How to Stop Late-Night SnackingPosted: September 7, 2021
So you had a nutritious and balanced dinner you worked so hard to plan and make, but twenty minutes later you’re reaching for snacks in the cupboard.
Late-night snacking is one of the biggest struggles I hear from clients. And probably one of the most common reasons for weight gain over time.
If you find yourself wanting some snacks after the kids have gone to bed or you want a "late-night reward" for practicing gentle parenting while handling all of the tantrums, trust me, I GET IT!
As moms, it is very important to spend time after the kids have gone to bed to unwind and relax, even if that means watching TV and having a few snacks.
However, this is when it is so easy to throw out all the healthy eating patterns you have worked hard on creating out the window so you can indulge in all the sweets that have been tempting you during the day.
Late-night snacking can give you a hard time when you're ready to fall asleep and can make you feel terrible when you wake up because nighttime eating can mess with your circadian rhythm and your digestive system.
Eating late at night does not cause weight gain per se, but most people tend to overeat at night which is what causes the weight gain.
I know this is a very common scenario in other moms' lives as well, so in today's post, I want to talk about ways to stop or reduce the urge to eat late at night.
Here are my top tips for reducing the snacking at night and maintaining your healthy eating habits that you are working hard on creating.
Keep in mind it is not "bad" to enjoy a snack late at night, but if these eating patterns are affecting your sleep and your ability to lose weight, that's when you may want to take a look at this behavior and find ways that serve you and your health.
How to Stop Late-Night Snacking
1. Eat regular, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day:
- Aim for 20-30 grams of fiber a day;
- Eat at least 20 grams of protein at every meal (this number will vary and I highly recommend speaking to a Registered Dietitian if you have specific health conditions);
- A serving size of healthy fats at every meal (around 10-15 grams)
2. Limit ultra-processed foods to help reduce cravings for late-night snacking:
Ultra-processed foods are things like candy, sodas, cookies, chocolate bars, juice, cakes, etc.
When you eat ultra-processed foods, your blood sugar spikes then crashes. This leads to an imbalance of hormones which causes fatigue and hunger. This imbalance makes you crave more food, especially simple carbohydrate foods that provide your body with quick energy. Simple carbohydrate foods are typically found in processed and refined sugars.
This cycle of crashing and needing more sugar can be reduced when you focus on eating high-fiber carbs and higher quality foods.
3. Prioritize sleep for reduced late-night snacking:
Not surprisingly, the quality and quantity of sleep can have a HUGE effect on your hormones, especially your hunger hormones.
Studies have shown that lack of sleep increases ghrelin (neurotransmitter that makes you feel hungry) and decreases leptin (neurotransmitter that makes you feel satisfied).
A lack of sleep can affect the body’s regulation of these neurotransmitters where this dysregulation can lead to increased appetite and diminished feelings of fullness in people who are sleep deprived.
Also, studies have shown that sleep deprivation affects food preferences where those that are sleep-deprived tend to choose foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates.
Prioritize your sleep and watch how much less coffee and snacks you need in the day.
4. Find an alternative to those late-night snack attacks:
I LOVE tea and there are many kinds of dessert teas that taste DELICIOUS and feel like a treat. You can try doing this for a few nights a week and see how you feel.
Many of my clients love this alternative and they look forward to relaxing on the couch with a warm drink in hand after the kids have gone to bed.
Tea is a great way to wind them down for the night and can help them get adequate sleep because it is gentle on their digestive system.
5. Have dessert:
It might seem counterintuitive, but allowing yourself dessert is one of the best ways to stop cravings at night.
This is because those late night cravings come from feeling deprived and restricted throughout the day. Having dinner and then avoiding dessert works against your weight loss goals, because your willpower will eventually diminish causing you to binge. Allow yourself that square of dark chocolate to avoid eating a whole tub of ice cream.
6. Plan your snacks:
Plan on having a snack in your day. Be in tune with what your body needs and allow yourself that snack instead of waiting until you're overly hungry to eat it.
Here are a few examples of the snack boxes I do on a daily basis:
And here is my favorite snack box that I used in all the videos and makes prepping my snacks so easy!
Having a snack keeps your blood sugar levels stabilized which is important because like we mentioned earlier, that blood sugar crash leads to cravings and makes it more difficult to make aligned choices.
7. If you want to indulge in a late-night snack, that is 100% okay, too!!
Here are a few tips for that:
- Make sure you are not physically hungry. If you are then you probably need to eat more balanced meals during the day or add a protein and fiber during dinner to keep you feeling full. Your food intake during the day will help you later at night.
- Choose options that provide you with nourishment like fruit and nuts/nut butter, carrots and cucumber with hummus dip, peanut butter spread on celery sticks and topped with raisins, cheese, dried fruits with crackers or maybe even cheese with nuts.
- If you want something a little less nourishing, totally fine too! Make sure it is coming from a place of decision-making versus mindless eating. Make the decision to have a treat late at night and make room for it during your day. This is especially important if your goal is weight loss that lasts for the long term.
Remember, these foods are not off-limits or restricted. On the contrary, make these food choices from an empowered state-of-mind versus feeling out of control around these foods!
xx Ayat MS, RDN