After a full day of keeping willpower on high, sometimes it’s only a matter of time before we drop our guard and fall victim to the dreaded midnight snack attack. So, if willpower has wilted away by the end of a long day, here are 12 helpful tips for handling nighttime eating.
Out of sight out of mind. Yes, we can always jump in the car to grab a milkshake, but we are less likely to do that than dig into the tub of ice cream if we keep it in the house. If you have a healthy relationship with food, keeping a healthy distance from your pitfall snacks can beat the unhealthy nighttime noshing.
Balanced nutrition and eating meals with protein, fat, carbs and fiber (aka fruits and vegetables) throughout the day helps manage nighttime munchies. If you’re cutting back on carbs or fat, you may notice you’re craving sweets (a hefty source of both). A balanced meal leaves you more satisfied and less likely to be physically hungry and crave munchies.
If you’re going to snack, being mindful of how much you need to satisfy that craving is key to healthy eating. Plate a snack instead of eating out of a box or bag or grab a pre-portioned snack, and notice your enjoyment as you’re eating instead of mindlessly munching until the box or bag is polished off.
You may not find yourself tempted with food during the day because you’re busy, but when nighttime rolls around, it’s harder to resist the urge to eat because it’s a time to relax and be still. So do something else instead of eating — read a book, plan your agenda for tomorrow or do some self care by taking a hot bath or painting your nails.
This hack is vital. Nighttime munchies are real and sometimes we just want the taste of something after dinner, but decadent and unhealthy snacks are not what our body really needs day in and day out. Create healthy snack alternatives that add to your nutrition. If you’re craving sweets, try a protein shake, enjoy a bowl of cottage cheese with fruit and mini chocolate chips, Greek yogurt or homemade energy bites. If salt is more your thing, try these Ham Spinach Egg Cups, a cheese stick, beef jerky, steamed edamame with sea salt or air-popped popcorn make great salty snacks.
If you’re currently tracking your food and fitness plan on MyFitnessPal, and know you usually want something after dinner, build that snack into your meal plan to help give yourself permission to eat.
Swearing off sweets or chips may make the cravings intensify. Nighttime munchies can become a mental battle if you tell yourself you cannot have something, so go ahead and indulge your wildside, just not every night. It will likely only take a small portion to satisfy that craving.
If you surveyed how to keep on track with healthy eating, one success tip is to stay on top of hydration throughout the day. Sipping hot tea at night adds to daily hydration and that warm beverage aids feelings of satisfaction. If you’re not into tea and want something other than water to drink, try unsweetened almond milk or calorie-free sparkling water.
Minty fresh breath is a signal to the brain for many people that “the kitchen is closed.” Chewing gum or eating a breath mint, brushing teeth or even sipping peppermint tea is a tried and true tactic to stop eating and may work when dealing with after-dinner munchies.
Now I’m not saying go to bed hungry — refer to tip number 3. But getting to bed at a healthy hour can kick a munchie habit. Getting to bed early also helps with rocking goals the next day, too, so you can get up earlier to work out and have the mental (and hormonal) stamina to eat healthy and balanced.
If nighttime munchies have become a routine, it’s possible to kick the habit on your own. On the other hand, if this issue has taken over your life and become a binge habit or obsession, you may need to reach out to a friend and/or professional for support.
Going to bed hungry is an awful feeling and will likely backfire at some point either with ditching those “healthy” eating habits because hunger is not sustainable and could lead to binging. So if you’re truly hungry after dark, grab a protein and/or fiber-rich snack or small meal to fill you up.