It’s no secret that shift workers often experience lack of sleep, stress, anxiety, weight fluctuation and fatigue. It has been found that working against the body clock (or Circadian clock) disrupts the regulation of hormones and digestion, which in turn causes fatigue, an inability to sleep, and increased cravings for comfort foods that are often high in processed sugars and fats.
While these are known symptoms of working at the irregular hours that shift work requires, they can actually be managed by monitoring what we are eating.
Food is fuel
Food provides the body with energy to function, which means the quality of foods we eat can affect the amount of energy available for our bodies to burn throughout the day.
Foods that are high in fats and processed sugars are appealing when we’re tired because they provide a quick burst of energy and are often easily available.
While these foods are comforting and an easy option for busy shifts, the energy they provide is not long lasting and can actually leave you feeling more fatigued.
Instead, try focusing on whole foods that are high in protein and include whole grains, fruits and vegetables that can give you energy for your entire shift.
Preparing snacks to eat throughout your shift can help you stay on top of your eating habits and ensure you are eating the best foods to fuel your body. We’ve curated a list of healthy and easy grab-and-go snack options to take with you on your next shift!
For the time poor
“Berries and Yoghurt” by primalprogress is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Greek yoghurt & berries
Greek yoghurt is a great source of protein, and the fibre and natural sugars from the berries create a nutritious snack that will keep you full for hours.
Tip: Opt for greek yoghurts with no added sugar like Chobani.
“40+329 Fooooood” by bark is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Hummus and veggie sticks
A filling snack packed with fibre from the veggies, and added protein and healthy fats from the hummus to keep you going. Switch it up with different veggies like carrot, cucumber, celery, capsicum and snow peas!
“Roasted Chickpeas” by Akane86 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Not all pre-packaged foods are unhealthy! These roasted chickpeas and fav-va beans by The Happy Snack Company are a crunchy treat that are low in sugar, packed with protein, and are gluten, dairy and nut free. They also come in a variety of flavours, so there’s an option for everyone!
For the meal prep fanatic
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels
Granola is a great crunchy snack for the sweet tooth, but the store-bought varieties can be loaded with extra fats and sugars. By making your own at home, you can pack it full of whole, natural foods that will keep you full for hours. You can even personalise the ingredients to suit your dietary needs, or change up the flavours regularly to keep it fresh!
“Zucchini slice with bacon and cheese” by monchichi10 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Zucchini slice is packed with fibre and is a great way to sneak some veggies into your day. Pack it in your lunch box as a snack or pair it with a salad for a well-rounded meal. It’s also freezer-friendly, so can be made ahead and ready for when you’re in a time-pinch!
Photo by Deepa Gopinath from Pexels
Energy bites and protein balls
Feeling like you need a quick hit of something sweet? Energy bites are a great alternative to sugary chocolate bars because they’re filled with whole ingredients and can be naturally sweetened with fruits! For chocolate lovers, try these chocolate-date truffles, or for a lighter treat try these lemon and coconut bliss balls.
For a little extra protein to keep you going, try a protein ball or bar! Store-bought protein balls can be pricey and contain extra ingredients, so try making your own at home for a cheaper option that you can customise to your taste.
Photo by Kezia Lynn from Pexels
Healthy fruit loaf
Love something sweet and hearty on your tea break but know they can leave you feeling sluggish? Why not make your own version without all the saturated fats and processed sugars! This date and walnut loaf is a great option that’s packed with fibre, or try this banana bread for a healthy twist on the classic.
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels
Nope, we’re not pulling your leg! There are plenty of cookie recipes out there to curb your cravings without all the extra saturated fats. These chocolate chip cookies are low in sugar and provide a healthier alternative to your favourite sweet treat.