Do you know that feeling? The one where you’ve finished a healthy dinner and then thought to yourself, “I need a snack.” Then, before you know it, the entire bag of chips or carton of ice cream is gone and you stop and think to yourself, “Wow, what just happened, I wasn’t even hungry!”
I’ve lost count of the clients that have come to me eating late-night snacks. Some even find themselves waking up in the middle of the night and getting out of bed to find something to eat. They feel ashamed, guilty and think something is wrong with them. They often say to me, “if only I had a little more willpower or discipline.”
What’s crazy is that this really isn’t a willpower problem. In most cases, it’s a human physiology (the science of how the human body works) problem. The good news is that you can “stack the cards” in your favor and say “goodbye” to the late-night eating that is disrupting your sleep, exploding your waistline and crushing your health goals.
Here are the keys to successfully ditching late night eating:
- Eat regularly. Eating regular, healthy meals and snacks throughout the day helps control your blood-sugar levels. This important step controls your insulin response, which controls your melatonin, cortisol and many other hormones in your body. The No. 1 step to stopping your cravings for high sugar and fat late at night is to stop skipping meals during the day. Eating three meals per day is an important step in ditching nighttime cravings.
- Choose healthier. If you must have a late-night snack, choose a healthier option (foods rich in nutrients, high in fiber and balanced with some lean protein and healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, or nuts and seeds) that will better control your blood sugar while you sleep. An example of this is Greek yogurt with nuts. Believe me, the chips, ice cream and chocolate are contributing to your frustrating 2 a.m. wakeups and disrupted sleep.
- Say yes to hot beverages. Get in the habit of enjoying an unsweetened or lightly sweetened hot cup of herbal tea at night. Tea comes in so many great flavors that you’ll never get bored, and it’s a great way to wind down for the day and crush those late-night cravings. This has worked for many of my clients over the years.
- Find other ways to relax. For many, the end of the day brings with it resting and relaxation, but it can also leave you with extra time to think about what you are craving. The key here is to find ways to unwind that don’t include food. A short walk or time spent on a new hobby can help you relax and have fun while distracting you from your cravings.
Late night eating is a problem for many (so, you are not alone), and it plays a big role in the health of your body. The strategies we’ve learned today work, but they only work if you start with the first one and eat regular meals during the day and get your body fed! Next, make your evening and nighttime a good excuse for some extra “you” time to take a walk, join a class or try a new hobby that provides greater benefits than exploring or battling with your cravings.
Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, specializing in using digestive wellness to prevent or manage chronic disease. She has a master’s degree in nutrition, is a personal health coach, speaker and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.