What's wrong with a little late-night snacking? It may seem like noshing on a small something is no big deal, but those calories really add up, especially if you're into spooning ice cream from the container or eating mindlessly out of the pretzel bag. A 200-calorie snack seven nights a week means an extra 1,400 calories — a whole day's worth! And while the long-believed rule that eating in the evening will lead to weight gain is a myth, consuming more daily calories than you burn will definitely make it harder to button those jeans.
People snack for two reasons — they're actually hungry or it's a habit they can't seem to shake. To handle both these issues, adopt these tips to help change your unhealthy late-night snacking ritual.
1. Follow the Three-Hour Rule
If you're limiting calories to drop pounds, be careful not to feel so deprived by the end of the day that you can't help but make and inhale an entire batch of brownies. Keep yourself energized and satiated by eating every two to three hours (breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with two snacks in between). It'll prevent that famished feeling from sending you into the kitchen after dinner.
2. Fiber and Protein Are Your Best Friends
Every time you eat, be sure it offers you fiber to keep you feeling full longer and protein to sustain your energy levels. Go for fresh produce, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds, low-fat dairy products, and other lean protein. This is especially important for the last meal of the night so you'll feel satisfied and hunger pangs won't have you reaching for a huge handful of chocolate chips.
3. Indulge a Little
Have a sweet tooth? Depriving yourself will make you go crazy with nighttime cravings, and we know what that can lead to. So allow yourself a small treat once a day, such as a couple squares of dark chocolate, or try these 150-calorie healthy dessert recipes to avoid feeling guilty about indulging. And keep the junk foods that tempt you out of your house because they'll call to you even if you're not hungry.
4. Sip This
If you eat out of habit and you're not really hungry, keep a glass of water or a warm cup of decaffeinated tea close by to keep your hands and mouth busy. It'll also fill you up, keeping hunger pangs at bay.
5. Make It Known
Willpower can only be so strong. If your roomie or significant other is snacking on a bowl of popcorn, it's practically impossible to listen to them munching without wanting to munch too. Tell everyone you live with that you want to stop eating before bed and to help by not surprising you with special treats or, if possible, to not eat in front of you. By setting a good example, you could inspire them to break their habit too.
6. Give It a Week
Plopping yourself on the couch in front of the TV is a common way to unwind after a long day, but if you're used to holding the remote in one hand and something to eat in the other, it'll be a tough habit to break. Avoid places and situations that cause you to eat late at night by switching up your routine. Take a walk after dinner, do a quick workout video, read a book or knit to keep your hands busy, or call a friend. It'll be tough for the first week, but once you break the cycle of eating out of routine, not snacking at night will become your new habit.
7. Plan Ahead
If you're OK with eating a little something but just don't want to eat something unhealthy, preplan a good-for-you snack. Have bananas in the freezer ready to be made into this vegan ice cream, make this snack that tastes like strawberry cheesecake, or keep this chocolate hummus in the fridge next to a container of cut-up fruit. Whatever you snack on, keep it under 150 calories, and be sure to allot for those calories when planning out the rest of your day.