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.

Nourishing Night Shift Jelly Cups!

These Nourishing Night Shift Jelly Cups are perfect for sensitive tummies that have to be up in the middle of the night, thanks to night shift.

In other words – anyone who has to work night shift, or those crazy early shifts starting at 4am or earlier!

What’s great about them?

  • These little jars of goodness contain gelatin which is made from cooking collagen, and is extremely high in protein.
  • It is the richest food source of the amino acid glycine, which can help to improve memory and attention – another struggle we face when having to be awake in the middle of the night!
  • Gelatin contains glutamic acid, which is converted to glutamine in the body which studies have shown can help to improve the integrity of the gut wall, and help to prevent “leaky gut”.
  • “Leaky gut” is something Shift Workers are quite prone too as sleep disruption can alter the delicate balance of the gut microbiome or microbiota, which can lead to intestinal permeability or “leaky gut”.  This phenomenon allows food particles to enter the bloodstream, triggering an immune response.


Breakfast Nutrition:

It was brekky on the deck this morning to soak up the winter warming rays of sunshine, before heading off to my local organic farmers markets.

These little chia pots are great for breakfast (or anytime really), as chia seeds are loaded with fibre, protein, healthy omega-3 fats, calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.

They also contain high amounts of antioxidants plus certain micronutrients including zinc, potassium, vitamins B1, B2 and B3.

From a shift work nutrition perspective, what I absolutely love about these tiny little black seeds is they help to provide sustained energy which is super important when you’re faced with ongoing tiredness as a result of working 24/7.


Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice:

The perfect pick-me-up at 3am!

As a night shifter, do you often feel like you want to curl up into a ball and have a snooze at 3am?  Perhaps you’ve been on a string of early shifts and you can barely string to words together until you’ve had that morning hit of caffeine?!

Well that’s not surprising given sleep deprivation can impair our cognitive function in a number of ways including our reaction times, sleep quality and overall feelings of sleepiness.

In a study published in the Physiology and Behavior Journal (2015), the effects of beetroot juice on 40 healthy subjects, found that the participants performed better on cognitive tests 90 minutes after drinking 450 mL of beetroot juice, as compared to the placebo.

The difference between the beetroot juice and the placebo (which was made of apple and blackcurrant juice), is that beetroots are abundant in dietary nitrates which are broken down by the body into nitric oxide.  This influx of nitric oxide opens up oxygen flow to the brain, or more specifically in the case of this study, helped to enhance prefrontal cortex cerebral blood-flow or CBF.

Nitric oxide has shown to improve endothelial function, reduce blood pressure and increase oxygen to the tissues in the brain so it has multiple benefits.

Nitrate can be found in leafy green vegetables, however beetroot is particularly high in nitrates so may prove to be a great alternative for shift workers who often struggle with decreased cognitive function and alertness, and become reliant on consuming copious amounts of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and energy drinks.

So please find below my “Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice” which is designed to give you a bit of a pick-me-up during those rather unpleasant night shifts and early shifts!

Whilst I’m calling it a “juice” it’s more like a “smoothie” because it retains all of the fibre from the whole foods which can often get lost in juicing.

Considering shift workers are prone to digestive complaints, often due to diets which are low in fibre as a result of eating lots of processed foods and refined carbohydrates – this “juice” will not only help to keep you alert, but it will keep you feeling fuller for longer not to mention assist in bowel regularity which can be a rather embaressing topic for discussion, but an incredibly important one at that.

Brain Boosting Shift Worker Juice (serves 2)

  • 1 medium size beetroot, peeled
  • 1 medium size carrot, peeled
  • 1 pear, peeled and cored
  • 1 cm of fresh ginger, unpeeled
  • 1/2 lime, peeled
  • 250 ml of filtered water
  • 2 ice cubes


Place all of the ingredients into a high powered blender and blend for a minimum of 2 minutes.  Check the consistency and if you’d prefer it to be a bit runnier, add more water and blend for another 30 seconds.

This juice is best drunk immediately however when taking it into work the next day (or for your night shift), pour into a secured jar and store in refrigerator to help prevent oxidation.


Audra x



Kazemi, R, Haidarimoghadam, R, Motamedzadeh, M, Golmohamadi, R, Soltanian, A & Zoghipaydar, R 2016, ‘Effects of shift work on cognitive performance, sleep quality and sleepiness among petrochemical control room operators’, Journal of Circadian Rhythms, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 1-8.

Wightman E, Haskell-Ramsay C, Thompson K, Blackwell J, Winyard P, Forster J, Jones A, Kennedy D, 2015, ‘Dietary nitrate modulates cerebral blood flow parameters and cognitive performance in humans:  A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover investigation’, Physiology and Behavior Journal, vol. 1, no. 149, pp. 149-158.