Ask Peggy

What is a good weight-loss diet for people that work 2nd and 3rd shift?

Dear Peggy: What is a good weight-loss diet for people that work 2nd and 3rd shift? I have limited time to eat at work and must bring meals that need very little microwaving. —C.K., Decatur, Illinois

My general weight-loss advice for someone that works 2nd or 3rd shift is the same for someone that works 1st shift. Even though you are eating your meals and sleeping at different times than a 1st-shifter, the ideas are still the same:

  • Eat fewer calories than you burn. An easy way to cut back is to start by eating about 25% less than you normally would at each meal and snack.
  • Exercise more. If you never exercise, start simply. Try walking 10-15 minutes each day, then work your way up to a brisk 30-minute walk. Challenge yourself to do more once you've reached that goal.
  • Focus on including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and high-fiber foods in your meals and snacks.
  • Limit added fat like butter, oil, margarine, sauces and dressings.
  • Choose lean meats and reduced-fat dairy products. Remove skin from poultry, choose meat with "loin" or "round" in the name like round steak and pork tenderloin, cook with lean ground meats and look for fat-free or reduced-fat milk and cheeses.
  • Don't drink your calories. High-calorie drinks are easy to lose track of and don't make you feel full. Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, water, sugar-free beverages and occasionally a small amount of juice.

Working 2nd or 3rd shift makes planning ahead even more important:

  • Make several meals on your days off, then freeze single portions in microwave-safe containers so that you can easily take them to work and quickly reheat them later.
  • Grocery shop each week so that you have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.
  • When you get home from the grocery store, immediately prepare and portion out veggie sticks, veggie dip, fruit and nuts in individual containers.
  • If you didn't have time to make a meal for work, try a combination of quick-to-eat snack foods like reduced-fat yogurt with granola, veggie sticks, fruit or whole grain bread with reduced-fat peanut butter.
  • Every week plan what you will do for exercise each day and write it on your calendar. Making an appointment with yourself can make it easier to stick to your plan and meet your goals.