Is it just my workplace, or is it standard practice to have delicious, deep-fried, sugar-laden options ushered in during the middle of the night shift? When my stomach is growling? And my resistance is lowest?
There are also generous coworkers who do middle-of-the-night coffee runs and deliver my sugary, syrupy macchiato. Not to mention the home-baked goodies that grateful patients have dropped off. And the siren call of the vending machines. Every. Single. Shift.
If you don’t have healthy snacks prepared, it’s too easy to start snacking on muffins, doughnuts or the pizza your coworker is sharing. Those kinds of night shift diet choices start to take a toll after a few weeks, months, or years of shift work. Here are some ideas that just might keep you out of the 3 a.m. doughnuts.
1. Plan ahead
Prep work will pay off big time. So before you disappear into the relentless grind of back-to-back night shifts, take a few minutes to get prepared with some go-to healthy foods.
- Wash fruit
- Chop veggies
- Whip up some smoothies (store them in the freezer)
- Make hard-boiled eggs
- Cook grains (quinoa, brown rice, etc.)
2. Pack snacks
Prepare for your shift the same way you would prepare a little kid’s lunch. Because by 2 a.m., we all start to feel like overtired, very hungry toddlers. Beat the temper tantrum by filling several small resealable containers with appealing, healthy snacks.
- Carrot, celery, and red pepper sticks with hummus
- Cheese and crackers
- Plain yogurt with crunchy granola and raspberries
- Oatmeal muffins with fruit & nuts
- Quinoa salad with chopped fresh veggies and vinaigrette
- Healthy granola bars
- Peanut butter energy balls
3. Stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is a simple way to keep you feeling awake and ward off hunger pains.
- Get a couple of good refillable water bottles and fill them up—add some lemon wedges and mint leaves for a zesty refresh.
- Invest in some tasty high-quality teas to stash at work or in your bag—make a hot tea when you’re tempted to sip a sugary hot drink to stay awake. (And if you’re like me, I get really cold in the middle of the night and need something hot to warm me up.)
- Make a quick berry smoothie or green smoothie and stash it in the fridge until you’re ready for it. It’s portable nutrition that will fill you up without causing a sugar crash.
4. Treat yo-self
You don’t want to feel deprived or like you’re missing out on the fun. By packing one or two small treats to enjoy during your shift, you’ll have already set limits before you dive head-first into the fresh box of donuts.
- A small bar of dark chocolate
- Healthy cookies (yes, they exist!)
- Chocolate-covered raisins or almonds
- Vanilla or rice pudding
5. Use freezer bag slow cooker meals
Prepare some freezer bag slow cooker meals on your days off. Put them into the slow cooker when you get home in the morning after your shift. Go to bed, and supper will be ready for you when you wake up. Pack up some leftovers to bring to work for a midnight dinner.