It’s bound to happen — at around 10:00 pm, you start to feel hungry. You ate dinner, but for some reason, those hunger pangs start to kick in. You know it’s probably too late for that bowl of ice cream, but it’s what you want – it’s what you’re belly wants. But is it? Instead of giving in to late night cravings, try these techniques to help quench that hunger, in a positive, nourishing way.
Eat a well-rounded dinner. That sounds easy enough right? But how often are you actually fitting in all of the food groups at your evening meal? Consider using the MyPlate recommendations of aiming to fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits, 1/4 of your plate with whole grains, and 1/4 of your plate with lean proteins. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. Use frozen or canned vegetables and fruits to make your life easier, just shop for versions that don’t have added salt or sugar. And batch cook whole grains on the weekend so that you can freeze them and have them ready for weeknight dinners. As for proteins, keep cuts small so that they cook quickly or use vegetarian sources such as beans, which are already cooked!
Get up! Perhaps you notice those hunger pangs happen at the same time every night. But before you determine that what you’re experiencing is hunger, take a closer look at what you’re body is telling you. Is that really your belly talking or is boredom to blame? Many of us reach for food because it’s there and we have nothing better to do. I challenge you to examine the moment and before grabbing a snack, get up and move around. Do some jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups, whatever exercise you like and then drink a glass of water. See how you feel after that. You might be surprised to find that you’re not hungry anymore.
Eat nourishing snacks. Ditch the cookies and the ice cream and instead, stock your pantry and fridge with foods that are nourishing, no matter what time you eat them. Eating calorically dense foods that lack good nutrition right before bedtime is never a good idea. Remember, you’re body is a temple! Fill it with nourishing foods, so that it can function at it’s best. If you’ve determined you need a little something to make it through until your morning meal, make that food something nutritious. Good late-night snacks are small – usually less than 200 calories. Try air-popped popcorn, whole grain, low-sugar cereals, plain yogurt with fresh fruit, a handful of nuts, fruit, veggie sticks or a glass of milk. These all provide calories, but also plenty of nutrition.
And finally, take a tip from experts around the world and get to bed earlier! Our bodies need plenty of rest to work properly and you should aim for 7-8 hours of shut-eye! Then, when you wake up, eat a nourishing breakfast to start your day. When you follow this nighttime routine, there won’t be any opportunities for late-night snacking and that means no regrets.
Sara Haas is a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) based in Chicago, Illinois. She works primarily as a freelance consultant dietitian and chef, and writes on her own blog at www.sarahaasrdn.com. She’s been helping people for almost 15 years to understand the importance of nutrition on health and well-being. She can be seen on television doing cooking segments, or on the radio lending her voice for nutrition-related PSA’s, or even in some of your favorite publications giving tips on nutrition.
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