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Put an End to the Late Night Snacking Madness

Young hungry woman in front of refrigerator craving chocolate pastries.
Hmm- It’s midnight and I have the choice between this and some raw carrots, I wonder which one I would choose 😉

As the weekend begins, you will probably be staying up later than normal. If your like me, you will try to stay up late, but being exhausted from starting the day before 5am thanks to my tiny yet loud alarm clock named Joey, I probably won’t make it very long. But what I find happens is as I start to get tired, I find myself reaching for something to munch on to help me stay awake. It’s so hard to resist late night snacking. I struggle with it and I am sure you do to! Sometimes it happens because you are too tired, sometimes it happens due to boredom, and sometimes you just can’t resist that sweet or salty craving (especially after a glass of wine, am I right?). 

The urge to snack late at night can come on for many reasons, and it may not even be the same reason each night. But these excess calories can really add up. So what can you do about it? First you need to identify if you are truly hungry or if your desire to snack is coming from boredom or emotional reasons. Before reaching for that snack, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. Is your stomach growling? If you aren’t sure, a good strategy is to wait 15 minutes before reaching for a snack. If you are still feeling the need to eat after this time, you are most likely hungry whereas a craving would typically pass. Another strategy is to allow yourself to snack on only vegetables or fruit. If you are truly hungry, any food choice will help to fill you up. If you are just craving a snack or “sweet treat” for emotional reasons or due to boredom, the idea of having produce may not be as appealing as the cookie you have been eyeing.

If hunger is the cause of your need to snack at night, look at your current dinner choices and see how you can improve them to make your meal more filling. Can you add an extra serving of vegetables to boost fiber without adding many calories? Can you increase your serving of lean protein to improve your feeling of fullness or drink an extra glass of water with your meal? Changes like this will not elevate blood sugar levels, but will help to leave you more satisfied so you can pass on that nighttime snack.

If you have boosted your intake at dinner and find you are still hungry at night, it’s fine to have a healthy snack. Choices that contain a balance of lean protein and healthy fat along with a complex carbohydrate are your best bet. Some options include:

  • Almond butter on apple slices
  • One ounce of low fat cheese with a handful of nuts
  • 3 cups of air popped popcorn
  • Carrot sticks and hummus
  • ½ cup low fat cottage cheese with fresh berries

If you are craving something salty and sweet and just can’t shake it, try making my favorite no-guilt nighttime snack:

Chocolate Popcorn Trail Mix

Popcorn is the best! It's simple to make, a great whole grain, and you get to eat a whole lot for a few calories. My kind of snack!
Popcorn is the best! It’s simple to make, a great whole grain, and you get to eat a whole lot for a few calories. My kind of snack!

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups air popped popcorn
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup raisins
  • 2 Tbs dark chocolate chips

Mix together, serve, and enjoy! Makes 2 servings.

Whenever you snack in the evening, make sure to practice mindful eating habits to help fight against boredom eating which can lead to excess calorie intake and elevate blood sugar levels. To do this, when you snack, make sure to focus on the food you are eating and remove all distractions. Turn off the TV and the computer and sit down to eat your food on a plate. Make sure you focus on what you are eating and involve all of your senses. What does the food taste like? Smell like? What is the texture of the food? The more you ‘experience’ the food instead of quickly gobbling it up, the more satisfied you will feel and the less likely you will be tempted to go back for more.

My favorite way to tell if you truly need to eat because you are hungry or just because you feel like it is to tell yourself the only snack option available is a vegetable. If your truly hungry, that vegetable snack will sound really appealing. If you just felt like snacking, you may notice you aren’t as tempted 😉 

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