With shift work, it can be hard to maintain a consistent daily routine. Mealtimes can be especially difficult for those running on no energy, little sleep and a different schedule than the rest of the world. However, it is still important – if not more so – for shift workers to eat healthy.
Eating the right foods will give you energy, while eating the wrong foods can drag you down and make you lethargic. Although it may seem easier at the time, it’s no fun surviving on Starbucks, energy drinks and vending machine snacks.
So what if you tried some make ahead breakfasts and dinners instead? Batch cooking just might be your new best friend!
When you are working odd hours, you need meals that are quick, easy and nutritious. Making your meals ahead of time saves both time and money as you will now have something you can reach for on your way out the door or after a long day at work.
The following recipes can be refrigerated or frozen for convenient meals on the go. So before you hit the drive-through for another late night fast food run, give some of these 10 recipes a try!
Make-Ahead Smoothie Packs
Rather than guzzling down a caffeine-loaded energy drink or coffee when you’re tired, reach for a healthy energy-boosting smoothie instead.
This nutritious breakfast option is also a great metabolism-booster and supplies plenty of fiber.
While the ingredients below give a good starting point, your smoothie can be customized to your tastes and preferences. Ideally, you’ll want to make ahead a week’s supply of these on your day off so you’re ready to go during the work week.
- ¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 banana
- 1 cup kale and/or spinach
- 1 tbsp nut butter
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- ¾ cup milk of your choice
Dish out equal portions of the fruit, veggies and energy boosters into plastic bags or Tupperware containers.
Remove any extra air from baggies and freeze overnight.
Once your bags are prepped, you’ll just dump one into the blender each morning (along with ¾ cup of your choice of milk) for a grab-and-go healthy meal.
Healthy Sheet Pan Breakfast Sandwiches
What time is it? Is it day or night? With shift work, it is easy to lose track of time and your meals may not follow traditional schedules. Breakfast for dinner? Dinner for breakfast? Why not!
These delicious breakfast sandwiches can be enjoyed any time of the night or day. Sheet pan sandwiches, pancakes and more have become a viral sensation lately. Get in on the trend with this healthier option.
- 12 eggs or egg whites
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 6 ounces feta or goat cheese
- 3-4 sliced tomatoes
- 12 English Muffins
- salt & pepper to taste.
- Optional: avocado
Whisk together your eggs and milk, then pour into a large sheet pan and bake. Adding salt and pepper, bake for approximately 10-15 minutes at 375 F.
When done, cut the cooked egg sheet into 12 equal portions.
Top your English Muffins with the baked egg, cheese and tomatoes before individually wrapping and freezing each sandwich.
When you reheat your sandwich, avocado makes a great optional topping for more protein and healthy fat.
Slow Cooker Southwest Quinoa
Using a slow cooker or crock pot allows you to leave your dinner cooking while you’re at work or make a large batch of your favorite meal ahead of time.
Follow the recipe below for a yummy and healthy dinner any day of the week or double the ingredients for a make-ahead portion that can be used multiple times for lunch.
Quinoa is a delicious super food that is chock full of protein, fiber and other nutrients.
This southwestern recipe gives traditional quinoa a more flavorful twist.
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 15oz can black beans
- 1 15oz can corn
- 1 15oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups water
- garlic and salt as desired (Optional toppings: cilantro, sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado or guacamole)
Combine and stir together the quinoa, beans, corn, tomatoes and desired seasoning in a slow cooker with the 2 cups of water.
Chicken broth may be used instead of water for a heartier flavor. Cover and cook on low for approximately 4 hours or until all the liquid is absorbed. (Cook time based on a 6-quart slow cooker)
The final consistency of the quinoa should be tender but not watery. Let cool, then serve and add desired toppings.
If batch cooking, let cool and then divide into equal portions for freezing. Add the extras such as cheese and sour cream after reheating at your mealtime.
Hearty Chef Salad
Do you keep forgetting to pack a “lunch”?
A hearty salad makes a delicious and filling option for those quick work lunches on the go. The egg and deli meat add the necessary protein to help you power through the rest of your shift. Much better than carb-heavy fast food again!
- 1 cup romaine lettuce
- 1-2 sliced cucumbers
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- 4 ounces swiss cheese cut into strips
- 4 ounces deli turkey and/or chicken cut into strips
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- a dozen cherry or grape tomatoes
- Light dressing such as a vinaigrette.
- Optionally, add chunks of avocado for additional protein and healthy fat
Combine ingredients in a large bowl, then drizzle with salad dressing of your choice.
If packing your salad for lunch, store dressing in a separate container for maximum freshness.
When stored properly, your salad should last a few days in the refrigerator for a convenient lunchtime meal on the run.
Creamy Mushroom, Chicken & Rice Casserole
Casseroles are the perfect dish to try making ahead on your day off and will freeze and reheat well.
This hearty casserole will hit the spot after a long day’s work!
The ingredient amounts below should create 4 servings. Just divide the chicken and rice into equal portions and freeze or refrigerate for an easy workday lunch or dinner.
- x1 10 ¾ oz can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup long grain rice
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
- ¼ tsp paprika
- Salt & pepper to taste
Mix together the soup, water, rice and paprika.
Transfer this mixture to a baking dish and layer your casserole dish with the rice on the bottom, and the chicken breasts on the top.
Sprinkle salt, pepper and additional paprika seasoning as desired and then cover and bake.
The casserole should bake for approximately 45 minutes at 375 F – until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches at least 165 F.
Panko crumbs or breadcrumbs may be added towards the end of baking if you desire a crunchier texture.
Berry Delicious Overnight Oats
Overnight oats have gained popularity as a quick and easy breakfast snack for a reason!
This sweet and simple overnight oats recipe is sure to become a household staple for anyone wanting to prep their breakfast ahead of time… regardless of what time your breakfast is! ????
- ½ cup uncooked rolled oats
- ½ cup milk of your choice
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Sliced almonds
- Maple syrup or honey as desired for sweetening
Combine the oats, milk, sweetener and vanilla extract in a mason jar or a small glass. Cover with a lid to mix or stir and cover with cling wrap.
Refrigerate for at least 6 hours before eating.
Overnight oats should last for up to 4 days in the fridge and can be eaten cold or warmed up. Add your fruit and nut toppings before eating.
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Granola Yogurt Parfait
Looking for a lighter option? Yogurt parfaits make a delicious breakfast that won’t wear you down. This recipe makes 4 servings that you can store in the fridge for a grab-and-go breakfast option.
- 2 cups Greek yogurt
- 2 cups granola
- 2 cups fresh or frozen berries
- 3 tbsp honey
Portion out ½ cup of yogurt, ½ cup of granola and ½ of berries in small layers into each cup or glass.
Drizzle the 3 tbsp of honey over each serving as desired.
Optional: sprinkle some chocolate or peanut butter chips into each parfait.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Energy Balls
This delicious energy-boosting breakfast also makes a great on-the-go snack. The chocolate and peanut butter are great for anyone with a sweet tooth. The dates, flax seed and peanut butter offer protein, fiber and nutrients for a guilt-free sweet treat.
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup ground flax seed
- 3/4 cup dried and pitted dates
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup water
Combine your oats, flax seed, dates, peanut butter and vanilla extract in a food processor or blender.
Pulse until all the ingredients are blended well and your oats are finely chopped.
Gradually add water and continue to pulse until the mixture begins to stick together.
Once your mixture has reached this consistency, move it to a large bowl and mix in the chocolate chips. (Use dark chocolate chips for an even healthier option.)
Separate into small balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
After they have set, your energy balls can be eaten right away or stored in the fridge in a closed container for a later day.
Freezer-Friendly Vegetable & White Bean Soup
The secret to a good make-ahead soup is avoiding dairy or anything that gets soggy or mushy such as pasta.
This hearty vegetable soup is a healthy, filling way to relax at the end of a long day. It also makes a great packed lunch!
To serve, simply let thaw in the fridge for a few hours and then reheat for about 5 minutes on the stovetop, or a few minutes in the microwave.
- 8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 sliced leeks
- 3 sliced carrots
- 3 sliced celery stalks
- 1 16oz can of navy beans
- 4 cloves of minced garlic
- 4 cups of zucchini / bell peppers / mushrooms
- salt & pepper to taste (additional seasonings as desired)
Cook the celery, leeks, carrots and garlic together in a large soup pot or Dutch oven with olive oil.
Add in your chicken or vegetable stock as well as your beans, zucchini, bell peppers and mushrooms and continue cooking.
Once your soup reaches a boil, sprinkle in the salt and pepper to taste, as well as any other seasonings you prefer.
Let simmer on low heat for around 15-20 more minutes until all ingredients are thoroughly cooked. Freeze, reheat and enjoy!
Spinach & Feta Mini Egg Cups
Take the stress out of your mornings and pre-make your own egg bites at home with this delicious and healthy recipe! Your future self will thank you. ????
- 5 egg whites
- 3 whole eggs
- ¼ cup milk
- ¼ cup spinach
- ¼ cup feta
- ¼ cup diced tomatoes
- salt & pepper to taste
Whisk together the whole eggs and egg whites, adding in milk as well as salt and pepper to taste.
Next, stir in the spinach and tomatoes.
Using a greased muffin tin, pour the egg mixture evenly into each individual muffin cup.
Distribute the feta cheese into each cup before baking.
Bake for about 20 minutes until the egg cups are firm in the middle.
They can then be stored in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen. Simply grab a few each day to reheat for breakfast – and enjoy!
Double the recipe for another batch and enjoy even more days of delicious pre-made egg bites.
Summary: 10 Easy Shift Work Meals with Recipes
Trying to stick to a healthier lifestyle despite your hectic schedule? You can’t go wrong with a batch of breakfast sandwiches or overnight oats in the fridge!
Give some of these delicious make-ahead meals a try and let us know how it goes. Share your favorites with us in the comments below.
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