ACT Nutrition Support Service » Nutrition for shift workers

Nutrition for shift workers

ACT Nutrition Support Service » Nutrition for shift workers

Nutrition for shift workers

When you work shifts, you may find it hard to know when and what to eat. It may also be hard to find enough time to exercise regularly. Maybe you have already experienced some of these common problems:

  • a change in your appetite;
  • trouble falling asleep or getting a good night’s sleep;
  • weight loss or weight gain;
  • constipation, diarrhoea, gas;
  • indigestion, heartburn or stomach ulcers; and 
  • high blood pressure.

The good news is that by eating well and keeping active you can avoid some of these problems. Follow these nutrition tips to stay healthy, alert and feel your best at work and when you are at home.

Did you know...

Sleep allows our body to recover and repair. Circadian rhythm is the 24 hour cycle which regulates sleep, waking, appetite regulation, hormones, body temperature and many other functions. Shift work disrupts the circadian rhythm as you are awake when your body tells you to be sleeping. The disruption to sleep patterns from shift work can put you at greater risk for diseases like diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, stomach ulcers and digestive issues. Achieving a healthy balanced diet can help reduce this increased risk.

Digestion is less efficient at night which affects your body’s ability to digest your food and absorb nutrients. This also affects your ability to use the energy from food, which can affect your blood glucose regulation over time.


Get the balance right

• Use the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating as your reference tool

• Eat a variety of foods from the five food groups

• Make an eating plan and stick to it!

• Avoid relying on convenience and take-away food as these are often high in kilojoules and low in nutritional value

• Keep healthy snack options on hand at home, in the car and at work, so you are less likely to make poor food choices

• Drink plenty of water, aim for 1.5-2.5L of water per day


Move your meals around to suit your shift…

• Try to have your main meal before you start work

• Have “breakfast” before you go to bed

• Have a light meal when you wake up

• Keep meals/snacks light during the night as digestion of food is less effective at night and can lead to indigestion and reflux

• Try to coordinate to have at least one meal with family or friends


Example meal plan:

Shift: 10 hours - 9:00pm start, finish at 7:00am


Breakfast – 7:30am

Light meal – 3:00pm

Dinner – 7:00pm

Snack 1 – midnight

Snack 2 – 3:00am

Option 1

Porridge  with strawberries

Egg and salad sandwich on wholegrain bread

Roast chicken, mashed potato and vegetables

50g trail mix of nuts and apple

200g tub of reduced fat yoghurt

Option 2

Egg on wholegrain toast

Coffee made on reduced fat milk

Tuna and four-bean salad

1 medium piece fresh fruit

Lean beef hamburgers on wholegrain rolls    

1 cup frozen berries with 3 tbsp reduced fat yoghurt

Wholegrain crackers and cheese

Option 3

Fruit and yoghurt smoothie

Vegetable and lentil soup with crusty bread roll

Grilled fish with baked sweet potato and salad

Chopped veggies with hummus dip

Piece of wholegrain toast with peanut butter and banana












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