Food cravings often strike late at night. One TV advertisement for chocolate can leave you aching to chow down any treat you can pilfer from your pantry. These munching mishaps can end up costing you. Indigestion, weight gain and interrupted sleep are the unfortunate result of late-night munchies.
Feeling ravenous at night can be due to a number of factors. Day time eating; boredom; not sleeping; feeling anxious or consuming too much alcohol. It can be useful to track in your notes on your mobile or via an APP your mood and food triggers. Often, we have developed such long-term habits that we don’t even remember why we started them in the first place.
Eating well during the day is critical to setting up your night time plan. Eating frequency varies depending on the individual but generally those that eat less than three times per day have less control over their appetite and a higher weight. Eating regular meals will stabilise your blood glucose levels preventing feelings of intense hunger which can lead to evening bingeing.
Plan your evening eating so you’re not tempted to put away a packet of Tim Tams after dinner. Establishing a routine reduces your chances of making impulsive, poor food choices. It can also help reduce anxiety and stress around eating. Plan a cut off time for your snacking at night and have healthy nibbles on hand. Always, allow two to three hours digestion time before bed to ensure you have a comfortable night’s rest.
Research shows that sleep deprivation can impair glucose metabolism and affect hormones linked to hunger, appetite and body weight regulation. It’s easy to confuse hunger and tiredness, especially at night. If you’re tempted to keep snacking after a balanced dinner, your body may be signalling that it needs rest.
Anxiety and stress are two of the most common reasons why people eat when they aren’t hungry. If you’ve identified these as triggers then try to use techniques that relax you in the evening. Go for a walk; practise yoga or breathing exercises; enjoy a hot drink or phone a friend. Sometimes simply stopping and re-evaluating why you’re eating will halt the hoovering cycle.
Eating in front of a TV or a mobile reduces satiety signals to the brain and limits your memory of what you ate. Snack at the table away from distractions so you will eat less. Chew slowly and stop when you feel full. Also, watch your alcohol intake which affects hunger signals. This will stop you from randomly scoffing down snacks.
Stock your pantry with low-glycaemic index foods and focus on having protein and fibre in each meal. This will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Enjoy whole grain breads and cereals; low-fat milk and yoghurt; nuts and fruit and plenty of legumes and vegetables. If you’re prone to eating high-fat, high-sugar foods at night, remove the temptation from your cupboard.
If you can’t shake off that gnawing desire to eat, then choose something that has a mixture of carbohydrate and protein. This will trigger tryptophan to assist sleep and keep you full until morning. Greek yoghurt and fruit; cheese on a wholegrain cracker; popcorn or fruit are great choices. A small herbal tea or warm glass of milk may also be just enough to quench that nagging appetite.
Chowing down on chips or tossing down tubs of ice-cream are a tempting reward after a long day at work or a big gym session. Eating well during the day; planning; distraction techniques and identifying your triggers can all help you overcome your urges. It’s time to turn that light off in the fridge and practise some salubrious snacking.