Q&A: Nutrition on Nights

Q: How do I eat healthy while working the night shift? Do I have to be more conscientious of what I eat because of my different work schedule?

A:  No matter what your schedule looks like, a healthy diet has the same components.  If you work a night shift, though, you may need to make some adjustments to the way you think about eating.

One of the issues with working nights is that the body’s circadian rhythm – which tells us to sleep at night and be awake in the day – never really adjusts to being on the night shift.  This means you will likely generally feel tired at night and find it difficult to get enough sleep in the day.  It might help your sleeping patterns if youceat your heaviest meal as your “breakfast”, or first meal after sleeping.  A lighter meal as “dinner”, or your last meal before sleeping, will make it easier to fall asleep.

Also, when we are tired, we tend to eat high fat, high calorie foods.  We also tend to snack more when we are tired to stay awake.  This might be one of the reasons why people who work the night shift seem to have a greater risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  A balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight are therefore all the more important for moderating these risks.  Keep your portion sizes reasonable.  Try to focus on lean proteins, whole grains, and eating more vegetables.  Snacks are ok, but try to focus on lower calorie options, like fruit or vegetables.

Thanks for the question!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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