Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Working the Graveyard Shift

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I had a question recently from a Diet Dish reader asking about working the graveyard shift and how to eat with those hours. Talk about a nutritional nightmare! I have had a few clients in the past who work the night shift, and all of them struggled with figuring out what to eat and when to eat it. Most of them would not eat during their shift and then eat “breakfast” when they got off of their shift in the morning before going to bed. It always puzzled me as to why they felt they needed to eat breakfast foods at 7 AM even though they had been up for the past 14 hours and it was past dinner time for them.

Here is my advice for someone working the night shift:

  1. Eat when you are awake. Don’t look at the clock the same as you did when you were keeping normal hours. You need to rearrange your eating times to fit your working and sleeping schedule, not the rest of the world’s schedule who are working first shift.
  2. Eat within one hour of getting up. This is your breakfast. If you sleep from 9 AM to 4 PM, eat your breakfast at 5 PM. Even though that is dinnertime for other people, it is breakfast for you.
  3. Eat small amounts every 3-4 hours. Eat a snack 3 hours after your breakfast and lunch 2 hours after that. Eat another snack 3 hours after lunch and then dinner a few hours after that. Large meals and eating lots of sugar or fat can make us feel sleepy. Keep your meals small and frequent instead of large and spaced far apart.
  4. Don’t eat a big meal when you get off work right before you go to bed. Eating a small snack before bed is fine, but don’t eat a large meal.
  5. Bring healthy snacks with you so you don’t rely on the vending machine or scrounge around for leftover junk food lying around.
  6. Don’t load up on caffeine. I know it is not natural for your body to be up the entire night and caffeine can save you from falling asleep on the job. However, the caffeine can easily throw off your sleeping schedule and soon you will be getting no sleep. It is hard enough to sleep in the middle of the day, but leftover caffeine in your system can make it near to possible.
  7. Get energy from movement! Instead of that caffeine, get up and move when you feel sleepy. Go for a walk, do a couple of flights of stairs, do some jumping jacks, do anything that will get you moving. Movement will give you more energy and make you feel more awake than any caffeine will.

I hope these tips help you to stay awake and alert!

Photo courtesy of *BGP*

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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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