October 17, 2019

How to stop snacking at night and causing weight gain

by
Woman looking into fridge looking for better alternatives to stop snacking at night.

Late-night snacking can sneak a lot of extra calories into your daily diet without you realizing it. These tips can help you learn how to stop snacking at night.

If you often graze long after dinnertime, ask yourself if you’re truly hungry, or if you’re merely trying to satisfy a craving or habit. Whether you wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself in the kitchen, or you can’t go to bed without an evening treat, these added calories before bed or during wakefulness in the night can lead to weight gain. Chances are, your wee-hours snacking involves foods that are high in fat, salt and/or sugar — not the healthiest choices no matter what time of day you eat them.

There are ways to stop snacking at night. To break or control a late-night snacking habit, first pay attention to why you’re drawn to the kitchen at that hour. Then, consider these causes and solutions.

Follow these 4 tips to curb late-night snacking:

1. Eat balanced meals all day.

Make sure your meals have a source of lean protein, heart-healthy fat, and carbohydrates. This allows you to feel satisfied after eating and stay full between meals. Including protein at meals may reduce cravings and late-night snacking. Aim to eat 20 to 25 grams of protein at each meal.

2. Don’t skip the fiber.

Fiber acts as a sponge, keeping water in the intestines, allowing you to feel fuller for longer. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds are great sources of fiber. Be sure your daily diet includes plenty of these foods as a way to stop snacking at night.

3. Be mindful.

Think about whether you are truly hungry, or if you might be snacking out of boredom, stress, thirst, or tiredness. Try drinking a glass of water and doing some light stretching or deep breathing to determine how you’re feeling before snacking. It’s easy to confuse thirst with hunger, so taking in some water before any food might be all you need. If drinking water before bed is likely to make you wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, track your water consumption during the day and be sure you’re drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water during the day so you’re not feeling thirsty at midnight.

4. Choose a light, nutritious snack with protein and fiber.

Greek yogurt, nuts, fruits, air-popped popcorn and veggies with hummus are great snacks. If you’re craving something sweet, try dried fruit, a few chocolate chip morsels (read the nutrition information on the package so you know how much sugar you’re consuming), an individually wrapped ice cream sandwich, or fruit with a little whipped cream. All these can satisfy your sweet tooth without adding too many empty calories to your daily totals.

These four tips can help you identify whether you’re hungry, and make sure you’re feeding any hunger with low-calorie nutrition if needed. If you are mindful about your nutrition during the day, you’ll probably sleep better at night, too — and snooze right through that tempting middle-of-the-night urge to raid the fridge.

Source: Health Plus. Health Plus provides resources to support the health of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s faculty and staff.