Preparation, planning are key to healthy eating
Are you a shift worker who struggles with nutrition? Or maybe you’re a parent who’s spending a lot of hours up at night with a child?
Shift work and ever-changing schedules can make it very challenging to eat well. Healthy food options are generally more limited in the wee hours, and people are affected by increased cravings when they’re tired. It’s just easier to reach for “comfort foods” when you’re low on energy. To help you make the best of tough situations, here are some tips to improve your nutrition, whether you’re working the night shift, tending to a sick child or dealing with anything that affects your sleep patterns.
First, prioritize protein. Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps you feel satiated longer. That feeling of fullness will stop you from reaching for quick snacks that don’t align with your nutrition goals. Lean protein can be prepared in advance, so you don’t have to cook – think chicken breasts and cold cuts. Other options include beef jerky, protein bars and protein shakes, all of which are now commonly sold at all-hours convenience stores.
In addition to high-protein options, add veggies and some fruit to your late-night snacking. Fresh chopped veggies, berries, nuts and seeds store and travel well in reusable containers, so you can get them ready in advance. And if you’re out of these items, many gas stations now stock them in their grab-and-go sections.
If you’re on the road late and have to dine out, search for entrées that have lean cuts of meat, such as chicken wraps, and round the meal out with a healthy side salad. Ask for dressing on the side so you can control how much you add. Avoid deep-fried, fatty foods such as burgers, nachos and wings, and stick to water instead of soda or alcohol.
Fast-food and drive-through options have become better than they once were. Most popular chains will have nutrition information available online or even right on site. If you have to buy food when it’s late, plan ahead so you can hit a place that has healthy fare.
To get the best results with nutrition, you just can’t ignore preparation and planning. I’d recommend you establish routines wherever you can to help you succeed. For example, shop on a schedule for foods that you enjoy and that help you hit your goals. Single-serve soups, pasta dishes, rice, steamed veggies and bagged salads are easy wins. Frozen meals are also an excellent option if you pick the ones that are lower in fat. When you have time, batch-cook and portion out several meals to get you through your next shifts or any tough period where sleep is irregular.
Nutrition isn’t complicated, but it’s not always easy to eat well – especially if you’re keeping odd hours. Focus on consistently taking small steps in the right direction. With every win, you’ll gain momentum and move closer to your goals. Be patient and be consistent.
The Sweaty Truth
Crystal Kirby-Peloquin is the owner of 204 Lifestyle and CrossFit 204. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org