In these challenging times, the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet, is more important than ever for general health and wellbeing and if you’re one of our much valued health workers, juggling a new increased work pattern, new unprecedented challenges and limited time for you, making it a reality is probably feeling impossible. Here’s some top tips….
Eating well at home, and when you’re on duty, can help to keep your energy levels up, contributes to your intake of essential vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients, plus it gives you the chance to pause for a moment – getting you ready for your next, or the rest of your shift!
- Planning – at busy and challenging times, ‘grabbing something quick’ can become the norm. With a bit of forward planning, ‘something quick’ can also be healthy, filling and delicious. Opt for simple recipes which are quick to prepare and choose recipes that can be prepared in larger batches (leftovers are great to take to work the next day and also handy when you get back from a long shift!).
- Fruit and vegetables are at the heart of healthy eating – they’re packed with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, they provide slow-release energy, fibre and water plus many are low in calories while still being filling. Adding fruit and veg into your usual meals helps to make them extra filling and adds variety in taste, texture and colour, keeping all your favourite dishes interesting. To support your intake of a variety of nutrients, aim for a rainbow of different coloured fruit and vegetables each day. Try topping cereal or porridge with fruit such as raspberries and blackberries for breakfast, opt for easy to grab bananas and oranges for snacks, enjoy a veggie-packed frittata or tasty salad for lunch (if you have time to make it the night before!). At the moment, given uncertainty around shop supplies, you may need to experiment with new fruits and veg – grab what you can at the supermarket and enjoy trying new things!
- Choosing foods which release energy slowly can help combat any mid-shift slumps. Foods rich in fibre are particularly good for providing slow-releasing energy throughout the day. Opt for wholemeal or wholegrain versions of bread, pasta, and rice where possible for a higher-fibre choice at mealtimes. As well as being packed with vitamins and minerals, fruit and veg are also a good source of fibre, so aim to include a portion or two in every meal. These foods are typically low in energy density while satisfying your appetite and help you feel fuller during the rest of the day – meaning you’re less likely to reach for less healthy snacks
- Getting time for a break may feel completely impossible on busy days however keeping hydrated is essential for good overall health – keeping the body working well, supporting healthy digestion and energy levels, plus you’re less likely to experience dehydration-related headaches and sluggishness. Whenever it’s possible, take a break to stay hydrated.
- Sleep is an often neglected part of a healthy lifestyle, especially at times like these where life feels like it’s getting busier but our days don’t get any longer! Add in the demands of shift work, moving from days to nights or working 12-hour shifts, and forming healthy sleep habits can feel impossible.
- Here’s a few top sleep tips to consider:
- Plan your caffeine intake carefully. Caffeine breakdown is very individual and may affect your ability to sleep.
- try to wind down after a busy shift, maybe try an exercise video at home, whatever you fancy! – research shows gentle, moderate activity can help you sleep better.
- Try to avoid eating a large meal too close to bedtime.
- Studies suggest lower fibre and higher intakes of fat and sugar can negatively affect sleep quality. Instead, opt for snacks after your shift which are fibre-rich and low in fat and sugar, such as reduced fat houmous and sticks of cucumber, carrot and red pepper; or Ryvita topped with a banana.
- Try to establish a regular bedtime and waking up routine where possible – understandably this is much more difficult when juggling a varied pattern of day and night shifts so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it ‘perfect’ (remember: any sleep is better than none).
- Cut back on booze before bed. While alcohol can cause drowsiness, it effects the quality of sleep later in the night, so though you might fall asleep quicker, it can lead to a restless night with poorer sleep overall.
- Keep screen time to a minimum in the bedroom. Aim to put your phone and other electronic devices down as far in advance of going to sleep as possible. The glare from the screen delays the release of melatonin which promotes falling asleep, and your brain is more likely to stay alert and active.
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