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One of the biggest questions I get is how to eat intuitively while working a job that tells you when and where you can and can not eat. How the heck are you supposed to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness?! Well, it’s possible and in this post I’m going to give you my top shift for intuitive eating day-time worker and night shift food tips!

Intuitive eating day & night shift food tips

Intuitive Eating Shift Work Tips

Shift work is essentially when you’re doing a set job (or jobs) for a set amount of time. For instance, you go into work at 8am and leave at 4pm. Or, maybe you’re on the night shift or do a 12 hours shift from 7pm-7am (common in the healthcare field, such as for nurses.) And while you might think that living with no food rules isn’t possible for shift workers there are a few tips I have for you on how to implement intuitive eating even when you have to follow a schedule due to shift work!

Use Practical Hunger

Practical hunger is a type of eating that we use when we might not be biologically hungry (getting hunger cues like our tummies grumbling, etc) but we know what it would probably be a good idea to have something. For instance, it’s usually a good idea to give our bodies some nourishment every 3-5 hours. Of course everyone is different, but this tends to be the “sweet spot” where we can avoid getting hangry and which can lead to over eating.

Going too long without eating can also cause us to actually lose our hunger cues. If we ignore our hunger our bodies think “Well, why even bother trying to give hunger cues when I’m not being listened to? Might as well stop.” This is why it is so common to lose hunger cues after dieting! We’ve been ignoring our hunger for so long!

I have an entire post on practical hunger that you can checkout and also a post on how to get hunger cues, if you’re in the camp of not really having strong ones.

Do Some Meal Prep

A lot of people think that meal prep can’t work hand in hand with intuitive eating, but that’s totally not true! There are so many other reasons to prep and benefits to meal prep beyond controlling what you eat for a diet. Meal prep can:

  • save you time
  • save you money
  • save you stress
  • help your body feel good

I don’t know about you, but I’m ALL about those things! The key here is that you’re preparing foods that you enjoy, that are satisfying and that are giving your body the nourishment it needs in the amount it needs. I have more tips for how to meal plan for intuitive eating in another blog post, so check that out!

A couple of my favorite meal prep recipes are overnight protein oats, blender oat flour pancakes (these are a great snack with PB and my easy blueberry jam!), pecan chicken salad with apples, and DIY nourish bowls!

Use Gentle Nutrition During Shift Work

While nutrition info shouldn’t determine your eating choices, I do think that it’s still an important piece to think about. For instance, if you know you’re not going to have the opportunity to snack in the afternoon maybe you opt to make a sandwich on whole grain bread VS white bread to get a few extra grams of feel-full fiber.

Gentle nutrition is something that I feel passionate about because I AM a registered dietitian and DO believe in the science of nutrition. However, I always say that you should never feel stress or anxiety over an “unhealthy” (as deemed by diet culture) food. If you do, this likely signals a food rule, not a food preference. In that case, I recommend breaking that food rule.

One example you could ask yourself is if there were donuts in the break room, would you feel comfortable eating one? Or would you think “Holy EFF. I could never eat them. If someone offered me one, or if I forgot my lunch and that is all there was, I’d panic.” If that’s the case then I think we need to work on that relationship with food. I’d recommend snagging a free copy of my free e-book, The Ultimate 5 Step Guide To Food Freedom. I’ll walk you thought how to find freedom and break your food rules step by step!

Intuitive eating day & night shift food tips

Intuitive Eating Night Shift Food Tips

Working the night shift can have an additional impact on our eating patterns. One study found that night shift workers may have altered hunger hormones compared to those working the earlier morning shifts, causing them to have an increased appetite. Other studies have found that lack of sleep can be linked to altered hunger and fullness hormones, leading to an increased appetite.

Now, I don’t say this to scare you and say “If you work night shift your appetite is about to be HUGE!” No, not at all! And, honestly, I know that we see a lot of articles on weight gain for night shift workers, how to avoid weight gain during the night shift, etc. But I want you to put those out of your head.

First off, weight gain is not a determinant of health. Checkout the book Health At Every Size to learn more about this.

Secondly, that’s a diet culture ploy to get you to try to control your weight (i.e. diet) which we know is a predictor of weight GAIN. Which will lead you to want to control your weight more, which will lead you to keep dieting and giving the diet industry money. See how that works, there?

Instead, I would encourage you to focus on your overall wellness and things like quality of sleep, in addition to the tips listed above. Don’t try to micromanage your night shift food intake extra. It’s just as fine to eat a donut at 9pm or 2am on night shift as it is to eat one at 9am or say 3pm on the earlier morning shifts. There is no right or wrong time to eat a donut. There is no better or worse time to eat a donut. The right and best time to eat a donut is when you want one! Clear? Cool!

If you need some sleep hygiene tips, you can find a few of them here!

How To Resume Intuitive Eating After Shift Work

One shift work is over you can simple go back to a more flexible, maybe less meal-prepped eating style. Now, to be honest with how chaotic today’s lifestyle is practical hunger, gentle nutrition, and meal prep are still common practices! Intuitive eating and living a life of no food rules isn’t all just eating on a whim whatever you want, when you want. That’s just not realistic! Listen to your body when you can for the types of foods, amounts of foods, etc. that feel good but give yourself a break when that just isn’t an option!

I hope this post was helpful for all of you looking for say & night shift food tips for intuitive eating, well, honestly anyone who has a schedule to stick to! Personally, I work from home and have the kitchen at my disposal and STILL use most of these tips. That’s life!

Leave a comment with your thoughts and maybe any day or night shift food or snacks you love, or meal prep tips that have helped you!

Happy eating, gorgeous!



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