bloodstream for up to 8 hours.
- Limit your daily caffeine intake to no more than 3 - 4 cups of tea/coffee.
- Never go to bed hungry as it may lead to disturbed sleep and make you restless.
- Avoid large meals during the working hours.
- Avoid fatty favorites like potato chips, french fries or any fried food which takes longer to digest and contribute to weight gain.
Here are some healthy options out of which you can choose from:
- Pitas, breads, with hummus and vegetables
- Dry cereals and grain salads such as couscous, quinoa, bulgur and barley
- Dry roasted rice flakes with salt and pepper seasoning.
- Vegetables with cottage cheese
- Peanut butter with fruit or vegetables
- Fresh fruit juices
- Fresh vegetable juices
- Fruit shakes made with low-fat milk, with ground flax seed or other nuts and seeds and half teaspoon sugar.
- Boiled eggs salads with vegetables.
- Sandwiches made with low-fat meats like chicken and fish with vegetables.
- Bean salad with vegetables
- Trail mix or nuts, seeds, dried fruits.
- Hummus with raw vegetables.
- Lower fat yogurt and chopped fruits.
Due to lack of time during the working days, and to eat well as a shift worker, you need to put some time into ‘batch cooking’ on your off days, by making larger batches of healthy food; to stock up for when you’re working. This will help to keep you from using vending machines at work and from eating restaurant food too often.