If you work outside of the standard 9 to 5 hours, you are not alone. According to statistics, 20 % of Americans work some type of night shift work. When you work the night shift, you have a misalignment between your internal clock and the outside world.
Everyone who works the night shift tends to gain weight. It is because they begin to eat unhealthy foods and eventually become trapped in a vicious fatigue cycle where they are too exhausted to make healthy choices. It may seem difficult at times to stay awake and energized, but it is possible if you eat the correct foods.
Audra Starkey, a clinical nutritionist and the creator of the website and podcast “The Healthy Shift Worker,” compiled a list of the best night shift food ideas that you can take to stay healthy while also making it through the night.
5 healthy food choices for the night shift worker:
Biologically, humans are primed to eat during the day, with gastrointestinal functions slowing down at night. Starkey explains that because soups are all liquid nutrition, they will be easy on the digestive system.
2. Slow-cooked casseroles in small servings
Like soups, slow-cooked foods are much easier to digest. Starkey describes these as “a minimal burden on the digestive tract because it’s food that’s partially broken down.”
3. Low-GI (low-glycemic-index) foods
According to research, the pancreas doesn’t function as well at night, and as a result, blood sugar levels rise. Foods with a low glycemic index are digested and absorbed more slowly, so a spike in blood sugar is avoided. For instance, consider vegetable soups, nuts and seeds, yogurt and other dairy products with healthy fats.
4. Eating foods that are high in water content
Night shift workers, according to Starkey, should consume more hydrating foods to avoid becoming fatigued during the day.
She explained that dehydration is a major contributor to fatigue, right up there with a lack of sleep. We need to have more water-based foods like watermelon, strawberries, zucchini and rockmelon in our diet.
5. Protein and healthy fats
Adding more lean protein and healthy fats to the diet keeps night shift workers fuller longer, reducing the frequency of cravings. Foods like avocado, cottage cheese as well as nuts and eggs are good options.
The clinical nutritionist advises avoiding lollipops, cakes, biscuits, donuts, and pasta, as these foods will cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket since the pancreas is not working at its optimum at night. Caffeine and energy drinks are examples of stimulants to avoid.
At the end of the day, when our diet is lacking in nutrients as a result of eating a lot of refined and processed foods, the body is unable to produce calming hormones, affecting the sleep of shift workers later on. This is huge because we know how important sleep is for night shift workers.