How to manage a healthy diet on shift work

July 5, 2010 BY: LISA

How to Manage a Healthy Diet on Shift Work
Research shows that shift work can impact negatively on daily health habits. Shift workers tend to smoke more, drink more and have a poorer dietary intake in comparison to those who don’t work shifts.(1) Mood swings and depression are 5-15 times more likely. The outcome of this is that shift workers have higher risk factors for lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So what can you do about it?
•Keep your eating patterns as regular as possible.
•Aim for 3 meals and 2-3 snacks over a 24 hour period
•The breakfast meal is best kept in the morning, either one hour after you wake up or if night shift, 1-2 hours before you go to bed. It is important to eat a moderate breakfast at this time so you are not too full but also that you don’t wake because you are hungry. Choose foods like cereal, bread or light dairy based products e.g yoghurt, smoothies.
•Eat dinner between 5pm and midnight, and have foods that you would normally eat for dinner meals. E.g meat and vegetables.
•The timing of the ‘lunch’ meal will depend on the shift worked. If you are having two lunches due to shift work this will be likely to put on weight.
•Eat the contents of your lunch box (lunch and snacks) every 2-3 hours during your waking hours. You should not go 8-12 hours without eating while awake. Doing so will make you lethargic and possibly sleepy.(4)
Your stomach and digestive system are at rest during the night shift (3), eating light meals and snacks overnight is recommended.
•Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol, particularly after work as this will affect your sleep.
•Trying to maintain set sleeping habits and talking to your family about the need for your sleep to be uninterrupted is very important.
•Creating a room that is as close to night as possible e.g. Using fans to drown out daytime noises, use ear plugs and eye patches and block out the light from windows and turn telephone ringers down.(2)

Snack Ideas:

Dried fruit and nuts Fresh fruit Grainy biscuit and topping
Small tin of creamed corn Small tin of baked beans
Handful of dry cereal e.g Nutrigrain, Mini Wheats Yoghurt
Low fat milk drink Slice of raisin toast Chopped vegetables
Soup Hard-boiled egg Small tin of tuna 

1.Zhao, I and Turner, C (2008) ‘The impact of shift work on people’s daily health habits and adverse health outcomes’ Aust Journal of Advanced Nursing Vol 25, No 3
2.Shiftworker Online:
3.PHC Occupational Therapy ‘Shift work- whether bad or less bad and how to cope’
4.Watson, T (2007) ‘A Nutrition Guide to Staying Alert’ Clued on Food. Newcastle.

Prepared by Lisa Renn, Accredited Practising Dietitian. Wantirna. Victoria July 2010



  1. Wow! That is an out of the ordinary slant.

    where do I rank in the group
    August 23rd, 2011
  2. My thoughts exactly!

    purple black
    August 26th, 2011
  3. good day I read your website and I think you’re blog will be one of the bests if you keep up the good work!
    October 10th, 2011
  4. Thanks , I have recently been looking for info about this topic for ages and yours is the best I’ve found out till now. However, what concerning the conclusion? Are you sure about the source?

    Renetta Zuro
    November 22nd, 2011
  5. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Looking through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I am going to forward this information to him. Pretty sure he’ll have a good
    read. Thanks for sharing!

    Diet Patch Today
    June 8th, 2013

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