Q: I hear a lot about meal timing and avoiding eating at night. Are those late night nibbles ok?
Studies show the body’s hunger and cravings for sweets, starches and salt intensify at night. Eating later may initially satisfy your hunger or sweet tooth, but that’s also the time of day when you’re not as active. Your body will then simply store the fats and calories you’ve just eaten. Timing of eating is emerging as a hot topic in nutrition science, and some researchers are proposing that eating late at night can be disruptive to our natural metabolism.
Try to eat most of your calories, fats and carbs earlier in the day when your body can efficiently process the foods.
Still, if your body is hungry, feed it. You don’t want your body to go into starvation mode, feeling like it needs to save up. Eating keeps your metabolism going, too.
If you do get hungry late at night and you can’t shake the feeling, have a light snack. Just don’t eat anything heavy or spicy at night, because you could get heartburn.
Here are some healthy late night snack suggestions:
- Nuts such as almonds are an easy snack that can satisfy hunger. A one-ounce serving (about 23 almonds) contains 170 calories and provides healthy fats, protein and vitamin E. Plus, almonds contain magnesium, which helps promote quality sleep.
- Fruits are great late night snack choices because they’re typically low in calories and saturated fat and high in fiber. For example, eat a banana for a bedtime boost of potassium and vitamin C. Cherries are another good choice. About 21 cherries make up one serving. They’re rich in vitamin C and potassium and a natural producer of melatonin, which helps you sleep.
- Ditch the chips and choose instead air popped popcorn, a whole grain snack that is both nutritious and filling. You can eat volume, too – one cup contains only 30 calories! Just be aware that calories can climb quickly with added toppings like cheese and butter.
How do you satisfy late night hunger and cravings without overdoing it? Staying on track with a healthy lifestyle includes making the best choices at home and eating out.