Shift Workers Guide to Better Health

Your shift working schedule (or your partner’s) could be damaging your health. Here is your Registered Dietitian approved guide to better health


Eating, exercise and sleeping habits can suffer with a shift worker’s schedule. So does this sound like you?

  • Skipping meals
  • Irregular eating patterns
  • Choosing the easiest option (which isn’t always the healthiest)


Creating habits, like keeping track of foods, can be hard when your schedule is constantly changing. Grocery shopping, cooking and meal preparation can be dramatically different each day. And shift work can be isolating since it isn’t easy to participate in social activities, family gatherings or meals, or have scheduled physical activity. All of these things combined lead to a higher risk of weight gain, heart disease, digestive issues and depression.

Nutritious meals and snacks can make a big difference in changing these outcomes. 


Here are some strategies you can implement:

  1. Have a scheduled eating pattern.  Eat within an hour of waking and then meals and snacks every 3-5 hours until you go to bed.  This will help with blood sugar regulation, overeating and binge eating.  Also will help you make a healthier choice. 
  2. Ensure your meals include protein, carbohydrates and essential fats. 
  3. Make sure you are including vegetables in your meals and snacks.  Recommend at least 4 servings (your fist is a serving size) 
  4. Only have caffeine within the first 4 hours of waking, caffeine can stay in your system for as long as eight hours.  Plus then you can focus on water consumption! 
  5. Avoid large meals late into your shift.  Taking in lots of food and fluid before bed can cause indigestion and make it difficult to fall asleep.  Then you will go to bed with a full stomach and be still digesting, instead of relaxing and detoxing. 
  6. But don’t go to bed starving, your sleep will be disturbed.  But also can cause you to binge on not great options when you wake up.  



People who are sleepy are more likely to reach for unhealthy foods.  So stock your kitchen with easy-to-eat raw vegetables (baby carrots, apple slices) and hummus, fruits (bananas, oranges), or a container of raw almonds and raisins, so that when you’re tired but hungry, you make healthy food choices. Choose high fiber carbohydrates like brown rice, wild rice, quinoa and rolled oats that keep you full and productive for longer stretches.

Prepare meals before your shift, make some crock pot meals and freeze the leftovers.  Freeze them in healthy portion sizes so you can grab and go. 

Bring your own food to work. You’re more likely to eat healthily if you pack your own meals rather than eating foods from restaurants, take out counters or vending machines.

Stock your freezer with healthy options. Make protein pancakes, (buy at grocery store, I do grocery store tours and would love to show you my favs), egg bake in muffin tins, steamer bags of veggies, breakfast burritos (whole grain tortilla) and freeze for grab and go.  

Sit down to eat. Pause for meals. Eat at a relaxed pace. Eating on the go or in front of a computer encourages mindless snacking.

Drink plenty of water. Your body often signals hunger and thirst in the same way. Bring a water bottle to work and fill it often.  Infuse your water with fruit or a citrus slice for an added flavor boost. 

Move when you can. Try to take walks, walk up and down stairs, or stretch before or after your shift or during your breaks. 

Make SLEEP a priority. People who sleep the recommended seven to nine hours each day are healthier, fitter, and less likely to suffer from obesity or other health issues than those who don’t sleep well. 



Shift work snacks:

Veggie sticks and hummus


Roasted chickpeas

Sugar Snap Peas 

Fruit and nut butter

Homemade granola bars, protein cookies or energy balls 

Hard-boiled eggs

A smoothie with added protein (add nut butter, protein powder, oats, hemp seeds or chia seeds)

Trail mix or mixed nuts