Healthy Meals for Shift Workers (with Recipes and Videos)

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Eating healthy during your shift can be a challenge. Due to the physical demands we often find ourselves relying on sugary or salty snacks to give us a quick boost in energy, but as shift workers it is important to eat healthy, well balanced meals that will fuel our bodies throughout even our toughest, longest shifts. 

Healthy Meals for Shift Workers (with Recipes and Videos)

What constitutes a healthy meal for a shift worker? Healthy meals for shift workers should be filled with slow-burning foods that will sustain you long-term. As opposed to energy-dense foods that will spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling “crashed” in the short-term.

So lets put down those donuts, Nurses get your hands out of that candy dish, and Flight Attendants, step away from the Biscoffs. We have created this list of healthy meals for shift workers to save you the guess work and arm you with the nutrition you need to power through your shift filled with energy! 

We know that shift workers eat at odd hours (well as far as outsiders are concerned), so we made sure to provide diversified recipe suggestions. This way you can eat “breakfast” in the middle of your shift, and “dinner” when you first wake up, if that’s what your schedule calls for.  

Shift Workers’ Meal Planning 

When planning meals to fuel your body for shift work, you will not only be focusing on the meals that you eat at work. Strategic nutrition for shift workers starts before your shift begins and continues after it ends.

Eating the right foods at the right times will help your body cope with the physical demands of your shift and prevent any bloating, nausea, or “heaviness” that could slow you down after a meal. 

For this reason, we have intentionally broken our suggested recipes into three categories, “Pre-Shift” meals, “Packable” meals, and “Post-Shift” meals. 

Important Tips for Shift Work Meal Planning 

Before we jump right in, we want to present a few additional important tips that we think are important for you to keep in mind. 

Eat within one hour of waking up

This will tell your metabolism it’s time to for it to go to work, which in turn helps your body feel energized when you go to work.

Making sure you eat soon after waking up will help prevent your blood sugar from crashing, which can help prevent you from developing nausea. 

Be sure to plan an eating schedule for your shift

Plan to eat something every 3-5 hours during your shift. Eating smaller, more frequent meals will prevent you from feeling bloated and heavy after eating. 

Include carbs AND protein in every meal

This helps to fuel your body for longer and you will notice that we have made sure our recommended recipes include balanced carbs and proteins. 

Decrease your caffeine intake in the middle of your shift

You will want to consume most of your caffeine at the beginning of your shift and allow it to taper off. Caffeine can stay in your system up to eight hours, and you do not want it to interfere with your sleep after work. 

Related post: What Should I Drink on Night Shift? 10 Energy Boosting Beverages

Eat smaller meals later into your shift

Avoiding larger meals towards the end of your shift will decrease the chances of indigestion and will help your body prepare for sleep. 

Don’t go to bed starved

If for some reason you did not manage to eat during your shift, do not let yourself “have sleep for dinner.” Have a small, healthy snack like these suggestions and then hit the hay

Limit Alcohol

Drinking alcohol puts all of our other digestive processes on hold, so if you drink alcohol, do it in moderation or you risk missing out on the benefits of these healthy recipes (source).

Related post: Is Surviving Night Shift with a Morning Beer a Good Idea?

Keeping these tips in mind will help make the healthy recipes below more effective at boosting your energy levels and fueling your body through your shift. 

Mug of coffee | What Should I Drink on Night Shift? 10 Energy Boosting Beverages

Pre-Shift Meal Recipes 

In this section we give you five recipes for pre-shift meals that will help sustain your energy levels all-day-long.

Your pre-shift meal should be the largest meals of your day. Think back to that thing your grandmother used to say, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day!” Whether you eat it at 5am or 5pm, these recipes are well-suited to be your first, or pre-shift meal. 

These recipes also may not necessarily travel well, and therefore, are best eaten at home. 

1. Huevos Rancheros 

What we love about this recipe: This meal cooks up in less than half-an-hour, meaning if you hit that snooze button a few too many times, you will likely still have time to make this meal. 

What makes it good for shift workers: This recipe is packed with healthy fats, protein and even carbs and it will get your shift off to a power-packed start. It also contains three foods, avocados, eggs, and beans that are proven to boost your energy levels (source).

Pro-tip: Mix it up! If you love this recipe but want to change it up try cooking your eggs in different ways, or if you’re vegan, leave them off entirely. You can also play with your cheeses; use vegan cheese, cheddar, cotija, even feta! There is room to add your own creativity. 

2. Superfood Salmon Salad

What we love about this recipe: This recipe is a delicious, healthy recreation of a popular dinner salad from Bonefish Grill. 

What makes it good for shift workers: This salad recipe contains plenty of energy-boosting foods like fatty fish, avocado, sweet potatoes. Plus, it is a perfect pre-shift meal for those of us with later start times. 

Pro-tip: This salad could become a “packable,” but keep the wet salad ingredients separate from your dry ones until you are ready to eat in order to prevent your lettuce mix from wilting. 

See recipe here – Brittany Mullins (Eating Bird Food)

3. Beef and Broccoli Stir Fry

What we love about this recipe: If you happen to be a working parent, kids love this recipe, so you can be sure it will please the family, in addition to getting you the nutrition you need for your upcoming shift. 

What makes it good for shift workers: Anemia is often an unacknowledged cause of fatigue, especially among working-women (source), this meal is packed with iron in order to protect you from becoming anemic and it is a protein-packed meal that will keep your batteries full at work. 

Pro-tip: You can save yourself some hassle by finding pre-grated broccoli in the freezer section, or you can grate your broccoli ahead of time and store it wrapped in paper towels in an air-tight container. This meal is best served fresh, so it is best to eat it at home. 

Check out the video here and the recipe here via

4. Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

What we love about this recipe: You can stuff your peppers in advance and then freeze them to use as needed. Take out one or two and pop them in the oven to bake. 

What makes it good for shift workers: This meal is packed with those energizing foods like beans, and brown rice. And since you can make it in advance, it is perfect for a quick, filling and nutritious meal to make before you head off for the night shift. 

Pro-tip: If you find yourself commonly struggling with bloating at work, you can adapt this recipe to make it a low-fodmap friendly recipe by simply making these substitutions:

• Red bell peppers instead of green bell peppers

• Chickpeas instead of black beans

• Green onions instead of white onions

• Carrots instead of corn 

See the reciepe here – Culinary Hill

5. Healthy Chocolate Banana Avocado Smoothies

Why we love about this recipe: Sometimes you just crave a smoothie for a meal and this one is packed with enough protein, and energy-boosting ingredients that it could serve as an amazing pre-shift meal without being as bulky as a full sit-down meal. 

What makes it good for shift workers: It is literally made entirely out of energy-boosting foods and it will satisfy your craving for sweet-treats without allowing you to crash at work. 

Pro-Tips: Freeze your peeled bananas and shelled avocados ahead of time so your smoothie is nice and cold, and you can forgo using ice cubes which can change the texture of this creamy-smooth, smoothie.

Check out the video here and the recipe here via

If you’re a smoothie type person, you’ve got to have a look at SuperGreen TONIK. It’s a green juice we discovered last year and it tastes so much better than other green juices we have tired. The best part though is that it gives a healthy kick most of us need in our lives!

See our review here or jump straight to the SuperGreen Tonik website here.

Packable Meal Recipes 

In this section we give you five recipes that pack and travel well, so you can take them to work with you. They’re a little smaller so you won’t get that bogged down, “I ate too much” feeling, and, as an added bonus, this makes them easier to throw in a cooler. 

Speaking of packing meals, our friends in aviation are practiced packers who have had to learn to pack food for several-day-trips and adapt to the possibility that their accommodations won’t have microwaves available. Luckily, we have a few of their top, tried-and-true, tips to share with you. 

• Invest in a high-quality cooler: The Crew Cooler from eBags is not just for flight crew. It is easy to clean, has plenty of space to organize your food and it holds up over time. Read the reviews here.

Pack your utensils: always have a set of your own reusable utensils packed. This set even comes with its own convenient carrying case.

Purchase glass containers: Glass is best (we love these) because it holds up to the demands of reuse. Plastic degrades over time and may not be dishwasher safe. See our post here which compares plastic and glass – Glass vs Plastic Containers. What’s Best For You and Your Food?

• Get separate containers for salad dressings: This helps keeps salad-like dishes from becoming too soggy. This set is even a TSA approved carry-on container, in case you travel for work. 

• Get a self-heating food tote: No microwave, no problem! Flight crews have been known to cook entire pot roasts in one of these Hot Logic travel food warmers. 

HotLogic Food Warming Tote Lunch Bag Plus 12VOpens in a new tab. (This thing is amazing! click to check it out via Amazon)

1. Hot Logic Salmon & Asparagus 

What we love about this recipe: You don’t even have to cook it until you are at work! But if you don’t have a self-heating food tote, you can cook this at home and either reheat it at work or even eat it cold; it will still taste good. 

What makes it good for shift workers: The fatty fish and asparagus are energy-packed, but they are also light enough not to make you feel heavy or bloated. The portion sizes of this meal are perfect for at-work meals. 

Pro-tip:If you like this recipe, our flight attendant friend put us onto a whole YouTube playlist of recipes you can cook in a self-heating food tote.

2. Greek Chicken Grain Bowls

What we love about this recipe: This recipe makes meal prep lighting fast. You will get four meals out of this recipe that you can store in the fridge for up to a week! 

What makes it good for shift workers: The quinoa in this recipe is packed with energy and the lean chicken protein will keep your body fueled for hours. This meal also holds up well when packed and does not need to be reheated. 

Pro-tip: Follow this with hummus and pita for an equally power-packed snack that keeps you feeling like you are in the Mediterranean for your entire shift. 

Check out the video here and the recipe here via

3. Peanut Butter Blueberry Overnight Oats

What we love about this recipe: This recipe is literally meant to sit undisturbed for a while, making it a fantastic meal to pack. Plus, it can satisfy your desire to have “breakfast” towards the end of your night shift when the sun starts to rise. 

What makes it good for shift workers: The oats and chia seeds work together to boost and sustain your energy levels while also satisfying that sugar craving you are bound to develop after working for several hours. 

Pro-tip: Make this in a tightly sealed mason jar and when you’re done shaking them up, flip them upside down so the milk, or milk substitute, gets better distributed through the oats and the chia. If you happen to think about it, give it a good shake periodically. 

Bonus pro-tip: If it happens to be cold outside you can heat these up and eat them warm. 

See this delicious recipe here via

4. Spicy Pineapple Chicken

What we love about this recipe: This meal is has a comfort-food quality to it that makes it a perfect substitute for ordering Chinese take-out during an extended shift. 

What makes it good for shift workers: Those pineapples pack in the vitamin C, which is great for immune health and with only 324 calories per serving you can indulge in this meal without feeling guilty. 

Pro-tip: Invest in some glassware containers, like the ones featured in this recipe’s video. They are wonderful for packing food because they’re microwave and dishwasher safe. 

See this recipe here via

5. Grain Bowls – 3 Ways

What we love about this recipe: It’s highly customizable, as you can see from the video. There are so many “bowls” you can make following the basic principles outlined by this recipe. 

What makes it good for shift workers: Bowls are the star-player of any good meal-prep game because they are loaded with nutritious food and because you can tweak them in endless ways to keep them interesting. 

Pro-tip: Make a few different kinds of bowls all at once and store them, then alternate through them during your work shifts. Spending a few hours meal-prepping in bulk will save you time and help you use ingredients more efficiently. 

Check out the video here and the recipe here via

Post-Shift Meal Recipes 

In this section we give you five recipes that are great to eat after you get home from your shift.

These meals are designed to help your body recover from your shift without interfering with your sleep.

Think of these meals more like snacks, your portions are meant to be small, so you don’t overeat and interfere with your sleep. You can even incorporate them into your packed meals to provide you with snacks throughout your shift. 

1. Healthy Banana Bread

What we love about this recipe: It is gluten-free, paleo and dairy free! Making it an accessible choice for those us of us that have some dietary restrictions. There are also tons of ways to personalize this one, you can add grated carrots and zucchini for the extra nutritional boost or add some dark chocolate chips if you want to hit the sweet-spot without detracting from its value. 

What makes it good for shift workers: This is a perfect bed-time snack! It is low-sugar, which means it will not keep you awake, nor contribute to crashes if you decide to nibble on it at other points throughout your day. 

Pro-tip: When shopping for bananas to make this recipe look for “spotty” bananas. These are the bananas that are starting to develop brown spot sand they are perfect for making banana bread. If you happen to have some bananas starting to look like this at home, but don’t have the time to make this recipe right away throw them in the freezer. 

See this recipe here via

2. Vegan Mac and Cheese

What we love about this recipe: Who doesn’t love mac and cheese? 

What makes it good for shift workers: Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food to help you wind down at the end of your shift. When served in small portions this vegan version of the classic dish will feed your body without over-energizing you. 

Pro-tip: You could pack up the left overs and take recipe with you to work, but keep in mind that carb loading does not boost everyone’s energy levels. If you find yourself feeling sleepy after eating foods high in carbohydrates, like pasta, this would not be a good at-work meal for you. 

See this recipe here via

3. Spicy Hummus Wraps

What we love about this recipe: Making homemade hummus can save you money over buying pre-made hummus at the store. You can use it to make this wrap for an easy, no-fuss, light, post-shift meal. 

What makes it good for shift workers: Hummus is a fantastic element to a ton of healthy lunches, it is also the basis of a good snack, in other words, it is very versatile. 

Pro-Tip: Now that you know about hummus, check out chocolate hummus. It will change your healthy dessert game. 

See this recipe here via

4. Strawberry Banana Baked Oatmeal 

What we love about this recipe: This dish is like eating dessert, but much healthier. It also keeps in the fridge for up to six days, making it a great recipe to make ahead of time and then enjoy throughout your work week. 

What makes it good for shift workers: Though this recipe will make you think you are cheating on your healthy diet, it is a well-balanced mini-meal for any time of the day. 

Pro-tip: This dish is even better served warm with a bit of milk splashed on top. Enjoy! 

Check out the video here and the recipe here via

5. Arugula, Watermelon, and Feta Salad

What we love about this recipe: This fresh, light salad is like summer in a bowl! The sweet, meets savory flavor combo makes this make-at-home dish taste like it came from an expensive café. It’s also really easy to put together. 

What makes it good for shift workers: Watermelon is rehydrating, so when you eat it at the end of your shift you are helping your body rehydrate and recover from the long day at work.

Pro-tip: If you want to achieve a more savory and less sweet taste, lightly grill your watermelon. 

See this recipe here via

Summary: Healthy Meals for Shift Workers (with Recipes and Videos)

So, we hope that after reading our list of healthy meals for shift workers, that you now know it’s possible to throw a party for your taste buds, whilst keeping those hips and stomach in check!

Steer clear from the vending machine from now on and enjoy the “fruits” of a much smoother time on the job.


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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.

Daniel Smith

Managing a global sales team I've experienced the challenges of working at all hours of the day and night. Being a shift worker I know how tough it can be balancing everyday life when you feel like you haven't slept in weeks! Providing advice and tips on how to manage your schedule, whilst still staying healthy is where I can help.

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Shift workers have a tendency to visit the vending machine a little too often! When you work against the body clock, finding the time to organise meals can be tough. That's why we've taken the guessing work away from you and provided you with a list of healthy meal ideas that will help you get through your shift feeling tip-top, whilst also allowing you to achieve your health and fitness goals.Shift workers, look no longer. We've had the same pain as you, trying to decide what to eat and when can be draining. But it gets even worse when you eat a large bowl of pasta at midnight and then feel like you've been hit by a truck for the remainder of the shift. So here's some help in the food department, that will allow you to eat meals / snacks any time of the day that won't throw you off!