Maintaining Your Diet Working 12 Hour Shifts
Last updated: March 2022
The hardest part of my week is surviving my 12-hour night shifts at work. Shifts that are 12 hours are bad enough without being overnight. I have devised some ways to keep my eating habits healthy while working longer-than-average shifts. Diet is already difficult to maintain for a diabetic, especially with all the different ways one can choose to follow. Throw in the occasional random drop in blood sugar and you can have a real nightmare situation on hand.
How to eat during a long work shift with diabetes
I have modified a few habits to fit the lifestyle of those working 12-hour shifts.
One popular dietary practice is intermittent fasting. I would guess the majority of people follow a 16:8 formula where they fast for 16 hours and have an 8-hour window to eat. This can be difficult when working longer shifts depending on when your meal break is. I found it best to take your meal break either towards the beginning or end of your shift. If you take it in the middle, you have about six hours from when you eat until you get off work, then you factor in driving time and cooking time when you get home and you are pushing the 8-hour window. If you are on night shift, I would recommend eating before work and taking a break in the earlier part of your shift. This will allow for the same window to be followed on your days off.
If you are on dayshift, I personally would eat later in the shift and eat dinner at home then fast overnight while sleeping and the first half of the workday. If you don’t have a way to pick your break time, you may have to take two meals to work and eat one before or after your shift before going home and the other on your meal break to stay in the window. That kind of stinks, but you do what you have to.
Prepping enough and the right about of calories is essential as well. It is easy to pack a salad like I do, but I add ingredients that give me calories and volume so I am not hungry or fatigued at work. This can also help with keeping a steady blood sugar. It will take a little practice and you may need to break up a larger meal into one meal with a few snacks. Find something quick you can eat like some cut up chicken or some veggies as a snack and leave the rest for your main meal.
Plan for blood sugar dips
Snacks are also important, especially if you struggle with blood sugar dips. Glucose tabs are good to keep in a pocket or nearby that someone you work with knows where they are and when to get them if you need them. I would also bring a quick snack or drink that you like which will bring your sugar up quickly if you need it. Something with simple sugars would work well. If you don’t have sugar drops, you can bring a portion of something with healthy fats or protein to give you some energy to make it to your next meal.
Do you chew your food slowly or quickly?
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