5 Effective Ways to Cut Back on Late Night Snacking


It's 11 P.M. and you're starving. Sound familiar? You know that if you get up and grab something to eat, it's going to set a bad precedent for tomorrow morning. It can be tough trying to find a way around late-night snacking, especially if it's become a habit. Fortunately, like most habits, you can break it.

How common is the problem of late-night snacking? According to a study of 2,000 adults, 43% of respondents reported engaging in late-night snacking at least once a week. Plus, the foods people snack on late at night are usually not the healthiest options. Instead, they're items that are low in nutrition and high in calories and sugar. Who snacks on carrot sticks at night?

Why is snacking at night something to eliminate? Studies link munching in the evening with a greater risk of obesity and poor metabolic health. Are you ready to break the night-eating habit? Here are five small changes that will help you get there.

Change How You Eat During the Day

One of the most common reasons for this nighttime hunger pangs is making poor food choices during the day. One problem is eating too little. Some people get some wrapped up with work that they survive on coffee and a few unhealthy snacks. This approach deprives your body of essential nutrients and micronutrients and will almost always lead to nighttime hunger. Your body senses a lack of these nutrients and increases appetite hormones. Excessive calorie restriction and skipping meals usually come back to haunt you. Eat a solid breakfast when you wake up and make sure the foods you choose are nutrient-dense.

The quality of what you eat matters too. Refined carbohydrates and foods with added sugar cause blood sugar swings that trigger hunger, regardless of the time of day. Skip the junk food, cut back on coffee, and choose more unprocessed foods that are high in fiber. Pack snacks, so you can avoid the temptation of junk food and office snacks.

Eliminate Snack Temptations

People often eat more in the evening due to a combination of stress, boredom, and the general feeling of relaxation that comes with being in the comfort of your own home. If you're hungry late at night but don't want to get in the habit of snacking, keep your kitchen free of temptations. A cabinet and refrigerator purge of unhealthy junk will make it harder to mindlessly nibble. If you keep a pantry filled with things like nuts, fruits, and vegetables, you'll have a healthier alternative to reach for when your stomach starts to rumble. If you can't kick the nighttime snacking habit, make sure what you're snacking on is healthy.

Here's a tip: try the apple method. This means that if you are tempted to snack, grab an apple instead. Leave it on the counter or nightstand so it's the first thing you see when you head to the kitchen. If you're truly hungry, the apple will appeal to you. Make it your go-to snack option or you can choose any number of healthy fruits and vegetables in place of that apple.

Distract Yourself

If you find yourself with an urge to snack late at night, shift the focus away from the refrigerator. Have an alternative plan. Walk around the block or take a shower. Go for a run or walk. Getting off the couch and moving will help stimulate and distract your mind so you won't turn to food out of routine or boredom.

Change How You Spend Your Evenings

Instead of fighting those feelings, channel them into something positive, like a brief workout. If you find yourself with an urge to snack late at night, try doing something else instead. As mentioned, you can plan more activities into your evening where the focus shifts away from food. You can also start a new ritual that's healthier. How about enjoying a cup of herbal tea as opposed to a snack? Visit a natural food market and look at the many tasty options you can enjoy in the evening. Some, like chamomile tea, may even help you relax and sleep better. Sleep matters! Some studies show nighttime snacking is more common when people are sleep-deprived.

Get to the Root of Why You Snack at Night

Think about why you're snacking at night. Is it because you're stressed or bored? Try to identify the underlying cause of your nighttime snacking and address it. Sometimes it helps to get the things you're worried about out of your head. One way to do this is to do a brain dump. Get out a piece of paper or a journal and write down everything you're worried about. Getting it out of your mind and down on paper is like a catharsis for your brain. It's the ultimate stress reliever.

Also, make sure you're managing stress during the day and evening. When you're nervous or stressed about something, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol makes you hungry because it encourages hunger hormone ghrelin to be released which tells your brain you want more calories. Avoid stress as much as possible by taking breaks during the day and getting enough sleep at night.

The Bottom Line

Now you have some strategies for curbing late-night snacking. Keep at it and, over time, you'll reduce the urge to snack on junk food in the evening.

References:

•​"Late night snacking may be hurting your work ... - Study Finds." 08 Apr. 2021, studyfinds.org/snacking-work-performance/.

•​"Snacking late at night may affect workplace behaviors." 08 Apr. 2021, ajc.com/life/less-productive-at-work-study-finds-late-night-snacks-may-be-to-blame/RAM2SQFWKJHLXIGAQ4G6IK65KY/.

•​"UA Study Finds Link Between Sleep Loss, Nighttime Snacking ...." 01 Jun. 2018, opa.uahs.arizona.edu/newsroom/news/2018/ua-study-finds-link-between-sleep-loss-nighttime-snacking-junk-food-cravings-and.

•​"UA Study Finds Link Between Sleep Loss, Nighttime Snacking ...." 01 Jun. 2018, opa.uahs.arizona.edu/newsroom/news/2018/ua-study-finds-link-between-sleep-loss-nighttime-snacking-junk-food-cravings-and.

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