Do you eat at night? Not counting dinner, many people wind up eating a lot of the food they eat each day after dark. This happens for a variety of reasons, but none of them change the fact that nighttime eating isn’t great for us. If you have diabetes, for instance, nighttime eating can prove to be a real challenge for managing it because eating during evening hours, particularly high volumes of carbohydrates, increases blood sugar. This also can affect people who are trying to lose weight because your weight loss potential is affected by increased insulin levels. Still, many people will go all day without eating a significant amount of food, which of course means they find themselves hungry at night.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce says there are some steps you can take to avoid those evening cravings. “First, you could try spreading out your food intake over the course of your day,” Pierce said. “This includes having a breakfast and lunch that incorporate both protein and fiber to maximize fullness. Interestingly enough, according to newer research, snacks eaten in the evening are less satisfying than food eaten earlier in the day, which would lead us to believe this is a reason that when we eat in the evening hours, we tend to overeat,” she explained. “Once nighttime eating stops, this opens the door for hunger to potentially return in the morning to help spread out the intake more evenly,” she added.
“Next, you want to do an inventory of the foods you have at home and try to remove – or at least hide – the most unhealthy items,” Pierce continued. “You want to keep the foods that trigger those nighttime cravings out of the house or at least out of sight, while keeping healthy options in sight. This way, even if you wind up eating something at night, it’s something that’s good for you. So, consider placing some sliced veggies, fruits, string cheese, boiled eggs or yogurt in plain sight in the fridge. The idea is to set yourself up for success so that, even if you find yourself needing a snack, the snack is healthy,” she said.
And speaking of snacks, Pierce says they’re not altogether terrible, so long as you do some planning beforehand. “The key word is ‘plan,’” she said. “We want to be mindful of everything we’re eating, but particularly when it comes to snacks. Here’s where, once again, protein and fiber are important to remember. You can aim for a bit of both with combinations such as apples and nut butters, or a few celery sticks and some sliced turkey or ham,” she explained.
Finally, Pierce says, if you’re a habitual nighttime eater, you may need to change up your routine entirely. “Eating at night typically is associated with TV watching, so changing that routine around actually can help you break the habit,” she said. “Instead of snacking through your favorite show, do something relaxing such as reading, doing crossword puzzles, or taking a relaxing bath or shower. Even watching TV in a different room or chair can be enough to help you avoid eating while watching,” she explained.