Are You A Sucker For The Lollie Jar At Work? Try These Orange Jellies Instead.

As tired, weary shift workers it’s not surprising that we’re lured in by the lollie jar at work, as a source of energy for our sleep-deprived brains.

But have you ever taken the time to read the ingredients label of some of these packaged lollies?

Let me share an example to help prove my point:

Exhibit A

Ingredients:  Glucose Syrup ( Wheat  Or Corn), Cane Sugar, Thickener (Dextrin Roasted Starch, Acid Treated Starch Or Starch Acetate)( Wheat ), Gelatine, Food Acids (Citric, Lactic), Invert Syrup, Flavours, Colours (Carminic Acid, Turmeric, Vegetable Carbon, Paprika Oleoresin, Copper Chlorophyllin, Black Carrot).   Contains Wheat. May Contain Milk.

As you can see, there are lots of extra “bonuses” included in that packet, besides the glucose itself.

It’s what makes these 3-ingredient jellies or “lollies” a much healthier alternative.

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Healthy Shift Worker Snack – Chocolate & Sesame Seed Slice.

Sugar cravings are a massive challenge for anyone working shift work because the body instinctively seeks out sugar as a source of fuel when its been unable to obtain sufficient quality sleep.

This is because it can convert this sugar into energy much more quickly than it can from eating protein or fat.

However, eating large amounts of sugar over time – especially the highly refined and processed sugar found in most store bought chocolate and candy bars, can be a leading contributor to an ever expanding waistline.

In fact this expanding waistline forms one of the ‘Top Shift Working Struggles’ that I mention in my newly released book – Too Tired To Cook.

It’s why making your own homemade chocolate snacks can be a much healthier alternative – especially for your waistline!

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Late-Shift Brekky – Banana Pancakes Topped with Peanut Butter & Raspberries!

Late shifts are undeniably the perfect opportunity to disconnect the alarm clock and have a bit of a sleep-in. OK, let’s face it. Anything after 4 am is classified as a sleep-in if you work 24/7, so when you actually get to see the sunrise (and you’re not at work) – that gets really exciting!

However, one of the downsides of a late-shift, especially if you’re starting your shift around midday, is that it can mean missing out on lunch, or having a really late lunch where you become so famished that you inhale anything in sight!

I’m talking the chips, burgers, donuts, choccy bars – you name it as I’m sure you can relate.

So what’s the best strategy to overcome those mid-afternoon munchies?

By delaying your breakfast.

Because delaying your breakfast is going to provide you with two benefits:

  1. It lengthens the time that your digestive system can rest and repair.
  2. It helps to reduce the time that you may be feeling hungry, soon after starting your shift.

Let’s talk about the first one – the digestive system.

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Slow-Cooked Mushroom Soup: The Perfect Night Shift Sustenance.

Night shift. It’s such an incredibly ruthless shift in more ways than one as it requires us to be alert and ready to make decisions when all our body instinctively wants to do is sleep!

Working night shift also raises our risks of developing certain chronic health conditions (due to a myriad of reasons) including things like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease – to name a few.

One of the key drivers is that our body digests and metabolises foods inefficiently during the night – even if we’re awake!

In other words, eating food during the night as opposed to during the day, can have a negative impact on the body. In the scientific literature, this is referred to as “chrononutrition” which takes into consideration not only what we’re eating, but also when. 

Of course I’m not telling you to not eat during the night, although that does work for some people. It’s more about being selective on the types of food to help minimise blood sugar, digestive and hormonal disruption.

So how can we nourish our bodies in a way that is going to help maximise our alertness, but without adding to digestive discomfort which plagues many who work through the night? 

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The Key To Better Sleep? Add In Your Carbs!

We’re hearing so much in the media lately about “low carb this” and “low carb that” and whilst it definitely has it’s place, especially if your diet is comprised predominantly of fast food – when it comes to better sleep, consuming carbohydrates before bed can actually have its benefits.

This is because studies have shown that when we combine carbohydrates with protein prior to having a snooze or nap, they assist the body in helping it get to sleep.

How so?

Well when we eat carbohydrates, it triggers the pancreas to secrete insulin (a hormone that helps to move sugar out of our blood and into the cells), which in turn, enables tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid derived from protein – get to the brain faster.

This leads to an increase in the levels of serotonin and melatonin – key neurotransmitters and hormones that form an integral part of the biochemical sleep pathway.

In other words, by giving your body the right foods (and nutrients) at the right time, this helps your body do what it instinctively knows what to do – that being relax the brain and body in a way that is going to help it get to sleep, and stay asleep.

A win-win for anyone working 24/7!

The key is finding the right carbs – and not avoiding them all together because when it comes to carbohydrates, just like protein and healthy fats – they are macronutrients that the body needs in order to be healthy.

When we say the words “carbohydrates”, however, most of us immediately think of pizza, pasta and bread!

But carbohydrates come in many forms. Many of which are designed exclusively by Mother Nature – as opposed to undergoing an enormous amount of “human intervention” such as all those pre-packaged, processed and refined carbohydrates that many of us have grown to know and love but are highly stimulatory when it comes to our nervous systems.

And if it’s stimulatory on the nervous system – then it means you’re not going to sleep well!

Good old fruits and vegetables however, are also a form of carbohydrate, so if we’re removing these from our diet, then it’s highly likely that we’re missing out on key nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals that are going to improve our health and sleep.

So what does a good protein and carbohydrate pre-sleep meal or snack look like?

  • Chicken, cashew-nut and veggie stir fry with white rice
  • Bacon, capscium and zucchini potato bake
  • Oatmeal made from rolled or steel cut oats (instant oats will cause a blood sugar surge then crash, which can lead to sleep disturbances), topped with nut butter and sliced banana
  • Gluten-free bread topped with smashed avocado, topped with pumpkin seeds (which are high in tryptophan)

The list is endless!

At the end of the day, it’s always going to come back to listening to your own body, because we are all uniquely different.

But the key takeaway from this post, is please don’t be scared of carbohydrates.

Whilst eating them in excess (like with eating anything in excess) – is certainly going to cause havoc on your health, waistline and sleep – especially if they include things like baked goods, soda drinks, packaged cakes, lollies etc. When we combine good carbohydrates with protein, it can set off a beautiful cascade of sleep-inducing hormones that will help to send you off to that wonderful place we lovingly refer too as “sleep”!

Audra x

References:

Afaghi, A, O’Connor, H & Chow, C 2007, ‘High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset’, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 85, no. 2, pp. 426-430.Lindseth, G & Murray A 2016, ‘Dietary macronutrients and sleep’, Western Journal of Nursing Research, vol. 38, no. 8, pp. 938-958.

Halson, S 2014, ‘Sleep in elite athletes and nutritional interventions to enhance sleep’, Sports Medicine, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 13-23.