We have all been there. After a long day out, you come home, exhausted, and it doesn’t matter if you are still full from dinner, you find yourself heading towards the kitchen with no willpower to stop yourself from reaching to those foods you know you should not be eating, especially at this time of night. Before you know it, you have consumed way too many calories, and you go to bed feeling uncomfortably full, and guilty knowing that even though you did well to eat healthy during the day, you wrecked it all by overdoing it at the end of the day.
As an elite runner who covers around 80 miles a week on foot, I am usually a bottomless pit when it comes to food. This does have many advantages, and I am thankful I can eat some foods that others can’t without worrying, but I am tempted by those same treats late at night. After trial and error, here are my 5 tips for limiting the damage late night snacking does to your health. After all, it is not good for your health to go to bed full of hard to digest fats.
Reach for the Greek Yogurt
I have always found that Greek Yogurt gives me that “full” feeling almost immediately. With 20g of protein packed into a cup, it is easy to see why. I usually find a small bowl of greek yogurt is enough to put me off eating mindlessly. If plain is not desirable for you, try drizzling some honey over the top, or mixing with your favorite fruit.
Crave that Crunch
If crunch is what you crave, a handful of nuts can be a great alternative. Almonds have plenty of fiber and protein to keep the hunger at bay, and you can enjoy 23 of them for just 160 calories. These nuts are full of good fats that help get rid of the bad fats clogging up your arteries, as well as helping you to maintain a healthy weight.
Often when we think we are hungry, we are in fact just thirsty. Drinking a chamomile or green tea (decaffeinated) when you feel those cravings will not only help stop them in their tracks, but will put you in a relaxed state so you can fall asleep quicker.
Putting a photo of yourself at your best, or a photo of how you would like to look can be a great way of making a good choice if you do make it into the kitchen. If you place that photo on the pantry door, or by the fridge handle, it can be enough to steer you away from the unhealthy snacks, and towards a healthful choice. I like to put a photo of myself happy after a race, that is the feeling I want to experience again, and fueling correctly will help me get there.
Eat well throughout the day
This is probably the most important of them all. The reason most people overeat at night is because they have not eaten enough throughout the day. If you have restricted your intake, your body is wired to seek other sources of food to ensure you have enough calories to maintain energy levels. If you eat three good meals, and nutrient dense snacks in between, you are less likely to reach for the unhealthy foods late at night as you have “eaten so well/little all day”. And make sure to listen to Nancy Clark and Dr. Jennifer Gaudiani during the day to help with your motivation.
Late night food cravings are where most people lose their battle against overeating, but with smarter choices, you can make sure that those cravings are able to improve your overall health, rather than hinder it.
What do you find most helpful in stopping late night mindless snacking? What is your biggest weakness when it comes to food?
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#5 nailed it! I’ve had to tell many of my clients this reason multiple times. Most of the time it was as simple as not consuming enough protein throughout the day.
I agree! I see this often with my clients too… a lot of women feel like they’re “being good” by eating a small breakfast and lunch but are then starving by dinner and want to keep snacking after dinner, too. So many great tips, Tina!
I always find that I want something sweet after dinner – chocolate or sweets!
I usually allow myself to have either – one peanut butter cup, a few squares of chocolate or a handful of jelly beans – something small but it satisfy’s all the cravings perfectly!
I definitely have my tea ritual–once I’ve had ,my tea, I’m done. But that usually follows a late night meal, I mean, hello runger.
If I eat plenty during the day this isn’t an issue. I always have a bedtime snack around 8 and then I’m good for the night.
i think it’s important to eat well through out the day and i love me some tea at night! calms me too.
haha and whoops, that wasn’t suppose to be a reply to you, just a comment. Silly computer!
I find I go for late-night snacks when I haven’t eaten enough during the day, it’s so predictable! I also fall in the category of wanting to snack (anytime) when I’m thirsty, so I reach for water. And my weakness is chocolate and ice cream!!!
Thankfully this is not an issue for me. I’m more of an afternoon mindless snacking girl. For me thirst, the habit of having a post-meal sweet, and boredom are to blame.
I definitely agree with the whole thirst thing. So many times I think I’m hungry (esp just after I get done eating) when in fact, I just need some water! ….or tea, or milk–anything!
Good tips! I find when I don’t eat enough carbs at dinner I’m looking for something else to munch on at night. I do like to eat nuts at night too.
Or, you could be like me and be so exhausted in the evenings that all you care about is hitting the pillow! ; )
My bad time is before dinner, usually b/c I have been driving kids to an fro and get to making dinner too late, so by then I am hungry. I find myself munching on almonds or something else while making dinner, which is just stupid! It’s something I have to be very conscious of in order to get through.
Great list of tips, though, Tina. Greek yogurt and almonds are two of my favorite “fill ‘er up” foods.
Completely agree with the last point. When I don’t eat enough during the day, nothing satisfies me at night. But I’m “routine” girl and love my apples and peanut butter every night!
It’s like you were writing this to me! I have actually made such an effort this week to not go for food just as a comfort thing. It became too easy to finish dinner and go off to find some kind of sugar (ridiculously easy when I have all the Halloween candy sitting around!). I have been doing pretty good, too! Last night I made pudding for the first time in forever, and stopped after one serving (which has such a low number of calories, too! bonus!) I didn’t feel guilty but felt content after. I used to go for the Greek Yogurt, but the store I shop at just changed theirs to 0% from 2% or something like that and I am not a fan of the taste. I need to get to another store to find some good kind!
Tea is the best things at night! I always have a cup! It just puts a cap on the day!
I eat dinner on average pretty early so sometimes even after my nighttime snack, I end up hungry before bed. I am pretty good at knowing if a craving is real or if I am truly hungry so when that is the case, I sometimes have another apple with peanut butter, make popcorn or even another dinner. I try to have mini meals rather than pick at a 100 different things. Sometimes the handles of chocolate chips are necessary indulgences and sometimes, like you say, a cup of greek yogurt does the trick because protein is super satisfying.
You always have such helpful tips. I struggle with late night cravings when it’s that time of the month. I have been drinking PG Tips black tea since the 90’s and recently read an article that suggests it reduces cortisol levels. When I have cravings I drink a cup of their decaf formula with a scant splash of organic, non-gmo cream– it works like a charm!
Definitely some great tips. I think a lot of times I forget that hungry can really be thirsty. I know for a fact I don’t drink enough throughout the day so this is definitely the case for most of my night time hunger.
Great tips – I need to get back on the oatmeal/popcorn late-night bandwagon. I just don’t crave outright healthy foods at night, unfortunately (fruit, yogurt, etc.) I do notice that I eat less at night if I eat protein-packed stuff like greek yogurt during the day though!
I agree 100% with all of these! I use apples and nuts as my go-to late night snacks. Of course, late-night for me is 9:30 🙂
Knowing that I’ll feel better if I choose a healthy snack is motivating. Faves include: yogurt, pumpkin seeds, almonds and apples.
Late night eating is the WORST! For me I get home late (after 7 by the time I finish job #2) and since I’m usually in bed early even if I ate dinner right when I walked in the door I’m still trying to go to sleep 3 hours later. No Bueno.
I’m still working on adjustments to my eating throughout the day so that I don’t need a traditional “dinner” at night and can make it more of a snack instead, so the tricks in this post will make their way to my to-try list 🙂
Fridge motivation is a good one! I’d like to do that once I move out and have my own fridge, otherwise my roomates would never understand!
And say Tina, did you attend college/uni?
100% agree with the Greek yogurt and nuts! Lately I snack on unsalted cashews in the afternoon and it’s the perfect amount to hold me over until dinner. I just try to eat well throughout the day and hydrate to keep those late night cravings at bay. Chewing gum sometimes helps too and sometimes giving in and just enjoying a big piece of cake works too…just not all the time…Love these tips! 🙂
I know that the biggest reason for my evening snacking is because I don’t eat enough during the day.
I usually crave salty things – probably don’t have enough salt back in my body after running/sweating.
I am a huuuuge fan of Greek yogurt, too! There are so many yummy flavors these days, making them a perfect late night snack. I also try to think about whether I’m really hungry or if I’m actually thirsty before eating more after dinner. A lot of the time staying hydrated does the trick!
I’m ok with late night cravings, but 4:00-5:00ish is the witching hour. Something about that time makes me want to snack. Ugh.
These are such great tips. I find I often over eat at night when I have not eaten enough during the day. So managing my diet all day is key for me
Eating enough throughout the day is key for me!
I’m so bad at this. I eat well all day and then bam, I ruin it with late night snacking. I like the idea of tea and finding a picture for motivation! Thanks Tina, I’ll have to try both of these.
I am a night time snacker. And it is usually out of just boredom and tiredness. I try to get into the habit of making tea or something and staying away from mindless munching but lately have been giving in a wee bit too much. First step is admitting the problem, right 🙂
We were definitely on the same wavelength! I am a huge tea drinker. All day long…it really does help. I also think eating more the first part of the day helps. People who skimp on breakfast and lunch tend to eat way more later to make up.
I definitely think eating well and eating enough throughout the day helps with stopping late night cravings. I find that if I am bored at nighttime tends to be when I reach for more food when I’m not actually hungry, so sometimes it is about making sure I have enough to entertain me 🙂
Definitely #5. For me, it’s also about staying rested and not stressed. If the cortisol is whacky so is the eating.
Love this. I totally have a problem overeating at night… probably because I don’t eat enough during the day. That happened today.. had a light-ish brunch, didn’t eat lunch, had a Picky bar then when I finally ate dinner I was immediately hungry again… so I reached for the Greek yogurt!