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5 Tips to Curb Late-Night Snacking

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When does your mindless snacking take place? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess sometime between dinner and bedtime -- when you’re exhausted from the day, and all you really want to do is catch up on your current Netflix faves and annihilate whatever you can find in the fridge/pantry. Ringing any bells?

Before we get to the part about how to avoid late-night snacking, let’s take a minute to discuss why eating at this time of day isn’t really in your best interest.

For starters, by the end of the day your willpower is basically nonexistent. This means that whatever you decide to partake in is probably not going to be the healthy option.

Second, we have the fact that unless you’re legitimately hungry, chances are your snack(s) of choice is going to end up somewhere you don’t want it (waist, hips, thighs, etc.). It’s not so much that eating late in the evening leads to weight gain, but rather the surplus in calories that you don’t actually need does.

Finally, late-night snacking is not a great pre-bedtime routine to get into. Eating before bed has been shown to have negative effects on sleep for healthy individuals; if you’re not healthy, the effect is likely much greater.

Now that we know why to avoid late-night snacking, let’s take a look at the how. You can try one of these or a combination to see what works best for you.

  1. Set a Designated Cut-Off Time - It’s easy to say to yourself, “Oh, I’ll just have one more.” But after an hour that one more has turned into half a dozen. Instead of trying to set yourself a food limit, set yourself a deadline for the night to be done with eating. For example, if you eat dinner around 6:00 p.m. you could decide 8:00 will be the cut-off time. Once 8:00 rolls around, no more food until breakfast. If you’re a big snacker in the evenings, this can be a challenging rule to implement but once you get it down, you’ll find it to feel unnatural to eat after your set time.
  2. Replace Snacks with Liquid - No, this doesn’t mean a glass or two of wine. I’m thinking more along the lines of a nice cup of caffeine-free herbal tea. It may sound lame, but once you get into the habit, that warm cup of tea is a nice relaxing thing to look forward to at the end of the night. If you’re not keen on tea, flavored water will do the trick.
  3. Up your Protein and Fat at Dinner - You’ve probably noticed that a big bowl of pasta or Chinese food leaves you stuffed at the table but starving after an hour or so. This is what happens when you load up on carbohydrates -- they digest easily and don’t spend much time in your stomach, which means hunger comes calling sooner rather than later. You don’t have to veto the carbs completely but adding in some protein and healthy fats (avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, or seeds) can help keep you feeling full longer so you don’t feel inclined to keep eating after the main course.
  4. Move Instead of Lounging - I’m sure the last thing you want to do after a long day is leave your favorite butt indent on the couch, however, that’s exactly what you need to do. After dinner, head out for a walk, bike ride or hit up that new yoga studio you’ve had your eye on. Acute bouts of exercise have been shown to suppresses circulating ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates appetite) concentrations in the blood. When your hormones are on your side, everyone wins.
  5. Go to Bed Earlier - This one is pretty obvious since you can’t eat if you’re sleeping (unless you’re a sleep-eater, then I don’t know what to tell you). How often are your late-night tv/social media binges accompanied by some type of caloric indulgence? Considering the fact that, on average, 35% of Americans are sleep deprived and 40% are considered obese, it may be a wise choice to leave the late-night snacking and entertainment behind and just get some good-old fashioned shuteye.

Try one or more of these tactics for a few weeks and see if you don’t begin to sleep better, feel better and maybe even notice your jeans fitting a little looser.