You finished dinner two hours ago. You're hopping in the hay soon, but your brain and belly say to hop into the kitchen first. You're trying to slim down, though, so is it better to go to bed with a little something in your belly or absolutely nothing?
Nutritionists Stephanie Clarke, RD, and Willow Jarosh, RD, of C&J Nutrition say there's no black and white answer to this question, because it depends on your personal habits and healthy goals. But you ask, "shouldn't you feel hungry at night if you're trying to lose weight?" Let's just debunk a popular myth right now — eating late at night won't cause you to gain weight. As long as you're not exceeding your calorie needs for the entire day, it won't affect the scale. So there's no need to avoid eating for the sheer sake of dropping pounds.
That's not, however, giving you the green light to devour an entire sleeve of Oreos before slipping on your pj's. You don't want to eat so much that indigestion, discomfort, or pain makes sleep impossible, or that you're too full by morning that you need to skip breakfast, which can mess with your metabolism. But you also don't want to starve yourself because hunger pangs could be so intense that it makes it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. Holding off and depriving yourself can also backfire, leading you to inhale an entire pint of ice cream.
It's up to you to find a happy medium. If you're always hungry an hour or two after dinner, the solution may be just as simple as eating a little bit more for that last meal. Also make sure you're eating a balanced meal that includes protein, high-fiber carbohydrates, a little bit of healthy fat, and plenty of veggies, because that will help you to feel satisfied for longer. Or maybe eating a little something before bed is a nice little habit you're not ready to break up with. So don't! Just be sure you map out your day's eating schedule to allot enough calories (about 150) for after dinner. Preplan some healthy, properly portioned snacks — these snacks will satisfy your dessert cravings — so you can feel good noshing.