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Is Nighttime Snacking Sabotaging Your Healthy Lifestyle?

Is Nighttime Snacking Sabotaging Your Healthy Lifestyle?

Do you ever feel like you have a split personality when it comes to your healthy habits? Perhaps during the day you do your workouts, fly through your 10,000 steps-a-day goal, and eat meals that would make health guru Bob Harper swoon. But how about when the sun goes down; is it a different story?

If you find yourself drawn to unhealthy foods at nighttime, have you ever wondered why? A 2015 study conducted at Brigham Young University may have discovered a clue. Researchers found that study participants had lower reward-related activity associated with foods at night than they had in the morning. This means that the calories you consume during the Late Show will likely be less satisfying than those eaten during the day, causing you to eat more of them to get a sense of fulfillment. 

Other researchers believe that we tend to crave starchy and sweet foods at night thanks to our circadian rhythm, and also a deep-rooted need from our ancestors who needed to stock up on calories to prepare for when food would be scarce. Scientists’ theories aside, we believe that many people snack at night because of loneliness, boredom, stress, or as a way of celebrating or agonizing over the day.

No matter the reason, the end result is usually the same: guilt, loathing, and staunch promises to do better the next night. Are you ready to cut the late-night snacking cycle?

  • Eat well before. If you’ve deprived yourself all day, valiantly trying to subsist on zucchini noodles and plain chicken alone, then you’re way more likely to overindulge at night. Be sure to eat a dinner that includes plenty of protein, healthy fats, and some whole grains to make sure you’re not actually hungry after the family goes to bed.

  • Prep yourself. If you know that you’re going to snack, prepare some innocent-yet-satisfying snacks that you’ll be happy to eat, and place them front-and-center in the pantry or fridge. Ideas abound for smart snacking ideas, no matter what snack you crave. If you tend to gravitate toward chips, try some salted popcorn (minus the butter, caramel, or funky cheese powder), a cheese stick with a few olives, or our favorite, a few dill pickles. Also, one of our favorite tips is to mix in some lightly salted cucumber slices or carrot sticks with your snack to increase the volume, and the time it takes you to eat it.

If you crave the sweet stuff, we recommend a small dish of frozen grapes which are surprisingly satisfying, and take a nice long time to eat. We also like to occasionally indulge in a mug of sugar-free hot chocolate (no, we’re not crazy about the artificial sweeteners, so this should be done sparingly). Also, have you tried banana ice cream? Simply peel and then freeze a few bananas. Then blend them up until creamy. They’re delicious as is, and even more decadent with a little unsweetened cocoa or peanut butter blended in.

  • Get your needs met another way. After dinner each evening, decide what will make you feel content.  Text a supportive friend or family member, take a few minutes to pray or meditate, or write your feelings down. Also, exercise happens to be a very effective stress-buster, so maybe change up your routine by scheduling appointments with your trainer in the evening hours.