Whether it’s because you’re bored in the evening, sitting at home in front of the TV, you don’t get home until after 9 pm or you’re just plain hungry at night and don’t want to go to bed feeling that way, eating at night can be dangerous for your waistline. That’s not to say that eating late at night will definitely make you gain weight – a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and if you haven’t had dinner, have been to the gym and it’s either eat dinner at 9.30 pm or starve, for goodness sake, eat something! The trick to eating at night, whether it’s dinner or a late-night snack, is to make the right choice, don’t raid the fridge!
If I go to the gym after work, it means I won’t get home until about quarter till nine and I am STARVING… ravenous even, if you will. Just because it’s late at night and I plan to be in bed a few hours later doesn’t mean I should skip dinner. My body is still able to take in a healthy amount of calories and as long as I don’t carb-load, eating this late will never be a cause of weight gain. Typically, if I’m eating this late I go for loads of veggies and protein, easy on the carbs. A large salad with chicken, Chinese stir fry with prawns, or grilled veggies on pita bread are all standard, healthy dinner options.
If you do need carbs, make sure they’re not white – that is a disaster waiting to happen. But because you won’t be doing much the rest of the night, it’s better to eat things that will breakdown faster in your body like fruit and veg. Eat foods that work with your metabolism, not against it!
I think one of the things people don’t usually realise is that their late night snacks are causing them to put on weight. Snacking at night [even after you’ve had dinner] doesn’t have to be a cause of weight gain, if you do it right. It’s all about choices, people. I am here to tell you that you can snack at night, you can eat dinner late and maintain your weight, you can even do this while losing weight if you really put your mind to it.
And yes, you can even have Ben and Jerry’s. Ok, it’s the B&J froyo that you can have, but it’s still delicious.
A night-time snack should be between 100 and 200 calories, and most of the time should be low in carbs. Over the years of night-time snacking (I’m always hungry, and hate going to sleep feeling that way), I’ve come up with quite a few options that are around 200 calories which satisfy but still allow me to maintain a healthy weight.
- 50-150 calorie yoghurt pots. These are all over the supermarket shelves… all different flavours and varieties. Need a little more texture? Add in raisins!
- Dried fruit. Be careful here, you can only have a small amount for 200 calories, but it satisfies the sweet tooth.
- Toasted pumpkin seeds with low salt soy sauce. My flatmate makes a big batch of these every week – they are perfect when you need something savoury.
- Air-popped popcorn. If you can find that kind that’s 30 calories per serving, you can eat the entire bag!
- An apple – takes a while to eat, gives you something to chew. Really hungry? Eat it with a serving of peanut butter.
- Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food frozen yogurt. Half a cup – 220 calories. Totally worth it. But not every night!
- Make a huge fruit salad for the week with lots of grapes, blueberries, strawberries and bananas and snack on that. You will never gain weight from eating fruit – and think of all the vitamin C you’ll get!
- Cucumbers, red peppers and tomatoes with a serving of hummus.
So, after you’ve had your dinner, and your healthy snack, if you’re still wanting food and thinking about raiding the fridge… have a big glass of water, brush your teeth, and go to sleep. If you’re tired, your body will make you think you’re hungry because you need sleep. If you’re thirsty, this can be mistaken for hunger. The chances are, after dinner and snack, you’re not actually hungry, you’re just mindlessly eating, which is the fastest way to gain weight.