There is no doubt that shift workers play a vital role in our society. Shift work is defined as a work schedule that falls outside of the standard working hours of 7am and 6pm (1). In Australia, an estimated 16% of the population are shift workers across multiple industries, such as health, transportation and retail (2). What does working outside of regular and fixed daylight hours mean to our body?
Part of our body clock, also known as ‘circadian rhythm’, is designed to be awake during day time and asleep during the night. However, for those who work irregular shifts, especially night workers, the disruption of this natural wake-sleep cycle can affect the body and leave the individual feeling tired, moody or having trouble falling asleep. Research has also shown that shift workers have a higher risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease (3-4), than those who work regular daytime hours.
An Australian systematic review published this year found that the average daily dietary energy intake of rotating shift workers was higher than regular daytime workers. They also demonstrated more irregular dietary patterns and consumed more discretionary foods than regular daytime workers (5).
From a diet perspective, shift workers may be more likely to:
This could be due to multiple factors, such as:
|Nutritional considerations (7)||Food options with a low FODMAP serving size|
|Low GI foods - Glycaemic Index (GI) is a number that indicates how quickly a carbohydrate-containing food is digested and converted into energy for the body. Foods with a low GI are digested slowly and release energy gradually into our body, therefore providing long lasting energy and also leaves us feeling fuller for longer. Combining carbohydrate foods with protein can also lower the overall GI of your meal.||
Please refer to the link at the bottom of this table for a number of low GI foods with a low FODMAP serving size.
We have also included an * next to low GI fruits and vegetables in the table below.
|Protein - Protein is an essential nutrient to ensure well growth and repair of our muscles, cells, bones and tissues, which all play an important role in keeping our body function at its best. Protein-rich foods also tend to keep us feeling fuller for longer.||
-Plain cooked meat, seafood (e.g. using canned tuna in oil/brine as a sandwich filling)
-Using peanut or almond butter as a sandwich spread
-Canned lentils (great for adding into soups, curries, casserole etc.)
-Peanuts, macadamia, walnuts
-Soy protein milk, lactose-free milk, unsweetened almond milk
Whole grains - whole grain foods are packed with nutrients, such as carbohydrates for energy, iron, protein, dietary fibre and minerals.
|Multigrain gluten free bread, brown rice, spelt sourdough bread, rolled oats, quinoa|
|Fruits and vegetables - Don’t forget to enjoy a range of fruit and vegetables as part of a balanced diet, as they are a great source of vitamins, minerals that are needed for all parts of the body. And of course they are also full of dietary fibre, great for keeping our gut moving at its best!||
Low GI low FODMAP carbohydrates: https://www.instagram.com/p/CtKWb_fLkIP/?img_index=1
Remember to use the Monash FODMAP App for a comprehensive database of low FODMAP foods and their low FODMAP serving sizes.
Having a structured eating pattern (three meals per day and two to three snacks in between), regardless of your shift time, can also help with maintaining energy levels and achieving a balanced diet.
Other helpful dietary strategies include:
Below are some low FODMAP recipes that are easy to prepare for shift workers:
Nutritional requirements differ between individuals. Be sure to speak to a Registered Dietitian to discuss how your diet can be best personalised for your physical requirements and nutritional needs.