For some, pulling all-nighters is fun but, for medical staff, working the night shift is just that — work. Along with tending to patients and ensuring the highest quality care, you must also take care of yourself, which often requires more time and energy than you deem necessary. Instead, you skip meals, chug energy drinks and brew another pot of coffee. Sure, it’s easier, but it isn’t healthy, and you know it.
Reprioritize your mental and physical health by making yourself these simple, healthy meals for overnight shifts. With minimal ingredients and easy prep, you’ll whip up delicious — and nutritious — foods in no time.
Chia seed is a tiny but mighty superfood that’s loaded with nutrition. These little seeds aid in digestion, increase energy and support blood sugar regulation. Plus, they soak up liquid over time, so they make for a tasty pudding you can prepare in advance.
All you have to do is combine chia seeds with a liquid-like milk or water in a Mason jar whenever you get home from work. Stir in a bit of honey or maple syrup and flavorings like jam, vanilla extract or cocoa powder. Cover the mixture and leave it in the fridge all day. By the time you’re ready to go to work, you’ll have a pudding you can top with fruit, granola, peanut butter and whatever other ingredients you have on hand.
Protein helps build muscle and is sure to boost energy throughout your overnight shift, which is why a wrap is so ideal. This simple meal will motivate you to endure and ward off fatigue until you get home and crawl into bed.
Choose a lean protein like turkey or chicken and a healthy, low-carb tortilla or leaf lettuce for the wrap. You can even add eggs or black beans for a vegetarian-friendly energy boost. Then, load up on veggies like carrots, spinach, bell peppers and cabbage. Drizzle on some light sauce or dressing, wrap it up and pack it for later.
If you have a celiac or gluten sensitivity, eating foods like white bread and pasta can cause fatigue and brain fog, symptoms you’d rather avoid during a night shift. Luckily, there are plenty of gluten-free meal options to keep you energized and healthy while you work.
Make a gluten-free pizza ahead of time so you can easily microwave it and fuel up at work. First, create your own dough with a blend of white rice flour, brown rice flour, tapioca flour and xanthan gum. Then, make a DIY sauce, add toppings and bake. Slice and divide your pie into bags or small containers so they’re grab-and-go ready when you leave for your shift.
Want a low-carb option that’s even easier to throw together? Try making your own tuna-stuffed avocados! This make-ahead meal is keto, Whole30 and paleo-friendly and only requires a few simple ingredients. Plus, it’s chock-full of healthy fats and protein that will keep you feeling full long after you’ve eaten.
First, mix tuna, mayonnaise, diced celery, red onion, herbs, mustard and seasonings in a large bowl. You can prep the filling in advance and store it in the fridge for three to four days. Slice an avocado in half and remove the seed. Dollop a few spoonfuls of tuna salad on each half and enjoy!
Do you love Mediterranean food? Doctors everywhere are recommending a Mediterranean-style diet to stay healthy and happy well into old age. Get your fill with this delicious chickpea salad. The best part is it’s highly customizable. If you’re not a fan of olives, substitute with cherry tomatoes. If you’re dairy-free, sub in another form of protein like eggs or nuts to keep you feeling full and energized throughout the night.
Combine the vegetables, feta and chickpeas in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and make your own lemon-parsley vinaigrette with olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, herbs and seasonings. Pack the vinaigrette and salad separately and combine the two just before digging in to keep it from getting mushy.
Redistributing your food intake from daytime to night hours can be tricky, especially if you recently swapped your schedule. You must rethink your diet and choose foods that help you cope with the slower digestive and metabolic processes that occur at night — even when you’re awake.
It’s best practice to eat a larger meal before your shift and smaller meals or snacks throughout the night to improve alertness and productivity. Choose foods that are high in fiber and protein and incorporate them into the meals listed above. With a little prep and practice, you can create an eating plan that works for your schedule, no matter how wacky it might be.
About the Author
Kara Reynolds is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Momish Magazine, an inclusive parenting magazine filled with parenting hacks, advice and more to keep your beautiful family thriving.