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If you’re feeling like your 9-to-5 is really getting you down, you don’t have to feel alone. Nearly 60 percent of the total workforce in America consist of hourly paid shift job workers. Of that 60 percent, approximately three million people can tell you that the night shift can be especially vexing, with sleep deprivation, mood swings, and even anxiety and depression being major problems. But how can those of us working graveyard alleviate the effect that shift work has on us?
Vegan snacks like smoothies, fresh fruit, homemade fruit roll-ups, raw vegetables, yogurt and nuts are packed full of all the essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. These are necessary for our bodies to regulate and stabilize our many vital functions, particularly when working night shift.
Maybe you’re thinking that your night shift job just doesn’t allow for the work-life balance necessary to lead a vegan lifestyle. Perhaps you feel like veganism is too difficult, or you simply enjoy meat and/or dairy too much to go full blown vegan. That’s all just fine because you can still benefit greatly by simply incorporating into your regular diet some of these vegan-friendly snack options.
Fruits are a great go-to snack option because they are high in vitamins and minerals, but they are also extremely convenient. Many fruits are readily available, fine to carry on-the-go, and because we are inherently hardwired to enjoy their sweetness, it takes very little to no effort to make them taste good.
Even if you’re running late for your shift, how easy is it to grab an apple or banana before heading out the door?
Speaking of bananas, they are very high in vitamin B6, which plays a huge role in the production of certain proteins, hormones, and neurotransmitters, like those “feel good” chemicals we all know and love, dopamine and serotonin.
Serotonin is especially important because it not only stabilizes mood, but it is also responsible for helping several other functions throughout the body, including digestion, sleep and waking, bone health, sex drive, and more.
Bananas also contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which acts as another important building block in creating that precious serotonin. But, if you’re one of the very many people who absolutely hate bananas, don’t fret because they aren’t the only good source of tryptophan by any means.
Pineapple, kiwi, plums and tomatoes all contain high amounts of tryptophan, while moderate amounts can be found in dates, grapefruit, cantaloupe and more.
Fruits also provide yet another very vital nutrient that often gets overlooked, particularly in the American diet, and that’s fiber.
Fiber helps to keep blood sugar levels stable by slowing the digestion of carbs, which in turn keeps one’s mood stable, and energy levels at a constant, meaning none of that spiking and crashing so many of us experience. This can be particularly helpful for those working the night shift, who often don’t get enough sleep due to their irregular circadian rhythms.
Thus, the next time you’re feeling a little tired or irritable at work, do yourself a favor and grab a piece of delicious and nutritious fruit for a nice pick-me-up.
So which fruits are high in fiber? Well, not to sound like a broken record, but those bananas we talked about before contain loads of fiber, and so do apples, oranges, strawberries, mango, and raspberries.
You can also try mixing and matching two or more of these amazing, nutrient-dense fruits into a smoothie for a snack (or meal) that’s not only rich in fiber, but also vitamins, minerals, tryptophan, and antioxidants. Here’s a scrumptious recipe for a 5-minute breakfast smoothie, courtesy of Michaela Cisney at thekitchn.com
5-Minute Breakfast Smoothie
- 1 cup almond milk
- 1 ripe banana, sliced
- 1 cup frozen fruit medley (favorite: strawberry, mango, pineapple, papaya)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1-2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
- Combine the almond milk, banana, frozen fruit, coconut oil, chia seeds, and powdered ginger in a blender and purée until smooth. Pour into a glass and serve immediately.
I see that you noticed that smoothie had banana in it, and you hate bananas, right? But bananas are one of the best and most versatile fruits out there, and so good for you too! Still not sold? I guess you could always go with a classic pineapple mango smoothie.
Here’s another quick 5-minute recipe by Monique at ambitiouskitchen.com for your busy work life
Mango Pineapple Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen mango chunks
- ¾ cup frozen pineapple chunks
- 1 ¼ cup light coconut milk, plus more as necessary
In a large high-powered blender, add in all ingredients and blend on high for 1-2 minutes or until all ingredients are well combined. If necessary, add in more coconut milk to thin the smoothie. Makes 1 smoothie.
Don’t be afraid of getting experimental with them either. Adding more berries to your smoothies is a great way to pack in even more of those free-radical fighting antioxidants we need to stay healthy.
Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are so extremely high in antioxidants that they are arguably the healthiest food one can consume.
But maybe you’re still not convinced that smoothies are for you. Perhaps drinking your fruits doesn’t appeal to you as much as it does to others, or maybe you don’t have access to a refrigerator at work to keep a smoothie fresh until you have time to consume it. That’s all fine because you can get many of the same benefits of a smoothie in a tasty fruit leather, or as you may have known it to be called as a kid, a fruit roll-up.
Healthy vegan fruit roll-ups are a thing, and though you can find them in most health food stores, they are also fun and easy to make right at home, though admittedly, they aren’t as quick.
Those antioxidant-rich berries discussed before are usually the main ingredient, but you can also use pretty much any fruit or combination of fruits that you want.
Below is a great, easy to follow recipe from Audrey at uncoventionalbaker.com
DIY Fruit Vegan Roll-Ups
- 2 ripe mangos, chopped
- 1 cup strawberries, hulled (or equivalent of 3 cups of fruit or berries of your choice)
Instructions (in the oven)
- Preheat oven to 175F. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat or some parchment paper
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until the mixture is fully pureed. Poured onto the cookie sheet and spread the mixture out evenly.
- Place in the oven and bake for 3-4 hours until the fruit leathers are dry to touch and not sticky (baking time can vary depending on how thick you make these).
- Remove from oven and allow to cool down. Once cooled, transfer onto a cutting board and cut into strips.
In the Dehydrator
- Puree fruit in a food processor until mixture is smooth.
- Lightly grease your dehydrator sheet with some coconut oil (or use dehydrator liners).
- Spread the mixture evenly and smoothly over the sheet.
- Dehydrate on 108F overnight (or for at least 9-10 hours) until the leathers are dry and stop being sticky. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into strips.
Use extra parchment paper to roll these up in so that they do not stick together.
There you have it, a tasty, healthy treat that you can easily pack in your lunch bag, or stash away in your desk, to nibble on whenever you get a break.
The sugar and fiber from the fruit will give you that little boost you need to make it through your shift, and the vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients will help keep you healthy and happy. Now onto some different snack options for you graveyard-shifters.
…a Vegan’s Best Friend!
Vegetables are another go-to at the top of the list, though to many people, they’re arguably not as enjoyable as fruit.
They often require a bit more effort to prepare before eating, and they don’t have that same sweet flavor that we automatically love about fruit. But the nutrients that vegetables provide make them absolutely worth the little bit of extra work that you sometimes have to put into them.
First of all, vegetables by themselves are naturally low in fat and calories and have zero cholesterol, and many vegetables are also very low in carbohydrates. This is excellent news for night shift workers, who are at much higher risk of obesity and diabetes, due to the effect that the disruption of their circadian rhythms has on their metabolism, which in turn puts them at higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
So if you’ve put on some pounds since starting working the night shift, getting more vegetables into your body just may be the key to staying lean and mean, and above, healthy.
Of course, the best way to eat your vegetables is raw. This ensures that you receive the full amount of nutrients that your veggies have to offer, as many of the most beneficial vitamins, like vitamins C and B, tend to be heat sensitive.
However, not everybody can stomach pure, raw “rabbit food” to the face like that, no matter how good it is for them. Luckily, there are ways to “jazz up” those raw veggies, giving them that needed texture and flavor to make them more digestible.
Making a delicious dip or dressing is probably the most obvious way to make vegetables more appealing, beside cooking them.
The issue here is that dips are often high in calories and fat, and because they are so yummy, it’s easy to eat too much, and those calories can really start to add up, usually around the waist. Not to mention, if it matters to you at all, most dips cannot be considered vegan in the slightest, for they usually call for some sort of dairy product to achieve the fatty creaminess we know and love. However, soaking your raw veggies in a marinade for a bit is considered a satisfactory alternative.
A marinade typically consists of some sort of acidic component, such as vinegar, lemon juice or wine, with a combination of herbs and spices, and finished with some type of oil. Although, the oil can technically be left out, if you’re seeking a truly zero fat option, as did Lee Crowell in the following recipe from allrecipes.com
Fat-Free Balsamic Marinade
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Whisk balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, water, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, thyme, and pepper together in a bowl.
- Marinate in refrigerator for 1 to 4 hours.
- The marinade is very acidic, so marinate vegetables and seafood for less time to keep them from becoming mushy.
That’s just one of many tasty marinade recipes out there. They are so quick and easy to make, you shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with different ingredient combinations to create your very own unique flavors.
If you try but come to the conclusion that you’re no good at making your own marinades, you can always choose from one of the several bottled options at your local grocery store.
And keep in mind that even if your marinade contains an oil, let’s say olive oil for example, it’s probably only about 14 grams of fat, and most that is probably monounsaturated fatty acids, or those “good” fats you’ve probably heard about, so don’t feel so guilty.
Vegan Snacks and Fiber Boosters
We’ll talk about monounsaturated fatty acids later, but first, let’s talk a little more about fiber.
Fiber is so important, yet the majority of Americans are getting only about half of the recommended daily amount.
Fiber does so much more for one’s overall well-being than just keeping blood sugar levels stable, it also feeds the “good” bacteria living inside your gastrointestinal tract.
A well fed gut microbiome not only keeps bowel movements soft and regular, it aids in immune function, protects against obesity and diabetes, and battles heart disease by keeping bad cholesterol and blood pressure low.
Furthermore, because most of the body’s serotonin is produced by its gut microbiome, there is a direct correlation between gut health and mental health. So, those “good” bacteria living inside you are key players in keeping mood stable and relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression.
This is crucial for the people working night shift, who have unbalanced circadian rhythms, don’t get enough time in the sun, who may be feeling isolated from family and friends, and have any of these other negative qualities of night shift work stacked against them.
We already know that fruits contain a high amount of fiber, but vegetables are just as good a source of fiber, if not better. Squash, green peas, broccoli, carrots, artichokes, beets, green beans, celery, bell peppers, etc. will all keep fairly well for some hours, even without refrigeration, so they’re all great at work/on-the-go.
When so many veggies are perfectly safe and delicious to consume raw, meaning little prep time and zero cook time, it’s hard to come up with excuses not to get your daily recommended dose of fiber.
Those raw vegetables will taste even better after a little bath in that delicious, tangy marinade we discussed earlier, but you could also dip them in a little bit of hummus for an excellent, yummy, nutrient-dense snack.
Hummus is made from chickpeas, which are very high in plant based protein, several key vitamins and minerals, and yes, fiber! There are several brands and varieties of hummus that you can buy in your local grocery store, or you can try making your own hummus at home.
Here is a great recipe with a little spicy kick from Alison Andrews at Lovingitvegan.com
The Best Hummus Recipe
- 2 Tbsp Lemon Juice (Freshly Squeezed)
- 2 Cloves Garlic (Crushed)
- 1 15oz (425g) Can Chickpeas (Drained)
- 1/3 cup (80g) Tahini
- 3/4 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Cumin
- 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 Tbsp Cold Water
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (Optional)*
- Soak the crushed garlic in the freshly squeezed lemon juice for 5 minutes.
- Then add the drained chickpeas to the food processor along with the garlic and lemon juice, tahini and 2 Tbsp of cold water and process until chunky.
- Then add in the salt, cumin, olive oil and remaining cold water and process until smooth.
- Add the cayenne pepper (optional) and process again until smooth.
● Soaking the garlic in the lemon juice helps to take some of the bite out of the raw garlic.
● Use a good tasting tahini. Soom is a great brand that you can get on Amazon.
● The cayenne pepper is optional. It’s a good idea to add in 1/4 teaspoon first and then taste test and see if you want to add more. Or leave it out altogether. You can also use cajun spice or chili powder.
● To get your hummus smooth let your food processor run for a good few minutes! If your food processor isn’t up to the task of getting it really smooth, then an optional additional step is to move it to your blender for a final blend before serving.
● Sprinkle Paprika
● Extra Virgin Olive Oil (For Drizzling)
● Fresh Parsley (Chopped)
This recipe is super tasty and easy to make, and it makes celery, carrots, and snap peas absolutely delectable.
And though hummus is usually paired with pita bread, you could skip out on those extra carbs and dip some sliced squash in it as an alternative, since our goal is to pack in more of those amazing, nutritious veggies.
But, hummus doesn’t always appeal to everyone, does it? If you’re one of those people, don’t you worry because I have an excellent second choice for you!
The following spinach artichoke dip recipe is from Julie, The Simple Veganista, and it gets its creaminess from raw cashews, which provide their nutritional benefits aside from the spinach and artichoke.
Cashews are a type of nut that is high in protein, and they are an excellent source of copper, magnesium, and manganese, which are all important for bone health, immunity, energy production, and brain health. They are also rich in unsaturated fats, or those “good” fats mentioned before.
Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip
- 1 ½ cups raw cashews
- 2 – 4 tablespoon nutritional yeast or 1 tablespoon mellow miso
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon mineral salt
- fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- juice of 1 small lemon
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened plain almond milk or other non-dairy milk or water
- 10 – 14 oz. spinach
- 1 can (14oz.) artichoke hearts in brine, drained and finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Soak cashews covered with 1 inch of very hot water for 10 minutes to help soften them up so they blend ultra creamy. If you have nut sensitivities, soak the cashews in cool water for 2 – 3 hours to aid in digestion.
- Dice the artichoke hearts and prep the spinach.
- Using your favorite blender, add the soaked cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and liquids to the bowl and process until nice and smooth, about 3 minutes or so. Taste for flavor, adding more salt and pepper as needed.
- In a small or medium-sized baking dish, add the spinach and artichoke hearts, pour the cashew cheese overtop and mix to combine. Wipe along the rim of the baking dish before baking for clean finish if you like.
- Place in the oven, covered for 10 minutes, remove cover and bake another 10 minutes. Feel free to adjust the cover at any time to your preference.
- Serve as is or give a good stir before serving. This dip is great warm or at room temperature and is delicious scooped up with a sliced baguette or homemade crusty bread, pita chips, crackers or fresh vegetable sticks.
With the marinade, hummus, and spin dip recipes listed, you should now have enough to inspire you to go ahead and jump on the raw veggie train.
You now know how important eating your vegetables really is both your physical and mental health, and you now know how to make them more fun and appealing to your palate. But for good measure, here is one bonus recipe from Christin McKamey at veggiechick.com, just to make sure you get all the lean, nutritious, fiber-rich veggies your body needs to thrive
- 3 medium avocados
- 1/2 white onion – finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
- 2 medium tomatoes – seeded and diced
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro – finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice – roughly 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice – roughly 1/2 lemon
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- dash of crushed red pepper and/or cayenne pepper – optional
- Cut avocados in half; remove seeds. Scoop out avocado flesh from the peel; add to a medium mixing bowl (I use this stainless steel bowl). Using a fork or masher, mash the avocados (not too much; it should be a little chunky).
- Add the chopped white onion and tomatoes, cilantro, garlic cloves, lime juice, lemon juice, ground sea salt, cumin, black pepper, crushed red pepper and/or cayenne pepper (optional) and mix with a large spoon until blended.
- Serve immediately for freshest taste, or refrigerate until ready. Makes roughly 2 cups guacamole.
Pro Tip: To keep the avocado from turning brown- add the guacamole to a glass or plastic sealable container. Before you put the lid on place some wax paper or plastic wrap over the container and press down onto the surface of the guacamole until it’s flat and no air is exposed to the guacamole. Place the lid on over the wax paper/plastic wrap.
Going Nuts for Nuts (and Seeds)!
After taking so much into account about fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds may seem like just an afterthought. But there are plenty of reasons why you should consider making nuts and seeds a staple in your diet as well, the first being that they are just so convenient.
They’re small and easy to carry around in a baggie, available to pop into your mouth whenever the munchies hit, and they have a much longer shelf life than fresh fruits and vegetables.
This is extremely beneficial for someone who works a very long shift, doesn’t have easy access to refrigeration, or doesn’t get very many, if any breaks.
Though small, nuts and seeds pack a powerful punch. They have very unique nutrient profiles, packed full of vitamins (including E and several B vitamins), minerals, protein and amino acids, fiber, and antioxidants, but they are low in saturated fats and cholesterol.
This nutrient profile makes nuts and seeds somewhat of a super food that have been shown in some studies to help with weight regulation and reduce the risk of both diabetes and heart disease.
But nuts and seeds are especially high in both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats, also known as those “healthy fats” or “good” fats mentioned earlier.
Healthy fats fight off heart disease by lowering our “bad” cholesterol while increasing our “good” cholesterol, lowering our blood pressure, and lowering triglycerides associated with heart disease. They also reduce inflammation, and have been shown to reduce hunger, aiding in maintaining a healthy weight. And this is just what healthy fats can do for our physical health.
In regards to our mental health, healthy fats, like the omega-3’s found in many seeds, have been shown to prevent and reduce symptoms of depression, battle fatigue, sharpen memory, and balance mood.
So, it’s easy to see how nuts and seeds can be very valuable additions to the diet of a person working the graveyard shift. When you can’t get enough fruits and veggies, or you feel like you just need a little something more, snacking on some nuts or seeds could be just what you need.
Probiotics are created during the process of fermentation and consist of live bacteria and yeasts that, when ingested, can improve your mood and overall health by increasing or maintaining the number of “good” bacteria in your body.
It all goes back to your gut health.
Like fiber, probiotics increase and diversify the microbes living inside your gastrointestinal tract, and an increase in these good bacteria directly increases your serotonin level, and we already know the important role that serotonin plays throughout the body.
This is why a healthy diet is so important in fighting off those graveyard shift blues, and probiotics can act as an important piece to that healthy diet puzzle.
We can get more probiotics into our diet by consuming more fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, and that tasty fermented tea called kombucha.
Yogurt is also a very good and well known source of probiotics, and though it isn’t traditionally a vegan food, you can find numerous vegan versions of it in stores, made from plant based sources like soy, almond, or coconut. Of course, if you ever find the time and feel adventurous, you can always try to make your own vegan yogurt at home.
Here is a recipe from Jessica Hylton ofjessicainthekitchen.com
Homemade Vegan Yogurt
- 2 cups cashews soaked overnight
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- pinch sea salt
- 1 ½ cups clean filtered water
- 3 probiotic capsules
- First, rinse off your soaked cashews completely. In a high powered blender, add the cashews, apple cider vinegar, filtered water, and the sea salt. Blend until completely smooth and clean. I blended for about 3 minutes on high.
- Pour the contents into a very clean and dry glass bowl or tall jar. Open your probiotic capsules and pour the powdered contents inside the cashew yogurt mixture. Using a wooden or silicone spoon, stir the probiotic powder into the mixture and stir/mix into it for about 2 minutes, until fully incorporated.
- Cover the bowl/jar with some cheesecloth or even a clean dry paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Place in a warm, dry place. If you live in a tropical country, you can leave it on your countertop. If you don’t, place it in your oven with the oven OFF and the oven light on. Leave the yogurt undisturbed as much as possible for 24-48 hours. You should begin to smell a slight yogurt-y smell after about 24 hours. I recommend leaving it for the full 48 hours.
- The yogurt should be much thicker now. Stir to combine fully. If you hear a carbonated sound that is normal, it’s a part of the fermenting process.
- Cover the jar/bowl or transfer to a new clean jar/bowl and cover and place in your fridge. It should also thicken up in the fridge and you can start using it now! It’ll last in your week for at least two weeks.
- If you want your yogurt any thinner, strain/drain it in cheesecloth or paper towel or a fine mesh colander for about 30 minutes to strain off any extra liquid.
- Add in any fruits or extras you want and enjoy!
Summary: Vegan Snacks to Satisfy Famished Night Shift Workers
We have discussed how working the night shift can have negative effects on one’s physical and mental health, but we have also discussed how incorporating more vegan friendly snack options into your own diet can hopefully help combat some of those negative effects.
Hopefully you have learned a lot from this article about how closely physical and mental health are related, and how your diet can potentially turn both around for the better.
Finally, this article has hopefully been helpful to you and makes working the night shift a little bit healthier, a little bit happier, and a little bit easier for you.
Oh – don’t forget to check out our post on the Plant Based Diet – here
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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