Feeling Peckish Late at Night? Be careful what you choose to munch on!

We’ve all heard the warning: If you eat right before bed, you’ll put on weight while you sleep. I used to live in Spain, where everyone eats dinner late, around 9 or 10 p.m., and I’m here to tell you that Spaniards do not carry around more weight than people who live in countries with earlier dinner times. To take another example, during Ramadan, Muslims fast during daylight hours and eat only after sunset. They make up for the daylight deprivations by celebrating with huge feasts of their favorite foods. Yet, a study at the Hashemite University in Jordan that monitored 57 Muslim women before and during Ramadan found that the women lost weight.

Researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso had 867 people keep diet diaries that divided the day into four-hour periods. It turned out that people who ate more in the morning ate fewer calories overall, and people who ate late at night ate more calories overall. This is the key. Typically, Americans who eat late at night are not simply postponing dinner from 6 to 10 P.M. They are actually eating more: snacking in front of the TV, eating junk food or adding calories with alcohol.

So it’s not when you eat, it’s how much you eat. The mystery of weight loss always boils down to this: If you burn more calories than you eat, you will lose weight; if you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. You can’t argue with physics.

There’s no need to deny yourself a late-night snack if you’re feeling hungry, but you still have to think smart when it comes to eating late. Eating the wrong foods will disrupt your sleep while also adding a lot of unneeded calories to your day. Instead of just diving into the nearest, tastiest-looking item in your fridge, here are five types of foods to avoid at night and why.

  1. Greasy or fat-filled foods: Greasy, heavy, fatty foods not only make you feel sluggish the next morning, but they also make your stomach work overdrive to digest all that food. Stay away from things like fast food, nuts, ice cream, or super cheesy foods right before bed.
  2. High-carb or sugary foods: A little bit of something sweet before bed may be just what you need to rest happy, but if you gobble a huge slice of chocolate cake, the spike in your blood-sugar levels could cause your energy levels to spike and plummet, disrupting your sleep in the process. Avoid cake, cookies, or other desserts as well as carby snacks like crackers or white bread and munch on an apple instead.

Read more foods to avoid late at night after the break!

  1. Red meat and other proteins: Like fatty foods, eating red meats late at night will sit in your stomach and make it hard for you to fall asleep while you’re digesting (red meat may affect you the worst, but eating a large portion of chicken or pork would have the same effect as well). You don’t have to avoid protein altogether, just make sure you go for lean and small portions, like deli-sliced turkey breast or a cup of yogurt.
  2. Spicy foods: Spices may be a natural cure-all for a range of ailments, but when you’re craving something to eat late at night, step away from the hot sauce. Spicy, peppery foods may upset your stomach, and not only that, chemicals in spicy food can stimulate your senses, making it hard to fall asleep.
  3. Big portions: Late-night snacking shouldn’t turn into a late-night meal. Keep the total amount of calories under 200 so you won’t have any problems going and staying asleep. You’ll also feel good knowing that you didn’t undo all your healthy eating habits of the day right before bedtime.

So what should you eat instead? Small, light portions that will also calm cravings and help you sleep. Try these five sleep-inducing snacks under 200 calories that hit all your sweet or salty cravings. And remember to limit how much alcohol you drink as well, since too many drinks can keep you up at night.

We know scarfing down an entire plate of loaded nachos or pint of ice cream before calling it a night isn’t the way to go, but if you need to eat something before bed, make sure you choose foods that don’t impair your quality of sleep. As a rule, avoid any spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomato sauce, and other foods that cause indigestion or heartburn. Fatty foods will also hinder your ability to get a good night’s rest since they are harder to digest. Avoid huge meals that take a lot of energy to digest, and opt for small snack portions (around 150 calories or fewer) of easily digestible foods instead.

The best snacks to have before bedtime are those that are low in calories but also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body create niacin and serotonin, the calming feel-good hormone. Bananas are also known for promoting z’s, as research shows that potassium is an important mineral for deep sleep. They also contain tryptophan, which will help you drift into dreamland even quicker. Other serotonin-inducing foods include poultry, oats, and honey. So try subbing some of these foods into your late night snack whenever possible. Pairing complex carbohydrates with some protein can make for a nice, light bedtime snack. Here are some healthy options:

  • 1/4 cup plain oatmeal  with one extra small mashed banana : 147 calories
  • 1/2 cup Barbara’s Shredded Oats cereal with 3/4 cup skim milk : 156 calories
  • 1 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt sprinkled with 1/8 cup  Almond Crunch Muesli : 160 calories
  • 1 slice whole-wheat toast topped with half an ounce shredded mozzarella cheese : 136 calories
  • Four-inch whole-wheat pita with two slices turkey breast : 140 calories


Information sourced from: Does Eating Late at Night Make You Gain Weight?

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