According to everydayhealth.com nighttime snack isn’t always harmful. And if you understand the reasons behind it and modify your diet accordingly, chances are your midnight cravings will be reduced or eliminated, and weight loss can move full steam ahead.
Simple as it seems, many people overeat in the evening because they have not consumed enough calories during the day. Skipping breakfast, starting the day with foods high in sugar, and limiting your food to lose weight all make it harder for your body to sustain itself later into the evening.
Besides hunger, a nighttime snack can stem from stress, boredom, or habit.
“Emotions and feelings like depression, anxiety, sadness, and frustration also trigger eating, particularly in people who have not developed healthy coping strategies to deal with negative emotions,” said Cathy Leman, RD, a personal trainer and owner of NutriFit, Inc., nutrition consultants in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Leman said any positive psychological effects of eating tend to wear off quickly, leaving the person with a full belly, stressed digestive system, and unsettled sleep at night.
“Eating at night when you aren’t hungry feeds a vicious cycle,” says Michelle May, MD, author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. “You wake up in the morning feeling guilty and not hungry for breakfast, so you starve yourself all day to pay penance and binge again at night, or by mid-morning you are starving so you grab whatever is in the break room — usually doughnuts or bagels — which begins a downward spiral of overeating and guilt that lasts into the night again.”
Nighttime Snack: Fight the Urge
To stave off the urge for a nighttime snack and to stick with your weight-loss strategy, keep your metabolism rolling during the day by eating breakfast and getting adequate portions of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, and proteins.
Then, if the urge for a nighttime snack arises, May recommends asking yourself, “Am I hungry?” She suggests look for physical signs that you need food. “Your metabolism doesn’t shut off at 7:01 p.m.,” May says. “The problem is that most after-hours eating is not done because you need fuel, so the calories you consume are stored.”
Eating out of boredom or habit can be controlled by introducing a new hobby that keeps your mind engaged. Sewing, reading, and playing cards are good options.
“Finding an alternative can help develop a different habit that doesn’t include food,” Leman said.
Emotional eating is trickier to curb. Just as finding a new hobby engages your mind, it also helps you separate mentally from the stress of your day. Another strategy is to find a way to ease into the change of pace at night. An evening walk, yoga, and sipping herbal tea are effective ways to transition to a relaxed state of being.
Nighttime Snack: Give Yourself the Go-Ahead
Many people think late-night eating causes weight gain, but it’s not when you eat that matters, it’s what and how much you eat. If you find that you are truly hungry late at night, wait 10 minutes to shift the focus away from food, then if the craving doesn’t subside, choose a small portion of a healthy nighttime snack such as yogurt, fruit, popcorn, rice cakes, low-fat cottage cheese, turkey deli meat, or crackers and low-fat cheese.