When the late night cravings strike, is it out of hunger or habit? After awhile, it can be hard to tell. Are you reaching for the snacks because you didn’t eat enough during the day, didn’t drink enough water or is there simply a well-worn path to the refrigerator that you continue to follow? Distinguishing the difference between a need for nutrition and a lapse into an old habit is important to eliminate those extra, and empty, calories at night. Let’s take a look at some ideas for breaking the late night snacking habit. I’ll also give you some healthy midnight snacks alternatives.
- Eat Early and Often — Get your motor, your metabolism, running as soon as you wake up and keep it going all day with healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. I recommend eating every 2-3 hours. If you deny your body fuel all day with a restrictive diet, you’ll receive gentle reminders around bedtime that you’re hungry. Missing meals will just make you hungrier and won’t cause you to lose weight. Just the opposite will happen.
- The 60-minute Rule: Try to eat your first meal of the day within an hour of waking. The longer a person waits to eat, the greater their hunger may be and it may be more difficult to feel satisfied. This can lead to overeating and making poor food choices. Instead, feed your body with a balanced breakfast and have control over cravings throughout the day. Do you say you are too “busy” to eat? Give this meal replacement shake a try.
- Protein Beats Carbs —Carb craving is one of the most common snack nuisances. When bedtime rolls around, the soothing call of carbs can be especially haunting. But the type of carbs we crave causes a spike in blood sugar, making it harder to relax and sleep. Protein makes you feel full, just like carbs. But, unlike carbs, there is no spike in blood sugar. A diet rich in protein has the result of retraining your body, and your brain, to quit relying on carbs to feel full. A good bed time snack would be a whey protein shake, cottage cheese, greek yogurt and/or a good fat.
- Schedule a Snack–Just like dieting, snacking healthier requires planning. Rather than wait for the snack attack to hit just before bedtime, plan to nibble on something light and healthy about an hour before getting ready for bed. Don’t let a craving lead you to bad snack decisions. If you have it ready and scheduled, you’re in control. Slim Cakes are another snack choice — toast and add some coconut oil. YUMMMMM!!!
- Snack Portion Control–And, speaking of control, quit digging in that big bag of chips or cookies. If you must have a snack like this before bed, take a measured amount out to serve yourself. You’ll be surprised how eating mindlessly out of a bag can add up to super-sized portions. Have a well-portioned bowl of chips, cookies, or whatever you want to eat and put just that portion on your snack plate. Here are some healthy alternatives for your night food cravings. Late-night cravings potato chips? Give cucumbers with humus or balsamic vinegar. Crave sugar — give this healthy midnight snack a try — IsaDelights have 2 of these and you will be all set.
- Stay Busy–Are you hungry, thirsty or are you bored? Boredom can create a feeling like hunger. Boredom can also have you blazing a trail to the refrigerator simply out of habit. When it comes time to relax before bed, find an activity to keep your attention away from the late night snacks. Play games, pet the dog, brush the cat, take a walk, give yourself a manicure… anything that takes you away from the old snacking routine. Make sure you are getting as close to 1 gallon of water — thirst sometimes masks itself as hunger.
- New Bed Time–If you find yourself sitting up late at night in front of the television with a bowl of ice cream, stop. Turn off the lights and go to bed. Many people who snack late at night do so because they get bored. As suggested above, keeping busy can help keep your mind, and your hands, off the night snacks. However, just getting out of your chair and going to bed can solve the desire to snack, too. Simply put, if you usually go to bed at 11 o’clock, and routinely get a night snack attack at 10 o’clock, move your bedtime up to 10 o’clock. It’s worth a try to avoid the munchies and save your healthy diet.
- Brush Teeth–This may sound silly, but it works. Brushing your teeth before your usual snack attack time actually interrupts your taste buds from craving food. Just think about eating a bowl of ice cream after you brush your teeth. Not very appetizing, is it? Brushing your teeth earlier in the evening also works to push bedtime up, another good way to avoid those cravings.
Much of our late night snacking originates from our routines, which can lead to bad eating habits. Turn those bad habits into good habits to eliminate mindless midnight snacking and eat healthier.