There is something about winding down for the night, when everything is dark and cozy, that says “A little snack would be nice.”
Maybe it is the association between food and comfort, or maybe it’s the feeling of captivating every sense simultaneously (such as when you eat ice cream while watching Grey’s Anatomy), but getting a late night snack has been an American habit since the discovery of slumber parties.
However, despite it seeming impossible, there is a way to curb those late night cravings into something more healthy and kind to the waistline.
Pounding the calories before going to sleep for the night makes it difficult to burn the excess calories consumed.
No, holding the shake weight in one hand while eating pizza in the other does not balance the calories out.
So, for all my fellow late night snackers, here are some secrets that will get you back on track to your fitness and health goals.
1. Plan meals ahead of time
Most people live in a whirlwind of work, kids, and home responsibilities, leaving mealtime to consist of frantic concoctions of whatever is quick and easy.
When you don ‘t meet your body’s nutritional needs during the day you are left feeling unsatisfied and hungry by the time the kids are tucked into bed.
Combine that deficit with a crash of adrenaline from trying to give your toddler a bath, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Try to write out your meals for the week. Even a rough draft is helpful. Not only does this make mealtime easier, it makes grocery shopping easier; saving you time and money.
You would be forced to ask yourself where those mini cheesecakes in the cart fit into your healthy eating meal plan.
2. Increase protein and fiber content
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics shares with us:
“Protein can help you feel full faster and for longer, so ensuring you incorporate protein during meals and snacks may help with mindless snacking.”
There are some delicious and nutritious ways to add protein to every meal.
Begin the day with a bowl of oatmeal with some nuts and fruit in it to boost fiber and protein.
Some peanut butter on a banana for snack, and black beans on your salad at lunch will allow you to feel full until dinner.
Make sure to add dietary fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables to every meal for a healthy digestive system and heart.
When each meal is planned and not an afterthought, your pre-bedtime routine can consist of a nice cup of chamomile tea instead of a bag of chocolate chips.
3. Get your zzz’s
“Sleep deprivation can impair glucose metabolism and affect hormones linked to hunger, appetite and body weight regulation,” the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports.
Adults should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night. If you are not getting the rest needed for your body to function, it may illicit feelings of hunger to get energy.
Sometimes just resting your eyes will be enough to ward off those cravings.
4. Be mindful of every bite
Boredom, stress, and screen time all cause mindless eating.
As the sun sets, try turning off your screens and winding down with a good book (or read to the kids) and sip on a cup of tea or almond milk.
You may find that changing your evening routine helps keep you out of the kitchen when true hunger isn’t the culprit of your cravings.
Especially during this trying time when families are home a lot more than usual, finding a healthy evening routine is vital for keeping everyone focused on healthy habits.
Sometimes, we find that pulling all the stops is not enough and we are genuinely hungry while laying in bed.
In these cases, eating a small snack with protein and complex carbohydrates will help you sleep soundly until its time for a balanced breakfast.
Crackers and peanut butter, a handful of nuts, or some oatmeal will make your nights restful, your body healthy, and your scale stationary.
(h/t Better Change Project)