You say you’re going to quit every single night, but you just can’t seem to find any effective ways to avoid snacking at night. The potato chips, cookies, and that gosh darn frozen yogurt in the freezer just keep calling your name. Or, perhaps it’s the allure of that cold, crunchy bowl of cereal at night, and you can’t seem to stop at one bowl. My love affair with snacking at night used to be filled with a jar of peanut butter (sugary, processed Jif of course), and a whole package of Chips Ahoy Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. I’d sandwich them together with the peanut butter and go to town. Every morning after, I’d tell myself I’d quit, but for years I couldn’t seem to get a grip on myself. If you have a night time habit of food overload out of depression, an eating disorder, or just a bad habit to unwind, you might just need a little help. Once I decided I was tired of my rotten habit, I found effective ways to avoid snacking at night that have worked for me the last 10 years and counting. Give it a try- you’d be surprised just how much better you feel the next day and every day after.
1. Eat More
That’s right, one of the first ways to avoid snacking at night is to eat more! Stop delaying food all day and eat more filling, healthy foods. Foods rich in fiber, protein, healthy fats, and green vegetables are your friends. I know those sound boring, but when you eat those foods during the day, you’re less hungry at night. These foods also stabilize your brain chemistry and promote a sense of balance, unlike snack foods and junk food. Eat more throughout the day, especially breakfast and lunch. When you wait to eat each day, it raises your blood sugar, and your body will consistently reach for sugar and carbs, along with high fat foods all day and night to try to get insulin back into balance again.
2. Be Active
Being active does a couple of things that can help you combat nighttime snacking effectively. First, it raises your metabolism, and helps you burn calories. This will help you want to eat more throughout the day, to prevent delaying meal times even further during the day. It also raises your endorphins and makes you happier, so you’re less likely to reach for food at night for a mood boost. Be sure you eat before and after your workout so you take care of your blood sugar levels.
3. Eat Healthy Foods
A toxic body craves toxic foods. To get your taste buds retrained, start eating more healthy foods. Over time, sugar and processed foods just don’t look so good anymore. Most people crave junk food at night because they’ve eaten toxic foods throughout the day. Your body knows it hasn’t gotten nutrition , and it will tell you to keep eating as a result. Plus, you crave what you eat the most of. Want to crave veggies and lean protein? Healthy fats too? Then eat more of those and you will!
4. Lack of Sleep
Lack of sleep each night can do so many bad things to your body, and one is a never ending appetite. A lack of sleep also causes insufficient insulin production in the body, and leptin levels. Both uneven leptin and insulin can make you think you’re hungry when you’re not, and also make you reach for unhealthy foods more easily. And let’s be honest, most of us don’t want to snack on healthy foods at night, especially after a long day, so naturally, we reach for sources of sugar and fat to boost our mood and fill us up. Lack of sleep promotes these cravings in your body even further, so make 8 hours of sleep a priority and your appetite will even itself out.
5. Buy the Good Stuff
If you want to eat healthy to prevent snacking at night, you’ve got to make sure your fridge is full of those foods. Stop buying junk to tempt you at night, and fill your fridge with the good stuff. Raw veggies, low sugar fruits like berries and apples, oranges, and grape tomatoes are all great sweet snacks that are healthy for you. It’s also a good idea to keep fat free Greek yogurt to snack on at night, raw nuts and seeds, and even a steamed sweet potato. These foods fill you up, contain water, essential nutrients, and are low in calories. If you’re truly hungry, reach for these instead of the cookies.
6. Stay Present
No matter what I did, I couldn’t have beaten my unhealthy snacking habit at night if I hadn’t made myself stay present in the moment. Instead of just reaching for unhealthy foods automatically like you’re an addict, stop and think. Reassess your goals and hunger level before you reach for those snack foods. Really think about food and what it is. It’s fuel for your body- not a way to numb yourself out. Unless you stay present to that, and can really be honest with yourself, it’s very, very hard to overcome this bad habit. It takes a few weeks to become effective, but it truly does work.
7. Write It out
I started writing out what I ate each day in a journal, and it made such a difference. I had to be honest with myself and accountable. No, it wasn’t fun, but after several weeks, I actually enjoyed it and it helped me so much. I was also able to express myself better and come to terms with some hidden feelings that led to my snacking.
Nighttime snacking can leave you bloated, miserable, and lower your self esteem. It’s one thing if you’re truly hungry, but if you’re not, avoid snacking at night and try some of the tips above. Remember, there’s no better feeling than waking up the next day light and energized, not bogged down with food and guilt. Do you have any tips for avoiding snacking at night?