We’ve all been there: you have your dinner at 8pm and think you’re set for the night. You settle in on the couch feeling stuffed and turn on Netflix to start bingeing your new favorite TV show and then it happens. Two hours later your mind starts wandering to the tasty chips and cookies just waiting for you in the pantry. When this happens, it can be difficult to not have feelings of guilt about eating what many would call “junk” foods so late at night and close to bedtime. Well, there’s good news. For starters, you don’t have to feel guilty about night time cravings and snacks. There are reasonable explanations for why nighttime urges to snack occur, so it’s important to remember there’s nothing wrong with your willpower. And, in fact, there’s a way you could even include this habit into your weight loss goals and healthy lifestyle.
One important thing to remember is that emotional eating doesn’t always have to manifest itself when you’re feeling negative emotions such as sadness or anger. Feeling the urge to grab a snack to munch on while cuddling up with your Netflix on is a pleasurable habit rather than a physiological one. This means that this urge is more due to what’s going on in your brain than in the body. Basically, your emotions of comfort that may come at night time may prompt you to snack to release some serotonin and keep that good, comforting feeling alive. Another reason you may experience these cravings is if you eat dinner early, but tend to stay up late. So, if you eat dinner at around 5 or 6 pm, but tend to stay up until midnight it’s perfectly natural to get cravings around 8 or 9. This is because your hunger hormone, ghrelin, kicks in every 3 to 4 hours and it’s perfectly okay to feed this physiological response. However, when you’re trying to keep yourself from overeating, how do you approach this phenomenon? Do you not eat at all costs or is there a smarter way?
The most practical, and the most fair to you and your relationship with food, way to proceed if you are a night time snacker is to include that you like to eat as a part of your meal plan. Include what you anticipate yourself snacking on in your calorie goals, make sure it’s portioned ahead of time, indulge in your snack and move on without feeling any guilt or taboo. This may mean slightly reducing some portions of snacks or meals during the day or just making more low-calorie choices, but this is still a much healthier approach than skipping meals or mentally slapping yourself on the wrist at night when you feel bad about wanting a little chocolate before bed.
Below are some examples of some healthful, but satisfying, night time snacks you can include along with your usual cravings:
- Craving Salty/Crunchy?
- 1 rice cake + 2 wheels of laughing cow cheese
- 2-5 cups of air popped popcorn + a sprinkle of sea salt + drizzle of olive oil
- Craving sweets?
- Make a mousse with 1 container of plain Greek yogurt + 1 scoop chocolate protein powder + 1 teaspoon cocoa powder + milk of choice to desired texture
- ¾ cup strawberries + ¼ cup whipped cream
- 2 squares of 75% dark chocolate + dried figs or dried apricots
- Craving savory?
- 15 sugar snap pea pods + 2 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- 1/3 avocado + 2 whole wheat crackers
Want more snack ideas? Head to mvnutrition.com and check out my quick start program for access to 100 snack ideas plus much more including a weight loss meal plan and award-winning reboot plans.