Is late-night snacking bad for your health?
FEBRUARY 17, 2020
Midnight snacking occurs when you are lying in bed tossing and turning while your body craves fatty foods. Throughout human history, food was not always readily available. It was common for early humans to consume all of their calories late at night when there was no game to be hunted, or tasks left to complete. Doing so also allowed the body to take its time with the digestive process and preserve the nutrients gained from this food. In modern society, this tendency to consume and preserve calories at night appears in the form of midnight cravings. While this explains why some people might indulge in midnight snacks, we still do not know whether such a habit is beneficial or detrimental to our bodies.
Is it good or bad?
Some animal studies have shown evidence that food is processed differently by our bodies at different times of the day. These studies tend to agree that when food is consumed late at night, the body is more likely to store those calories as fat and gain weight rather than burn it as energy. It is also a bad idea to eat dinner and immediately go to bed, as this may cause indigestion or an upset stomach. You should aim to time your dinner around an hour or two before bedtime so that you stay sated without the drawbacks. If you still feel hunger pangs at night simply ignoring them is not recommended, as this may disturb your sleep cycle and lead to feeling tired and sleepy the next day. We would recommend stacking up on healthy baked snacks and whole grain chips, to beat your cravings while still eating healthy.
What to eat and when to eat it
Generally, it is good practice to eat something every 5 to 6 hours during a day. If you know that you will be heading to bed at midnight we would recommend eating your last meal at least two hours before bedtime. Having your dinner early is just as bad as this might result in you feeling hungry at night and reaching for a midnight snack. Avoid consuming fatty, salty and sweet food late at night, as this type of food is more likely to give you heartburn, store fat and keep you awake because of excess energy. Instead, opt for a bowl of milk and cereal or a bowl of rice or even a banana. These foods have shown to help with sleep quality and are also healthy and easily digestible.
Tips to curb late-night snacking
Now that we know that late-night snacking affects your health, it is time to learn how to curb this habit. The first step is to identify the triggers and cues behind this habit. Most of us try to quit late-night snacking cold turkey and adding regular exercise at the same time. Many people are unable to make such drastic changes and get discouraged by the lack of progress. Instead, we would recommend reducing the craving for salty and sweet foods at night by stacking up on tasty and healthy snacks such as baked coconut laddus, baked potato chips and baked masala sticks. Such healthy snacks will keep you full for longer and allow you to stay away from fatty foods.
Emotions are an important part of the puzzle when it comes to late-night snacking. When you feel tired or unhappy, a calorie-filled meal can be a great pick-me-up. However, as studies show, bingeing on unhealthy foods can actually affect your sleep patterns, store fat, cause heartburn and even affect your mental wellbeing. A way to combat this is to look for alternatives that do not rely on food. Try taking a warm shower before bed, staying away from screens or reading a book. These relaxing activities will help your body have a restful night’s sleep. You can also make it easier on yourself by planning your meals. By following planned eating schedules, your body will adjust to the new routine and make it easier to avoid feeling hungry and fall asleep at the right time.