Being a nurse, we are often required to work long shifts. When nurses work extended hours, most of them do not have time to eat properly. This can adversely affect their health and well-being. Some nurses even develop long-term medical conditions, such as heartburn, indigestion, and peptic ulcer disease. Previous studies have shown that jobs with high stress and responsibility and shift work contribute to peptic ulcer disease and metabolic disorders. Eating for good health is one way that nurses can reduce the impact of stressors on the body and promote their health while working the night shift.

Here are four steps to help you maintain healthy eating and improve your nutrition when working a shift schedule.

1. Eat before going to work.

It is important that you have your main meal before going to work. If you are on the afternoon shift, you should have your main meal at mid-day around noon. If you are on the evening shift, eat your main meal at about 6 pm or 7 pm. You should also have a small meal or healthy snacks such as nuts, apple, and crackers during your shift. Try to avoid eating large meals during the night as it can cause heartburn, gas, or constipation.

2. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

Bring a bottle of water to work. Water can help you to stay alert and not feel so tired during your shift. Avoid drinking sugary soft drinks and alcohol before, during, and after work. Unsweetened herbal tea and low sodium 100% vegetable and fruit juices are other nutritious beverages that you can drink.

3. Avoid fatty, fried, or spicy foods.

Try not to eat greasy foods or foods with high fat, such as cheeseburgers and fried food, before going to work because these foods may lead to discomfort and indigestion.

4. Limit (or moderate) your caffeine consumption.

Try to limit caffeine intake at least four to five hours before the end of your shift. Since caffeine can stay in your system for many hours, this can affect your sleep when you are ready for bed.

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN, is an experienced researcher in health promotion and project director of a non-profit health and wellness program.

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