Energy-Boosting Foods for Night Shift: What To Eat and When

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To fight nighttime fatigue, having the right snacks on hand can help boost your energy and keep you feeling alert, focused, and buzzing all night long. For shift workers pulling these late night and early morning hours, it comes as no surprise that maintaining high energy levels and staying focused becomes challenging. But with the right food and a little bit of preparation, you can avoid the middle-of-the-night energy crashes. 

The best energy-boosting foods for night shift workers include a combination of protein, fiber, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates such as hard-boiled eggs, salmon, banana, avocado, spinach, berries, peanut/almond butter and whole-grain bread. Focus on sustainable small snacks that slowly release their energy rather than large meals.

If you’re feeling sluggish when working a night shift, this post will be right down your alley! We will first explore why we are drawn to “bad foods” at night particularly when we are sleep deprived. Then we will give you some tips on what you should fill your lunch box with. Feeling revived all night shift is just a few bites away!

Night Shift Food Cravings

Why Do I Find Myself Making Bad Food Choices At Night?

Have you ever struggled to get through your night shift or experienced uncomfortable symptoms ranging from appetite issues, weight gain, or intense cravings? I bet for most of us the answer is yes. We have all experienced at least one, if not all, of these symptoms at some point.

The work we do and the time we do it can be hard on our bodies and often lead to unhealthy habits. And while the vending machines might be calling our names, there are certain foods and drinks you should reach for and other foods you should avoid when it comes to boosting energy levels and getting you through the long hours.

Prioritizing clean proteins and healthy fats like eggs, nuts, and avocados can help shift workers stay satiated and maintain energy levels. (source) Before you go into work and especially once you are there, focus on this healthy mix of protein and fat to avoid those unwanted cravings and energy crashes.

Foods like nuts, seeds, hard boiled eggs, hummus, and plain Greek yogurt (try to avoid those with unnecessary amounts of added sugar) are all great choices.

And while it may be tempting to grab that beautifully packaged and let’s just say it, delicious, treat from the vending machine, it will only do more harm than good.

We’ve all experienced junk food cravings after a bad nights’ sleep. But did you know there is actual science as to why that is?

When we lack sleep our hunger hormone, ghrelin, spikes, making us feel hungry. For shift workers doing their most important work in the middle of the night, it’s important to anticipate this and have the right foods to combat these hunger strikes.

I found this information plus so many more shift work-related tips in this book pictured below. It’s certainly made me a much healthier shift worker (and gave me lots of meal suggestions). Highly recommend! Here’s where you can find it on Amazon.

Too tired to Cook | Night Shift Essentials

Often, it’s easy to find things like apples or bananas where we work. But the key is to be prepared and pair these quick snacks with a protein or fat source to keep blood sugar levels from spiking and maintain energy levels.

Luckily, we live in a time where access to better quality snack foods is easier than ever. And with a little preparation, night shift workers can successfully get through their shift while maintaining their focus and keeping a clear head. (Here are a few great meal prep tips)

Sounds simple enough, right?

Well like most things, having the right energy boosting food to keep you feeling great all night long is easier said than done. And for a busy night shift worker, eating healthy might not always be a top priority. Let’s dive into realistic food options, how to properly prepare for your work week, and what foods and beverages to avoid. 

To kick things off, here are a few posts Dan and I have written about food and shift work

Avocado on toast

When Working Nights, Prioritize Protein, Fiber, and Fat

When in doubt, focus on protein! (and even think beyond meat…)

Balance is key and even if that piece of fruit is healthy, be sure to balance it with a more filling protein or fat source.

Now, it should be said that carbohydrates are not the enemy! However, not all carbs are created equal. And when it comes to keeping blood sugar levels stable and staying sharp and focused, we want to think balanced snacks, with a good source of protein, fat, and fiber.

Simple carbs and sugars are not the answer.

And while we all love the convenience of the vending machine filled with processed snacks and sugary sodas, that machine is not always our friend. These processed bars and sugary drinks might give us an initial energy spike but will only lead to harder energy crashes and further cravings, sending us into a vicious spiral. 

Instead, choose complex carbohydrates that have a slow-releasing energy effect and are also rich in fiber.

Foods like oats, quinoa, and whole-grain breads. In addition to this, make sure you pair these fiber rich carbohydrates with a good source of protein and fat. Remember, protein is our best friend. And when we prioritize protein and fat, we help our bodies stay fuller for longer.

If you need recipe inspiration, I’m obsessed with this book at the moment. It’s helping me eat more veggies and staying healthy when working the graveyard shift.

As shift workers, who are working against the typical biological clock, it’s critical that we do everything we can to help our bodies regulate blood sugar and keep our metabolism happy and our energy high. To do this, plan accordingly and have good protein and fat sources at the ready

Here’s a good tip: Look at your snacks as more of “mini meals,” and ask yourself, is there a protein source, healthy fat, and some fiber in this? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Hard boiled eggs and an apple
  • Banana and peanut butter
  • Rice cakes or whole grain bread with avocado
  • Raw or unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Cottage cheese and berries
  • Greek yogurt 
  • Hummus and veggies or rice crackers 
  • Smoothie with banana, almonds, spinach, avocado, oats, almond butter

The important thing to keep in mind is creating snacks and meals that are balanced and centered around real, whole foods. Even though the energy bars might look appetizing or claim to be “healthy,” be mindful of the ingredients and swap it out for something cleaner and simpler that will make you feel better. A whole food is something that is one ingredient. Think almonds, eggs, carrots, apple, etc.

And when we think about carbs, focus on those slow-releasing complex carbohydrates. And be sure to pair it with a protein or fat source.

The goal is to feel good, work well, stay focused, and avoid energy crashes. And that comes with clean proteins, good fiber, and healthy fats for sustained energy. Eating foods high in fiber will also help prevent constipation which we talk more about over here.

Just because we work odd hours does not mean we should forego our healthy habits!

[VIDEO] – I mentioned the pain and discomfort we can get from eating overnight. This video will give you a list of foods to avoid plus a few eating tips for night shift workers. I wish I’d known these when I started!

When Should I Eat On Night Shift?

Night shift workers should aim to eat the majority of their meals when the sun is shining. This is when our digestive system is awake and functioning fully. When it’s dark, limit yourself to consuming small sustainable snacks whilst staying hydrated or consider fasting overnight.

Next step; create an eating schedule

Proper timing of our meals and snacks is also important for shift workers to keep in mind. Bodies love consistency and by eating our snacks and meals at the same time each day, we are creating the regularity our bodies need to keep all systems functioning properly.

Timing can make a big difference in how we feel, how energized we are and how easy it will be to go to sleep after a long night.

If we feed our body something highly processed like a candy bar or something heavy like a burger followed with a nice cold soda at the end of our shift right before we need to go to sleep, it will be harder for our sleepy time hormone, melatonin, to turn on and tell our bodies that it’s time to rest.

Work with nature, not against it. Stay hydrated, avoid heavy and inflammatory foods, and fuel yourself with good fats and proteins throughout the night to keep blood sugar levels stable. 

Here is a general example of how to time your snacks and meals, and some ideas for what these meals could look like:

  • Breakfast when you get home with a healthy fiber and protein
    • Oatmeal with berries and cut walnuts
    • 2 eggs on wholemeal toast (opional; avocado, hummus)
    • Whole grain toast with peanut butter (optional; banana and cinammon)
  • Lunch when you wake up
    • Omelette with peppers and mushrooms, 1-2 slices of toast, side of fruit
    • Bowl of soup
  • Dinner before you go to work that includes a good source of protein and fat
    • Salmon, quinoa, and avocado salad with a light vinaigrette dressing
  • Snacks: Light snacks throughout your shift as needed (see above) and lots of water

As you’re working nights, there are two other posts I’d like to recommend. The first, Should I Eat on Night Shift? Why Intermittent Fasting Works and the second, Is Sleeping During the Day Instead of Night a Bad Thing? Both of these posts explore different aspects of working night shift in order to achieve optimal health.

[VIDEO] – Night Shift Eating Schedules Your Digestive System Will Love

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Water and Night Shift

This might seem like a no-brainer, but staying hydrated cannot be stressed enough! Hydration is critical to shift workers.

Often, the late-night cravings and hunger cues we feel are simply thirst. And when we start to feel sluggish and the fatigue is setting in, being dehydrated will only make this worse.

You can also get in some extra water by preparing hydrating snacks. Foods like watermelon and cucumber slices are all great things to pack with you.

If you’re someone who needs constant reminders to drink water, investing in a good water bottle that you keep with you at all times is a good way to remind yourself to drink up. Turn it into a nightly challenge to finish 3-4 bottles before your shift is over.

If water is boring, consider adding in some fresh fruit such as lemon, lime, strawberries and orange. This drink bottle from Amazon makes this super easy and you don’t have to deal with any pips!

To keep our water cold and caffeine hot, we use the BEAST tumbler. It’s so great. Watch our video review below and see if it is right for you (it does come in a smaller size).

What About Coffee on Night Shift?

Coffee is great to get your shift started and tell your body it’s time to get to work. But if you find yourself reaching for that third and fourth cup all night long, it’s time to re-evaluate why you need it and look for ways to swap it for caffeine-free tea or more water.

For you tea drinkers, we love Pique Tea. They have so many flavors which are so darn delicious. Check them out here and use THEOTHERSHIFT at checkout for a discount.

Remember, we’re trying to boost our energy when we’re on the clock and calm ourselves down when it’s time to wrap up and call it a night.

Avoid having any coffee or other stimulants during the last 4-6 hours of your shift prior to bedtime.


We want to make sure our bodies can become sleepy when we need them to and loading up on junk snacks and coffee will keep our bodies from calming down and preparing us for sleep. 

We wrote an entire post about night shift and caffeine titled; Night Shift and Caffeine. How To Use It Wisely. The writing of this post was well overdue for us caffeine-addicted workers so check it out.

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin was onto something.

For the shift worker struggling to keep energy levels up, the first step is to take matters into our own hands. If we don’t have the right foods to fuel our shift or take the time to plan ahead, we are setting ourselves up to fail. Preparation is key.

Spending an hour or two prepping your meals and snacks before the busy work week might sound like the last thing you want to do, but it must be done to avoid those looming vending machines.

Food prep and meal planning do not need to be a long and tedious affair. Here are some tips to make the planning smoother for those of us working the night shift:

  1. Crockpots and freezer meals make cooking in large batches easy. This will give you peace of mind that you always have something healthy on hand before or after a long night shift. (source)
  2. Homemade energy bites own those purchased from the store and better for you. Avoid the sugar heavy packaged bars at work and make your own energy bites filled with nut butter, oats, and any flavors you like.
  3. Cut and slice up all fruit and veggies, storing them in an airtight container. (We love these glass ones)
  4. Take it one step further and portion out your sliced fruits, veggies or snack mixes. Just be mindful about apples. On an empty stomach, I get some pretty awful aches and pains and even reflux so think twice before packing them.
  5. Prepare a large batch of hard-boiled eggs and even quinoa to grab throughout the week
  6. Load up on turkey slices, cheese and other grab-able items. If you’re trying to eat a plant-based diet, here are some snacks for you, for vegans, this one is for you and those eating keto, this one is for you.
  7. Keep a stash of yogurt or bags of raw nuts at work to have something fast to reach for! 
  8. Start drinking SuperGreen TONIK. This ir our favorite green juice power out of what feels like the 100’s we have tried! Read our full review here for a 10% discount code.

With a little patience, you will find that planning for your work week is a lot easier than you think. And when the energy levels start to dip and the hours get long, your future self will thank you for having packed quality snacks to get you through the night and leave you feeling good. 

In summary, now before you stress about having everything perfectly planned and ready to go, think about what you’re already eating and identify where in your existing routine you can start to make simple, preliminary changes. There is no need to throw away everything you have and start from scratch.

Take a little time to think about your current eating habits surrounding your night shift and identify the easy ways you can start incorporating more of these energy-boosting foods. Maybe it means adding nut butter to your oatmeal or packing a few hard-boiled eggs or turkey slices.

Maybe you already do a lot of meal prepping for your family and it’s a matter of picking up some reusable glass containers for you to pack food for work. Or maybe it means swapping the usual granola bar for simpler, raw nuts.

Remember what foods will help and what foods will hurt your energy levels during the night shift and find those simple opportunities to make swaps. And when in doubt, remember protein is king, and water is always important!

Happy eating night shift workers!

If you want to learn more about night shift and your metabolism – this post will be very handy!

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links, meaning we receive a commission if you decide to make a purchase through our links, but this is at no additional cost to you. Please read our disclosure and privacy statement for more info.

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Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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