Nutrition Tips for Shift Workers


Are you one of the 3 in 10 Canadians who work shifts? If so, you may find that eating healthy can be a challenge. Here are some practical tips to help you eat well while doing shift work.

Shift work and your health

If you work shifts, you may find that you experience:

  • A change in appetite
  • Trouble falling asleep or getting a good night’s sleep
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Digestion problems like constipation, diarrhea, gas and heartburn

The good news is, by eating well and being active, you can avoid some of these problems. 

Practical tips to help you feel your best

Pack healthy meals and snacks. Bringing healthy meals and snacks from home will make it easier to eat well on your shift. Include a variety of nutritious foods from all four food groups in Canada's Food Guide. Try these meal and snack ideas!

Eat your main meal before going to work. If you work shifts, you may find yourself eating a large meal twice, first at home and then again at work. This may lead to weight gain. Eat your main meal a few hours before going to work. Eat a small meal and have healthy snacks during your shift. 

Have a light snack before bed. It’s hard to sleep well if you’re too full or too hungry. Healthy snacks such as whole grain cereal with milk and fruit or a piece of whole grain toast with a little peanut butter are good choices.

Avoid high-fat, fried or spicy foods. To prevent indigestion or 'heartburn' eat lower fat foods that are not fried or too spicy. 

Skip sweet snacks. Foods high in sugar, such as a chocolate bar or soft drink, may give you a short burst of energy, but can leave you feeling sluggish later. A snack with a little protein will provide energy when you start to feel tired and hungry. Try a handful of nuts with fruit, hummus with veggie sticks or yogurt with berries.

Cut down on caffeine. Drinking caffeinated beverages can help you stay alert; but too much caffeine can interfere with sleep, make you feel nervous or irritable and upset your stomach. To cut down on caffeine switch to decaffeinated tea or coffee, or herbal teas. 

Drink more water. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. It may help you to feel more alert during your shift. Keep a reusable water bottle close by and drink regularly during your shift.

Take active breaks. Do some stretches during your break. Walk up a flight of stairs, or go for a brisk walk. Some light exercise will give you energy to finish your shift, improve your mood and help you sleep better.

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Last Update – October 18, 2017

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