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Midnight Snacking

Is midnight snacking linked to weight gain & if you do feel like a late night snack can you eat without feeling guilty.   2012-04-03

You are watching a film after a long day or you are lying in bed trying to read a book and your mind turns to food: ‘Mmm, the half eaten chocolate bar in the fridge is really appetising or what about the ice cream left over in the freezer?” you get up and plod to the kitchen. Is this scenario familiar to you?

According to some old school scientists snacking should be avoided at all cost and their view is that eating three good meals a day at regular intervals, (breakfast, lunch and dinner) will help you avoid snacking on things like crisps, chocolate and biscuits which in turn can help reduce weight gain. But as we all know, it is not as easy as it looks.

In this respect you should eat three meals a day and feel full after each meal however modern belief is that snacking on the correct food between meals can be OK. On the other hand, if you do feel hungry late at night and eat the wrong food, you will disrupt your sleep pattern which will keep you awake rather than help you fall asleep. It will also add a lot of unnecessary calories to your daily intake which in turn will make you gain weight rather than lose it.

Nowadays due to lifestyle changes, eating three good meals a day at regular times is not always easy to achieve and therefore eating a healthy snack in between meals can help reduce consuming large quantities of food when we do get the opportunity to eat. However, when we discuss weight gain, research has indicated that we need not only to take into consideration what is the recommended daily allowance of calories (women 2000 Kcal men 2500 Kcal) but we also need to consider our sleeping patterns, hormones and body temperature.

Research has proven that mice who ate at unusual hours put on twice as much weight, despite doing the same amount of exercise as those who ate at regular times. This has contributed to the thought that there is a wrong time of day to eat, which can lead to weight gain. Research is still ongoing.

We understand that not eating in between meals can prove to be difficult. Below are some top tips to stop the midnight snacks:

  • Try not to eat late in the day or after dinner.
  • If you feel peckish, distract yourself by going for a walk, curl up with a good book or have a nice relaxing bath.
  • If you do snack, then eat or drink something which is low in calorie, drink a herbal tea, have some vegetables or some fruit.
  • By increasing your fibre intake especially at dinner, you can make yourself feel fuller.
  • Scientists have proven that including more protein in your diet, can help keep hunger at bay.
  • Only eat sitting at a table.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy the taste of your food. When you have finished eating, wait about 15 to 20 minutes before you decide if you want something else to eat.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Those people who tend to skip breakfast often snack on high calorie laden food.
  • Start a diet journal. This can help you keep track of the meals you eat and keep on target with any meal plan you may have.
  • Drink plenty of water. Not only does this keep you hydrated, but also gives you something to do with your hands and mouth.

Conversely, if you are going to have a midnight snack, you should stay away from the following:

  • Greasy or fat laden food, which makes your stomach go into overdrive trying to digest the food and leaving you feeling sluggish the next morning.
  • High carbohydrate or sugary foods, which will increase your blood sugar levels quickly followed by a blood sugar level crash, which in turn can interrupt your sleep.
  • Red meat and other proteins, which tend to sit in your stomach making it hard for you to fall asleep while you are digesting it. This also includes large amounts of chicken and pork.
  • Spicy foods which if eaten late at night may upset your stomach or stimulate your senses, which consequently may make it hard to fall asleep
  • Big portions should not be a substitute for snacking. We recommend that if you need to snack at foods, choose those which are less than 200 calories. This will help with sleeping and you will also feel good knowing that you haven’t undone any of your healthy eating habits of the day.

It is recommended that the best late night snacks to eat are those food groups which are easy to digest, low in calories (those under 200 calories), contain amino acid tryptophan, which can help the body to create niacin and serotonin (the calming ‘feel-good’) hormone and accompanied with carbohydrates and a little protein small amounts of fibre and fat.

Here are our 5 top midnight snacks we all love with our healthier alternatives.

  1. Instead of Grilled Cheese – change to turkey with a few leafy greens and a bit of cheese.
  2. Instead of regular peanut butter – try a low calorie raisin peanut butter with a few banana slices for a treat.
  3. Instead of ordinary biscuits – try a biscuit made with almond flour and semi-sweet chocolate
  4. Instead of pizza – try some pita bread or crackers with tomato and cheese
  5. Instead of ice cream – try some Greek yoghurt with some frozen berries.

In conclusion if you are suffering from hunger pains at night, you may need to increase your calorie intake during the day. If you still suffer from the midnight munchies, then you should stop and think: ‘Am I hungry, bored or am I about to feed a habit?’ If after you have made your decision and you still feel hungry remember keep it light and simple.