Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What is Breakfast Time for Night Shift Workers?

I've heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But if I work night shift, what is my breakfast? The first thing I eat after I get up, or the meal I eat at 6 am when I get home before I go to bed?

What a great question! Well, literally the word for the meal means "breaking the fast" so your breakfast is the first meal you eat after sleeping all night with no nutritional intake. The first time you eat for the day you are letting your body know that there is energy available, and this sets the tone for the rate of your metabolism over the next hours. If you don't eat for hours after you awaken your body assumes there may not be energy available (as in the cave man days when there wasn't always food to be had) and it slows the metabolism to conserve valuable energy (which is actually stored fat!)

Remember that breakfast foods are only traditional within any given country and culture. While we may think of bacon and eggs as breakfast foods, others on the planet are eating fish and seaweed, or yogurt and fruit when they first get out of bed. You certainly don't have to follow any "morning food rules" regardless of what time you eat breakfast... what's more important is to get a nutritious first meal.

Aim for about 1/3 of your daily calories at your breakfast, and try to include a source of calcium (milk, yogurt, or cheese), a whole grain (waffles, toast, or cereal), and a protein (whether this for you is eggs, fish, turkey, or peanut butter, it will help your meal last longer and keep you from getting hungry in under a few hours). It will be a good start to your day, no matter what time your day starts!

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