7 Tips to Break the Late-Night Munching Habit
For many people, late-night snacking is a craving rather than a hunger, and a long-standing habit that’s hard to kick. Excess calories late at night can lead to weight gain, disruptive sleep and overall discomfort into the night and the following day. Follow these seven simple tips to practice a more mindful evening ritual and kick the midnight munching habit.
1. Eat balanced options throughout the day. Often, late-night snacking is heightened because eating habits throughout the day are off balance. If you typically skip breakfast and sit down to your first meal at noon, alter your schedule to start the morning with a light meal. This will kick start your metabolism earlier than usual and may lead to satiety throughout the day so you don’t get those night cravings. Fill up with plenty of protein, fiber and water during the day so you don’t feel the urge to backload calories before bedtime.
2. Separate your eating space from your living space. Many of us are guilty of sneaking a little treat under the covers as we enjoy a few minutes of TV. Sadly, that’s often where we go wrong. Setting an intentional eating space, like the kitchen or dining room, and a separate space for relaxation can make eating a more mindful, intentional act.
3. Sip tea. Whether you’re a sweet-tooth person or a salty snacker, try swapping out your indulgence for a lighter option, like herbal tea. Often your taste buds are bored and craving any type of flavor, and tea will do the trick while also helping you wind down after a long day. Swapping your nightly chocolate bar for an evening cup of tea can be a therapeutic and nutritious modification.
4. Brush your teeth after dinner. Brushing your teeth right after dinner is a great way to stop a craving in its tracks, and put you in the mindset of “bedtime.” There's nothing like fresh breath to ward off late-night munching!
5. Get enough rest. When you’re sleep deprived, your body’s production of hunger hormones increases, resulting in overeating. Getting enough rest is a sure-fire way to help regulate hunger cues and keep you on track. To simplify it further, if you go to bed earlier, you are skipping late-night munching because you are skipping the late night altogether.
6. Unplug and destress. Whether it be a nightly meditation or curling up with a good book, unplugging before bed can help you destress and sleep better, which helps keep those calories in check. When you are stressed, your body releases excess cortisol, a stress hormone, which then stimulates insulin and can lead to increased appetite. Stress eating is real, my friends! Power off before bed to release tension from the long day.
7. If you do eat, free yourself from distractions. Sometimes, you really are hungry at night. Or in other cases, medical conditions such as diabetes keep you on a more regulated eating schedule. If that’s the case, choose your bedtime snack wisely — avoid added sugars, highly processed foods, high-fat foods, caffeine or alcohol that may make you toss and turn at night. Opt for a light snack with protein and fiber, like nonfat Greek yogurt and whole-wheat crackers or apple slices and peanut butter. Eat intentionally — put your phone down and enjoy the food rather than grabbing from a bottomless bag or eating right out of the container.
Marissa Thiry, RDN, is a nutrition communications specialist in Orange County, CA. She is a blogger at New Kid On The Guac and a strong advocate for a balanced and active lifestyle, filled with wholesome and delicious food. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.