12-hour shifts. Long. Grueling. Exhausting. People who work long shifts are often in high pressure and demanding jobs. Finding time to eat a meal and still accomplish work goals is sometimes nearly impossible. When there is time to eat, it’s usually something fast and convenient, but that convenience comes at a price.
Convenience foods tend to be energy dense. These types of foods (donuts, cookies, fast food, vending machine snacks, etc.) are high in sugar, saturated fat and calories -- and lack essential nutrients. Eating energy dense foods can lead to blood sugar spikes and eventual “crashes.” This creates a vicious cycle of crashing followed by craving another quick boost. This constant fluctuation in blood sugar level affects our energy levels and has negative effects on our mood. If this pattern of eating continues, it can lead to long-term health problems including diabetes and obesity.
A few minutes of planning and prepping before your shift can help prevent those muddled through mornings, late afternoon slumps and vending machine dinners. Some simple tips to help keep you from diving into the donut box out of desperation include taking a few minutes the night before (or whenever you have time) to pack some cut veggies and fruit (these can also be purchased pre-cut to save time). Nuts and nut butters are a good source of protein to accompany your fruits or veggies.
Plan your day and pace yourself. Avoid sugars, refined grains and caffeine. Curb your sweet tooth by eating something in the morning. Good choices include a boiled egg, fruit, quality cheese or cottage cheese, or whole grain crackers. Spread pre-planned snacks throughout the day (yogurt, nuts, veggies, fruits or even a healthy energy bar). If time permits, sandwiches, salads and leftovers are also quick and easy lunch ideas that can be prepacked and only take a few minutes to eat. Remember to bring water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Bottom Line: Set yourself up for success. A few minutes of preparation can mean a whole day of eating well and keeping blood sugar levels steady with energy to finish your day strong. If you can do a 12-hour shift, you can eat well too!
Written By: Sadaf Baig, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern