Fighting off late night munchies can be a true battle. No matter how big of a dinner you eat, sometimes it’s too difficult to say “no” to snacking before bed. If you are trying to sleep better or lose weight, avoid eating at least two hours before bedtime. Otherwise the food you eat will store as fat, rather than being processed or burned off (source: Dr. Hyman). If you struggle with late night eating, try these tips to curb bedtime snacking.
1- Eat breakfast. Having breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day, but not just any breakfast. Having a high protein breakfast will keep you satiated longer and energize you throughout the day. If you eat late, you might not be hungry enough in the morning to get the right breakfast you need to power through your day, so it’s important to break this cycle.
Some of my go-to, protein-packed breakfasts might include chia seed pudding, eggs (with the yolk!), a smoothie with proteins such as almond or peanut butter, chia seeds, hemp seeds, greek yogurt, or protein powder. I also like to add green vegetables to my breakfasts whenever possible. A meal like any of these really gives you the brain power you need, but also keeps your blood sugar levels steady throughout the morning. When my blood sugar levels take a dip, this is when I find myself so starved I’ll reach for anything in sight, no matter how bad it is for me. Eating some protein and healthy fats with every meal really makes a difference in your overall energy and health, versus eating no breakfast or something lacking in nutrition, like cereal or a bagel.
2- Drink water. When we are dehydrated, sometimes our minds will interpret that as hunger. Try drinking water when you feel a late night craving come on before you head to the kitchen for some snacks. I like to infuse my water with cucumber, lemon, fresh herbs, or berries. I find that I can drink much more water when I’ve infused it, especially with my favorite, cucumber.
3-Eat mindfully. Eating too quickly doesn’t give the body enough time to realize it’s full. Practice chewing your food and remember to breathe while eating. The more you chew your food, the more the food is broken down, which means it digests more easily in the stomach. This is a pro tip for weight loss!
4- Turn off the tv and go to bed! It’s really easy to eat mindlessly when eating while watching tv. On occasion, if it’s getting late and I find myself getting hungry again after dinner, I will actually just send myself to bed. If I continue to stay up, then of course I’m going to get a snack to fuel me. Try having that glass of water instead or some warm almond milk or tea, then hit the hay.
5- Identify areas of your life that may be out of balance. Snacking is often triggered by emotions. Think, for example, about the image of a girl (or guy) shoveling ice cream in her mouth after a bad breakup as an example. Whatever the trigger may be, even if it’s just craving dessert after dinner out of habit, try to identify what could be causing you to have unhealthy cravings. This may not even apply to food; it could be some sort of substance abuse too. Think about the quality of all your relationships, career, spiritual practice, finances, home environment, or exercise routine. How satisfied are you in each of these areas of your life? If any aspect of your life is missing or unsatisfactory, it’s possible that this could be causing you stress, which can then lead to late night binge eating or unhealthy habits. Once you’ve identified what’s stressing you out, take measures to make improvements and reduce any stress.
Here is an exercise for you to try to find balance that I use with my clients throughout their program. This is called the Circle of Life (source: Institute for Integrative Nutrition). On the circle there are a number of important categories listed, each one representing a major aspect of life that contributes to overall mental and physical health. Being satisfied in each of these categories is extremely important for living a well-balanced life.
Here’s what to do. Place a dot in each category of the circle. The closer your dot is to the outside of the circle, the more content you are with that area of your life. And the closer your dot is to the inside of the circle represents less satisfaction with that category. When you are done connect all the dots and see what areas of your life need nourishment. If your dots create a perfect circle when connected, then you should be living pretty much stress-free.
6- Identify your food sensitivities. We are typically allergic or sensitive to the foods we crave the most. For many people this is gluten or dairy. Experiment with an elimination diet, or just try removing these two food groups and/or sugar for a few weeks and see if you feel any improvements. After a few weeks of eliminating certain food groups, gradually add back one food group at a time for a few days to see if any symptoms (maybe even some you weren’t aware of before) return. Other foods that tend to cause sensitivities or allergies are corn, soy, alcohol, sugar, red meat, processed foods, or nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, etc).
If you have experimented with these tips and are still finding yourself reaching for the cookies before bed, then replace those temptations with healthier options. I can recommend peanut butter with green apple, chocolate chia seed pudding, roasted salty chickpeas, or black bean brownies.
Please leave other suggestions in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you. If you’re interested in talking about how a health coach can help you eat better and improve your overall health, sign up for a complimentary 50-minute consultation with me!