Are you skipping meals during the day, only to come home ravenous and tuck into a heavy dinner and/or plenty of midnight snacks?
The truth is, raiding the fridge at night isn’t good for your health or waistline. In fact, in a recent study published in the World Journal Of Diabetes researchers found that skipping breakfast, along with late-night snacking and dinner eating has been associated with a host of health problems including obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
Also, eating too many midnight snacks can interfere with your natural sleep cycle and cut your sleep short, which has also been shown to contribute to hormonal imbalances and weight gain.
The truth about midnight snacks
If you love to snack and prefer smaller meals throughout the day, the good news is that healthy snacking can help you to lose excess kilos and maintain a healthy weight. A study on a group of middle-aged men and women, published in the European Journal Of Nutrition has found that these strategies help to prevent weight gain:
- Preparing healthy meals for the week
- Eating more meals at home
- Opting for smaller meals throughout the day
- Eating slowly and mindfully
So, it’s not so much the snacking that’s the problem, but the time of day or night that you snack. We asked UK-based dietitian Lyndel Costain to share her seven top tips on how to curb cravings and avoid those midnight snacks:
1. Plan ahead
If you happen to binge watch a series and feel like a midnight snack or treat, plan what it’ll be and savour it guilt-free. Keep to around 630 kilojoules (e.g: a bowl of cereal, low-fat hot chocolate, mixed fruit salad with a little custard or two treat-size dark chocolate bars).
2. Brush your teeth
Whether you have a snack or not, decide what the last thing you eat at night will be, then brush your teeth. Clear away all food and keep sugary, processed foods out the house.
3. Distract yourself
If you’re struggling to curb those cravings, find an activity to distract yourself for 15 minutes. Cravings rise then naturally ebb away after 15 minutes or so. If it’s a late-night craving, try drinking some water or warm milk, or have a sweet fruit such as a banana which is also rich in potassium and magnesium which have a soothing effect on the brain and help to regulate your hormones.
If you’re craving too many snacks in the day. Try these tips:
- Skip the snack and take a brisk walk
- Drink 500ml of water with lemon
- Enjoy a cup of coffee (caffeine is an appetite suppressant)
- Call a friend
- Declutter certain areas in your home
- Have a warm bath
- Paint your nails
The more often you avoid overeating (that feels like a craving), the weaker its hold becomes. If you give in and have one too many snacks, don’t give up or beat yourself up. Lapses are normal. Put it behind you and start the new day afresh.
4. Tackle emotional triggers
When you find yourself raiding the fridge and trying to self-medicate your emotions, ask yourself what you’re really feeling and what else could fill that gap. If you find this difficult or come up against real problems, talk to close friends, family members or a health professional who can support you.
5. Enjoy more “me time”
Pamper yourself or do something you really enjoy, like walking, a calming yoga session, a pampering facial or a visit to the hairdresser. Also try to address snacking triggers, perhaps you eat when you’re worried about something you’re trying to put off. Prepare a plan of action to get it sorted, rather than reaching for unhealthy snacks.
6. Plan your meals in advance
If you eat when you feel lonely or have too much (or too little) time on your hands, plan and structure your time (and meals) more. Remember that it’s okay to feel sad or lonely or angry and you don’t always need to suppress these emotions with the wrong types of foods.
7. Give yourself some TLC
Looking after yourself not only nourishes your body, but your mind too, and can help replace the comfort or reward you were getting from your regular midnight snacks. This, in turn, helps to build your confidence and make you feel good about yourself.
DISCLAIMER: Before starting any diet, you should speak to your doctor. You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.