Late-night snacking is an easy habit to fall into, as you are more likely to reach for something to nibble on when you are relaxing after a long day at work. These cravings are especially common if you are eating dinner too early in the evening or are not receiving enough sustenance throughout the day. When this happens, unhealthy snacks may seem like the best option for a quick bite to eat.
While there is nothing wrong with eating later in the evening, you may experience discomfort as you are falling asleep due to the snacking choices you are making.
To eliminate the issue of eating junk food late at night, you may have to restructure your food schedule throughout the day. By timing your meals appropriately and keeping healthy snack options in the house, you can improve the way you sleep and shed a few pounds in the process.
What time should you have dinner at night?
The time you schedule your dinner directly impacts whether you develop a sense of hunger right before bedtime. If you are not eating enough throughout the day or if you are having your dinner too early in the evening, then you are prone to developing feelings of hunger late at night. This is due to the lack of proper nourishment.
Alternatively, you may experience feelings of discomfort before bed or the next morning if you are eating dinner too late. Your body is least metabolically active during the nighttime hours, which means you are more likely to convert food into fat at night due to a lack of activity.
Throughout the day, your body is using food as a resource for energy as you move about your workplace, school or home. When you are settling in for bed at night, the calories you have consumed prior to laying down are more likely to be processed as fat because you are not maintaining the same level of activity when you are asleep. To avoid this issue and prevent the development of late-night hunger pains, schedule your dinner approximately two to three hours prior to bedtime.
By maintaining this schedule, you are giving your body the appropriate amount of time it needs to fully digest the food before a prolonged period of rest. Additionally, you are more likely to experience a feeling of satisfaction and fullness. This decreases your desire to have a snack before you go to sleep.
How to Determine If You Are Genuinely Experiencing Signs of Hunger
People tend to reach for snacks almost reflexively when they believe they are hungry. Except, they might not actually be hungry as they are commonly acting on pre-wired urges that their bodies have become accustomed to feeling. Common factors for late-night hunger include things such as emotional triggers, stress and boredom, which may lead people to consuming unnecessary calories.
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If you are hungry, regardless of the time of day, then it is important to eat something satisfactory to curb your cravings and provide your body with the nutrition it needs. However, if you are merely eating because you had a difficult day or are bored, then it may be best to step away from the snacks and look into addressing the root problem. When you are feeling distressed at night, opt for completing a light workout or choose to complete an activity that helps take your mind off the situation.
If you are eating for emotional comfort, then try to choose something else to do. You can watch a funny movie or read an engaging book. This helps draw you out of the situation that is causing you stress and prevents you from resorting to food to make yourself feel better. If you need a snack because you are feeling hungry, then choose better dietary options with nutritional value rather than foods with empty calories. Unhealthy items, such as chips or ice cream, will make you feel worse in the long-run.
Healthy Snack Options
By choosing healthier snack options, you can address the issue of late-night snacking while still experiencing the pleasure of food. Instead of sticking with food items such as pizza, purchase items with higher carbs, protein or healthy fats. When you choose a nutritious snack to curb your late-night cravings, you are providing your body with fuel and addressing your hunger at the same time.
Choose items such as Greek yogurt or cheese to provide yourself with added protein or opt for a can of mixed nuts if you are looking for something salty with added healthy fats. Popcorn provides a smarter source of carbohydrates than other items as it is comprised of whole grains and fiber. When you choose a late-night snack with higher levels of carbohydrates, you are triggering a release of insulin, which helps to release the amino acid needed for melatonin production. Melatonin helps bring about a feeling of sleepiness, so choosing a snack with added carbs is a viable option for those who struggle to fall asleep at night.
If you experience discomfort of bloating before bed, then eat foods rich in fiber for better digestive health. Additional snacks to try for your late-night cravings include:
- Trail mix.
- Apple slices with peanut butter.
- Beef, pork or fish jerky.
- String cheese.
- Dried fruit.
- Cottage cheese.
Avoid items containing caffeine, such as coffee, chocolate, soft drinks or caffeinated teas, as they are going to keep you up for a longer period. Consuming spicy foods or greasy foods, such as French fries, prior to bed can upset your stomach and disrupt your sleep as well. Determine what works best for your specific cravings and find a healthy substitute for your favorite snacks. You can purchase non-dairy ice cream to satisfy your sweet-tooth and salted almonds to satiate a crunchy craving.
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