Late night snacking is one of the number one poor eating habits in America today. Whether you reach for cookies and milk after dinner, a bowl of popcorn while watching your Wednesday night sitcoms, or a handful of M&M’s from the dining room candy bowl, it all adds up!
These late night snacks increase your blood sugar before bedtime, which in turn can cause you to store body fat as you sleep. Ask yourself, are you eating due to hunger or habit?
The majority of poor eating requires behavior modification, not just a “diet plan.” So let’s talk about a few things that can be done in order to prevent that late night binge!
1. Step out for some air
Before you head to the kitchen for that late night snack, first step outside for some air. Maybe even take the dog for a walk around the block once or twice before you choose to eat something. A combination of the fresh air, time to think, and endorphin production might change your mind about that sleeve of Oreos.
2. Change the type of snack
The problem with late-night snacking is not necessarily the time of day you’re eating, but how the food you’re eating is broken down in the body and how your body reacts to it.
Let’s break it down. The carbohydrates you eat break down as sugar in your body and insulin kicks in to bring your blood sugar down. Your insulin will remain high as you sleep due to your sugary treat, which tells the body to store body fat. If you spike your insulin before bed, you will essentially be storing fat while you sleep!
So if you must snack, choose something that’s low in sugar, contains a sufficient amount of protein (>10g), and has a good source of fat. The combination of fat and protein will satiate you without increasing insulin production. Walnuts are a great choice, for example!
3. Eliminate mindless eating
I just mentioned that walnuts are a great evening snack to munch on to cure that late night craving, but keep your serving size in mind! Did you know the serving size for walnuts is only a quarter of a cup? It’s easy to eat over a full cup of walnuts if you’re paying more attention to the TV than how big your handfuls are!
A cup of walnuts has over 800 calories in it, which could be half the necessary calories in your daily diet. In order to prevent mindless eating, do not keep snack containers and bags next to the couch while you’re snacking. Instead, make sure to measure out a serving size of your snack in the kitchen, and only make one trip!
4. Avoid skipping meals during the day
Whether you feel hunger or not throughout your workday, your body requires fuel in order to function properly. If you don’t supply your body with enough energy to work efficiently, you will, in turn, crave high caloric foods later in the evening.
This is your body’s feedback mechanism to make up for what it lost. So don’t skip meals during the day! Set alarms on your phone to remind yourself to eat so you can prevent that late night binge. Don’t let the day get away from you!
5. Avoid sugary foods
Did you know that sugar is highly addictive? The same sensors in the brain are signaled when eating your chocolate ice cream as would be signaled if you were to inject illicit drugs into your system!
Sugar triggers the reward center of the brain, leading the body to crave even more and experience withdrawals when trying to eliminate it. Remind yourself of this vicious cycle before choosing a sugary treat!
Remember, healthy weight loss or maintenance is not putting yourself on a diet. It’s all about behavior modification and making healthy lifestyle habits for a long and healthy future!
Kristie is the Head Trainer of Burn Boot Camp Bluffton (South Carolina). She graduated from Hofstra University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Exercise Physiology and a minor in Psychology. She brings her expertise to Burn by taking both a lifestyle and behavioral approach to health and fitness, focusing on helping her clients improve their health behaviors in their everyday lives. Kristie has helped hundreds of people lose thousands of pounds and maintain their new healthy weights. She is super excited to educate and inspire Burn Nation to be healthier and happier for years to come!