Did you know that shift workers are more likely to have digestive issues, higher body mass index and be more prone to long term health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes? We know that long hours and irregular meal times can leave you reaching for fatty, salty or sugary foods for a quick energy boost. But these types of foods will make your energy levels crash resulting in feeling slow, groggy and unable to make rapid decisions. Therefore, it is important to ensure you eat healthily whilst on shift.

According to the British Medical Journal, there is evidence to suggest that you are more likely to crave sugary, salty and high fat foods when you are tired. So rather than leaving it until you’re hungry and exhausted, it is sensible then to plan your meals in advance, especially before night shifts. One way to do this is to make a meal plan for the week ahead. On the evening before your first shift, bulk prepare some meals that are suitable to eat cold (in case you can’t make it back to the station) and take these along with you to work. Knowing you’ve got your meal already prepared will stop you from calling into the supermarket and picking up a large bag of reduced price sausage rolls.

Before you start your shift, you should consume a meal that is packed with wholegrains and vegetables to keep you fuller for longer. Your meal should also include some healthy fats and proteins such as lean meats, fish, cottage cheese, eggs, nuts and seeds, avocado, yogurt, baked beans, chickpeas or lentils.

Always remember to take snacks to work that will help you avoid grabbing a bag of crisps and some chocolate from the tuck shop. Fruits and vegetables are good snacks as their sugar is converted into energy relatively slowly and they also provide your body with vitamins, minerals and fibre. Cereal bars, yogurts and unsalted nuts are all good snacking options too.

Staying hydrated helps to keep fatigue at bay, so make sure you take a refillable bottle of water to work with you and keep taking sips throughout your shift. If you get the time for a hot drink during the night, consider a mug of green tea instead of a coffee. Green tea contains enough caffeine to perk you up, but it won’t continue to keep you awake once your shift is over and you are ready to go to sleep.

The regular consumption of cakes, crisps and takeaways at night can make you feel drowsy, lethargic and unable to perform to the best of your ability. You may also find yourself quickly piling on some additional pounds if you’re having a treat every single shift. A balanced diet is really important so try not to get too dragged into ‘cake culture’, but do allow yourself the occasional treat at work.

Remember, as a shift worker, you’re already exposed to health issues that could be avoided with regular working patterns and consistent meal times. Using these tips, you can take control of your diet now and avoid suffering any long-term repercussions once you’ve finished working shifts.