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.


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? 


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


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.

Coffee and a Muffin – The Early Shift Breakfast of Champions!

Is this “breakfast” sounding familiar? Now as a former shift worker myself, I’m certainly not going to tell you to never buy that flat white, cappuccino or latte ever again – especially if you’ve been up way before the crack of dawn!

However, if you’re going to combine it with a muffin or two, then I’d definitely recommend bringing in your own home-made muffins into work cause those store bought muffins … well let’s just say their ingredients are often a little questionable, not to mention laden with refined and processed sugars, trans fats, vegetable oils along with a whole host of other inflammatory ingredients.

It’s why I decided to pop the apron on this afternoon, and bake a batch of these Pumpkin, Cinnamon and Cardamom muffins that the shift working hubster can take into work, and are bursting with blood-stabilising goodness.

In other words, they’re going to help you to “get more bang for your meal break buck” by helping you to feel fuller for longer, so that you’re less likely to fall under the ‘magnetic spell’ of the vending machine at work.

What’s great about them?

  • Pumpkins are loaded with nutrients including vitamins K, C and E, potassium, iron, B-vitamins to name a few!
  • They’re high in fiber which means a happier gut and digestive system – super important for shift workers who are often prone to digestive complaints thanks to ongoing circadian disruption.
  • They contain a good dose of beta-carotene, which is a precursor to vitamin A – a vitamin that plays a role in helping the body to fight off infections. A timely post given it’s officially the first day of winter here in Australia!
  • Cinnamon helps to stabilise blood sugar thereby reducing those blood sugar highs and lows that are synonymous with food cravings.


  • 2 cups raw pumpkin, grated
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 2 cups organic flour (I use Emmer Wheat by Changing Habits)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 eggs, free range
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger

How to make them?

  1. Preheat fan-forced oven to 180 degrees. 
  2. Grate the pumpkin, and then gently combine with olive oil, eggs, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and dates in a food processor.
  3. Transfer into a bowl, and then add the flour and mix through. 
  4. Pour into silicone muffin trays, and bake for 25 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the oven, and leave to cool on a cooling rack. 

Pop a couple in the work bag and take into work for your early shift, and refrigerate or freeze the rest to have later.

Whilst I’m not a huge fan of microwaves, muffins always taste nicer served warm with some butter (definitely not margarine!), or a dollop of vanilla or Greek yoghurt on the side :-).

Audra x

Blood Sugar Stabilising Smoothie:

When it comes to shift work nutrition, there are four things that we need to focus on when working nights or early shifts:

  1. Consuming foods that will help to sustain us through the shift, as our bodies struggle to remain alert as a result of both sleep disruption and deprivation.
  2. Foods that will help to stabilise our blood sugar levels so we don’t fall under the hypnotic spell of the vending machine which is often filled with sugar-laden, man-made “foods” that not only add to the waistlines, but increase inflammation in the body too.
  3. Consuming foods that are easy on the digestive tract given sleep disruption can make us prone to intestinal permeability, otherwise known as ‘leaky gut’.
  4. If on nights, consuming foods that aren’t going to interfere with our sleep when returning home from our shift.

This is why I like home-made smoothies, as they’re a great source or “liquid nutrition” as the body is able to absorb the nutrients much more effectively and efficiently, without making us feel even more tired as the body tries to break down and absorb hard-to-digest food particles.

In addition, when we include a good cross section of ingredients – as in a serving of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates it becomes an all-in-one “macronutrient balanced meal”.

This means it will help to keep us feeling fuller for longer, and help to stabilise our blood glucose levels so we’re less likely to fall “victim” to the not-so-healthy processed-food-laden vending machines.

Here’s one to get you inspired!


  • 1 tablespoon protein powder (I use Pea or Inca Inchi)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of your choice)
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 cup of ice cubes
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon or ½ teaspoon nutmeg

How to make it!

Throw all of the ingredients into a blender and enjoy immediately, or transfer into a small thermos and store in the fridge at work to enjoy mid-shift!



Ali, T, Choe, J, Awab, A, Wagener, T & Orr, W 2013, ‘Sleep, immunity and inflammation in gastrointestinal disorders’, World Journal of Gastroenterology, vol. 19. no. 48, pp. pp. 9231-9239.

Crispim, C, Zimberg, I, Gomes dos Reis, B, Diniz, R, Tufik, S & Tulio de Mello, M 2011, ‘Relationship between food intake and sleep pattern in healthy individuals’, Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, vol. 7, no. 6, pp. 659-664.

Wehrens, S, Hampton, S, Kerkhofs, M & Skene, D 2012, ‘Mood, alertness, and performance in response to sleep deprivation and recovery sleep in experienced shiftworkers versus non-shiftworkers’, Chronobiology International, vol. 29, no. 5, pp. 537-548.