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Healthy Eating for the Night Shift (and the Day Shift, too!)

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<a All photos by James Leung

Healthy Eating for the Night Shift (and the day shift too!)

Working the night shift is associated with an increased risk of obesity, CVD, and diabetes due to how your body reacts to sleeping and eating at abnormal times.  Trying to master this schedule is compounded by decreased physical activity, excessive eating, wrong food choices and irregular eating habits, which can then lead to digestive problems.  But no fear, here are some ways to dismiss the thought that: this is just the way it is when you work the night shift!

  1. Drink at least 8 glass of water a day to help improve digestion, and to decrease headaches and fatigue.
  2. Do not continuously drink caffeinated beverages and eat sweets. Although they may initially wake you up, it will only be a short burst of energy and then will lead to a major decrease in energy over time, which in turn will steer you towards having even more caffeine and sugary sweets.  It is hard enough to sleep during the daytime, having too much caffeine in your body can make it even harder.
  3. Eat smaller meals more frequently and include healthy snacks. Larger meals tend to make a person feel sluggish afterward.  Before leaving the house, pack up several small containers or plastic bags with quick snacks you can eat when your shift gets really busy.  Instead of letting 5-6 hours go by without having a chance to eat a meal, having a quick banana, a handful of nuts a part-skim milk cheese stick or even a cup of milk, will only take a minute or two to eat, but keep you going until you do have time to eat.
  4.  Eat within one hour of waking up.  If you normally wake up at 3pm, then have your first meal of the day at 4pm.
  5. To help with controlling your weight, if you’ll be going to sleep shortly after work, make your last meal of your shift the smallest, and eat it around 5am. Do not eat a large meal right before going to sleep.
  6. Try to keep some meal times the same.  i.e: if you normally eat dinner at 6pm, when you have off; then try to eat a meal at 6pm before going to work that night.
  7. Move around!  With the decreased physical activity that can occur during the night shift, one can gain weight.  The next time you are fatigued, walk around the hallways instead of eating.  Not only will this wake you up, but it will burn calories as well.
  8. Include exercise in your 24-hour day.  Try even 30 minutes of exercise before your shift starts or before your children come home from school (and after you have slept well for several hours). Sleeping less than seven hours a night can make you gain more weight over time. Vary cardio, stretching, and weight training. Try exercising during any of your breaks even just for a few minutes.
  9. Buy a soft, but large enough cooler to bring all of your meals and snacks into work with you.  With all the right foods right there in the cooler, you can’t go wrong!

Most importantly: with some planning, and discipline, you can achieve your nutrition and fitness goals.


Snack Ideas to keep you going

  • Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries
  • 1 apple & 1 piece of low fat string cheese
  • ¼ cup walnuts with fresh pineapple
  • Baby carrots with hummus
  • 1 tbsp almond butter with a half a banana
  • Cut up mango with 1oz pumpkin seeds
  • Hard boiled egg with watermelon wedge
  • ½ cup of Edamame
  • Cantaloupe with 4 whole wheat crackers
  • Fruit kabobs
  • CLIF protein bar


Packing a Healthy Cooler

Breakfast ideas:

  • Kashi waffle sandwich with peanut butter and strawberries
  • Whole wheat pita with hard boiled eggs, avocado and salsa
  • Greek yogurt with nuts and mangoes
  • Oatmeal package & a separate bag of berries, nuts, & flaxseed to mix in it
  • Pre-made fruit smoothie with skim milk, whey protein powder, banana, berries, and flaxseed
  • Kashi Go Lean cereal in a plastic container, bring raspberries to mix in
  • Flax Roll-up with hard boiled eggs, low fat cheese, and tomato
  • Pre-made whole grain pancakes with bananas, berries, flaxseed and then top with Greek yogurt once re-heated

Lunch/dinner ideas:

  • Grilled chicken in a Flax Roll-up with avocado, spinach, walnuts & dried cranberries
  • Whole wheat English muffin with low fat cheese, tomato, with red pepper strips on the side
  • Spinach salad with salmon in a pouch, peppers, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, mandarin oranges, and almonds
  • Quinoa salad with black beans, cherry tomatoes, scallions, cooked broccoli


Instead of leaving the house with just a cup of coffee try this:

Mocha Protein Shake

1-cup skim milk

1/3 cup brewed coffee

1 tbsp natural peanut butter

1 banana

1 scoop chocolate flavored Whey Protein powder

Mix all in a blender, enjoy!


What is your favorite way to combat weight gain at work?
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CHRISTINE ARDIGO – Author of Cheating to Survive & Every Five Years

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