Let’s set the stage. Its 8pm, you had a great dinner and perhaps aren’t hungry… but you begin to feel the cravings for something sweet, salty, or crunchy. Friends, I get it. I too often finish dinner, and a couple hours later I start circling the pantry like a shark.
Snacking after dinner or having evening cravings is extremely common. Thankfully there are a few things you can do to shake those cravings and make decisions that are in line with your goals.
So, why are you getting so snack-y late at night?
It could be because you didn’t eat enough during the day and your body is ACTUALLY hungry. If this is the case and your stomach is grumbling, please don’t fill up on a bag of potato chips. Reach for something that will nourish your body like a fruit smoothie, fresh cut veggies, whole grain toast and peanut butter, or even an egg. Eating late at night won’t make you gain weight, but eating too many calories will, which is why it’s important to make smart choices with late night snacks.
Another possibility for craving evening snacks is out of habit. Most of us probably grew up having dessert after dinner, which trained us to expect something sweet after our final meal. The best way to counteract this craving is to let yourself indulge but in the right things. Fruit is a great post-dinner snack as it has its own natural sugars, healthy fiber, and low-calorie content.
Late night snacking can also be triggered by emotions, particularly stress. Having a stressful day at work or with your family can cause you to seek comfort in your pantry. Negative emotional states often lead to binge eating, which can be harmful to your general health and waistline. Counteract these negative actions by having healthful foods such as fruits and veggies or try a new coping mechanism. Alleviate negative emotions by adopting a stretching routine, listening to music, or releasing endorphins through exercise.
1 – Brush your teeth
Do this right after dinner to get rid of any taste of food and reduce your food cravings. Brushing your teeth also has a psychological effect that makes you think it’s time for bed, instead of a good time to start eating.
2 – Drink 2 glasses of water, then eat
When you’re feeling snack-y, first have 2 glasses of water (preferably carbonated) to fill up some room in your stomach. Then let yourself have a treat. When you tell yourself “I can have a treat” you will actually eat less than if you restrict by saying “I can’t have a treat”. These negative, absolute statements, such as “I won’t” or “I can’t” is what often leads to binge-eating behaviours.
3 – Distract yourself
Since hunger can often be a symptom of boredom – do something entertaining. Call a friend, play a game, take up a new hobby, or have a relaxing bath.
4 – Separate yourself from the food
Literally. Get out of the kitchen and out of the house. Going for a walk can help distract your thoughts about food, get your blood pumping, and release those feel-good endorphins.
5 – Go to bed
If it is late and the hunger monkey is crawling on your back it’s likely due to a lack of energy, and your body is telling you it needs more fuel to stay awake. If it is necessary that you stay up, chow down on some healthy foods such as vegetables or fruits. If you don’t need to be up, hit the sack instead of adding to your daily calorie intake.
6 – Surround yourself with healthy foods
Some of my favorite healthful, low-calorie snacks:
- Rice cake with peanut butter and sliced strawberries/bananas
- Clean Apple Muffins (click here for recipe)
- Vegetables and hummus
- Watermelon slices
- Fresh fruit
- Energy bites (click here for recipe)
If you are a chronic night-time indulger don’t beat yourself up – we’ve all been there. You didn’t fail anyone and you didn’t screw up. Turn your back to past habits and focus on right now. You never more than 1 bite away from being on track with your goals and know that you can do this, 100% you can. Focus on the positives and remind yourself of what you’ve done today to make yourself feel, look, and live better.