The combination of working nights, eating erratically, and the temptation of great tasting but not necessarily great-for-your-body food (especially if you work in a great restaurant) can wreak havoc on a bartender’s health.
With the normal stresses of bartending, proper nutrition can sometimes become an afterthought. But healthy eating doesn’t have to taste bad – or be that difficult – to integrate into a bartending career.
“People who work night shifts tend to gain weight because their circadian rhythms are off,” says Chris Rosenbloom, PhD, RDN, FAND, nutrition professor emerita of Georgia State University and nutrition consultant. “Not getting quality sleep can cause weight gain.”
Rosenbloom says the first thing she counsels anyone working a night shift is to make sure they get seven to eight hours of sleep when work is over. “You may need to invest in noise cancelling headphones and eyeshades or room darkening shades,” she says.
Jules Aron, a bartender, certified yoga instructor and holistic wellness and nutrition coach, says it’s important to keep a schedule to help with both sleep and nutrition. “It’s really important to stick to a regular schedule so that you avoid eating between midnight and six a.m., and to try to get your three meals a day at regular times,” says Aron, author of Zen and Tonic: Savory and Fresh Cocktails for the Enlightened Drinker and the upcoming books Nourish and Glow and Fresh and Pure. “People who work night shifts sometimes have problems with digestion and ulcers and things like that so the more you can avoid eating late at night the better off you’ll be.”
“Eat lighter before you go to bed,” Rosenbloom says. “This is not the time you want to be eating half of a meat lover’s pizza.”
If you work a full night shift and get home in the morning, Aron suggests that’s when you have your breakfast. “When you wake up from sleeping, that’s when you have your lunch, and you have your dinner before you go out to your shift,” she says. “If you eat before your shift, there will be less temptation to stray on the things you shouldn’t be eating.”
Rosenbloom says when you’re working late, you often want to snack, but some snacks are better than others. “Nuts are a good thing to snack on, and if you work at a restaurant, anytime you can get yourself a seafood meal is a good thing,” Rosenbloom says. “Foods that are really rich in fiber and protein tend to fill us up.”
Staying hydrated – without alcohol – is a good thing, Rosenbloom says. Besides water, she suggests tomato juice with a bloody Mary mix and cranberry juice, which is high in polyphenols are both good choices, as is a club soda with lime. Aron suggests that the first thing you do when you get up is to drink a glass of warm water with fresh lemon juice squeezed into it. “It gets your metabolism going, and it flushes out toxins,” Aron says. “That one thing alone can help you eliminate cravings and bad habits. I’ve had people who want to quit smoking or coffee, and I’ve convinced them to do this one thing – that they drink this before they go for their cup of coffee. It kind of regulates you where you don’t crave that bad thing as much. A lot of times we think we’re hungry when we’re just thirsty, and it’s always a good idea to start with a glass of water before you go for the snack.”
Both Aron and Rosenbloom say balance is important. “If you’ve had a bad shift at work one day, then the next day make sure you eat more healthy,” Rosenbloom says.
“If you work at a fun restaurant and you want to take advantage of that, save the really indulgent foods for once a week or to take home on your day off so that you’re not overindulging,” Aron says.
Meal and snack planning is important. Aron says to take one of your days off to plan your meals – and your snacks – and to take them with you. She suggests making these snack balls (recipe attached).
Sometimes, Rosenbloom says, it’s important to take a look, if you’ve gained weight or gotten into unhealthy eating patterns, at how you got where you are today. “You might want to do that post-mortem, is it a combination of yes, I’m standing all day at work, but not getting any other physical activity, or is it just because I’m not paying attention to what I’m eating,” Rosenbloom says. “Look at what caused that weight gain and start working on it.”
Most people don’t like food diaries, but there are plenty of different apps to track food, calories and physical activity. If you’re not sure where to start, Rosenbloom suggest consulting a certified nutritionist or a registered dietician can help them analyze what they’re doing and where they can improve. Plenty of professionals also do e-consulting online if time and getting to a nutritionist’s office is a challenge. “They can also help you set some realistic goals,” Rosenbloom says.
Raw Chocolate Energy Balls from Jules Aron
- 1 cup raw seeds or nuts of choice
- 1/4 cup raw cacao
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. sea salt
- 1 cup medjool dates, pitted and chopped
- 1-3 tbsp water
- 1/4 cup cacao nibs, chia seeds or goji berries
- cacao powder or unsweetened shredded coconut, or sesame seeds for optional coating
- Place seeds/nuts in a food processor, and process until finely ground. Pulse in cacao, vanilla, and salt.
- Add in the chopped dates and water, 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. Blend until a uniform dough is formed, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed.
- Pulse in the cacao nibs, chia seeds or goji berries.
- Roll pieces of the dough into tablespoon-sized balls and roll in optional cacao powder, shredded coconut, or any other toppings of choice.
- Place your energy bites in a container in the refrigerator or freezer for 30 minutes to set.