Night shift nurses know that eating healthy is a challenge. Night shifts mess with your sleep schedule, which throws everything else off. It’s difficult to maintain a workout routine and keep up with regularly scheduled meals. However, these things are important for staying healthy and keeping up the stamina that the job requires. If you are a night-shift nurse looking for help, have a look at the four tips below for help with eating better, even when your work schedule seems impossible to deal with.
- Forget meal-specific foods.
Working the night shift throws off your entire routine, and it might be difficult to figure out what to eat when. Do you eat breakfast food before work, even though it’s evening? Do you eat a sandwich at two in the morning?
If it helps, try to forget what foods you “should” be eating for different meals. Honestly, it doesn’t matter, anyway. We tend to eat what we’ve been taught is culturally acceptable for that specific mealtime. But don’t forget, people eat all sorts of things for breakfast. In Vietnam, noodle soup is a common breakfast. In some European countries, you’ll see smoked fish and cheese. Basically, it doesn’t matter. You aren’t obligated to have pancakes and bacon before work, though you can if you want.
The important thing is to eat what’s going to get you through the day. We suggest filling up with protein; it’ll give you the energy you need without the excess calories and sugar of too many carbs.
- Eat real foods.
It may be tempting to grab a bag of chips or a chocolate bar from the vending machine, especially if you only have a couple minutes to grab something quick to eat. Avoid junk food and fast food by bringing whole food snacks to work with you. Fruit is easy to bring since it doesn’t require any preparation. Even a sandwich on whole-grain bread can be healthy and filling; opt for quality meats and lots of veggies like spinach, tomato, or cucumbers. Alternatively, a salad is an easy food to bring, as are veggie sticks with hummus. Just remember to keep away from processed foods or snacks with too much sugar.
- Avoid eating out.
You will be tired after a long shift overnight. It can be very tempting to make a stop on the way home to grab some food. Fast food or regular sit-down restaurants, however, can be very counterproductive if you’re trying to eat better. Those foods are filled with preservatives and mountains of salt and sugar. You might be heading right to bed after your shift so you’ll want to avoid these types of food that can lead to bloating and stomach upset.
Instead, opt for a light, simple meal. Eggs are a protein-packed food that is easy to prepare and cooks quickly. Try making an omelet packed with whatever vegetables you have in the fridge. You can also try an egg sandwich on a bagel or English muffin. Other foods like cottage cheese with fruit, apples with peanut or almond butter, or yogurt and granola are good ideas for healthy eating before hitting the hay.
- Try meal planning.
Meal planning is all the rage at the moment. You’ve probably seen how-to videos or images showing the steps to creating a perfectly healthy meal that doesn’t require a lot of preparation or time to make. Have a look at these ideas and give it a try. You’ll just need a few identical containers to pack your dinners in. Usually, the meal will include a protein, a ton of vegetables, and a whole grain. Cook everything on your day off and pack up for the week and you have dinner ready for you each shift!
If meal planning like this isn’t really your thing, try bulk-cooking. One dish that you can make a lot of and then portion off is a good idea for saving some time in the kitchen and the break room. Try making a large pot of veggie soup or a large lasagna. These items can be portioned for the week and whatever is leftover can be frozen. After a few different batches of meals, you’ll have a variety of tasty meals in your freezer to choose from, and all your coworkers will be envious of your home-cooked dishes.