Do you find it difficult not to snack after dinner?
Does that quart of ice cream call your name right as you’re about to wind down and turn on your favorite show?
Been there, sister. Been there.
More Than an Occasional Nibble
I’m not talking about the occasional nibbles at night. I’m talking about the struggle that happens more often than not following ‘din ‘din.
As a former career dieter, I know first hand how hard it is to change your food habits. It can be quite miserable!
I’d like to offer a few tips on how to avoid “second dinner” all together or at least modify your nighttime munchies in such a way that both your body and mind are content.
I’m also going to offer some ideas for what to eat at night when you’re genuinely hungry sans any unnecessary guilt.
Keep in mind that I’m speaking from both personal experience and the feedback I’ve received from supporting clients with weight loss. You should always consult a medical professional before making changes to your diet.
Let’s Modify Those Nighttime Munchies
Eat Enough Throughout the Day.
While skipping breakfast or lunch might seem like an easy way to reduce overall calories consumed for the day, it can increase hunger cravings in the evening for some. Pay attention to how you feel after you’ve eaten a lighter breakfast, lunch or should you skip a meal/snack. Low energy and headaches are just a couple of signs that you’re low on fuel.
Your body needs a certain number of calories daily in order to function properly. When you don’t eat enough or go too long without eating, hormones such as ghrelin signal to your brain that you’re hungry. Hence the rumbly in your tummy or feeling like a bottomless pit late at night.
This isn’t true for everyone, though. Some have success intermittent fasting without experiencing hunger pains at night. Get to know your body and its needs to avoid the need to snack.
2. Change Your Routine
If you’re in the habit of watching television or scrolling after dinner, consider replacing that habit with a new one. An evening stroll around the neighborhood, phoning a friend, or playing a game with your family can keep you occupied so that you’re not snacking.
3. Identify Your Hunger
What type of hunger are you experiencing? Is it emotional hunger, physical hunger, or what I call programmed hunger?
Another way to put it is: What are you really hungry for?
Do you need a Hostess cake or a hug? A long stressful day is a common way that we “reward” ourselves for adulting. It makes total sense, when we consider that sugar is a natural muscle relaxer. Opt for another stress reliever such as watching comedy or taking an epsom salt bath.
Is your body actually hungry, thirsty or are you feeling sensations from the digestive process?
Become a bit of a detective. Before you nibble on something, consider how much you ate and drank throughout the day. How physically active were you? If you ate less and moved more, then it’s reasonable to desire a post dinner snack.
Also consider the quality of your food choices. Eating enough protein and fibrous foods throughout the day are ways to feel full longer because of their thermogenic effect (the energy required for digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested nutrients). Simply put, protein and fibrous foods take longer for your body to process.
If you ate plenty, but hardly drank water, then hydrate, my friend.
It’s also good to become aware of how your stomach feels an hour or so post mealtime. It’s normal to feel a bit of a rumble or gurgle in your tum tum at this time. Your body is probably digesting your food, not sending you the cue for peanut butter cups.
Do you want to eat simply out of habit?
There’s no right or wrong answer. The goal is to increase your awareness, so that you can match your response with one that will help you reach your health goals.
So you’ve made all of these considerations. You drank some water, waited a few minutes and you’re still hungry. Now what? What should you have?
I can’t tell you what to eat, but I’ll share what I do.
Veggies! I go for more veggies from dinner, cucumbers or sometimes a pickle spear as a snack.
Other snacks I enjoy include; a few raw nuts, popcorn, yogurt or string cheese.
Lastly, a flavorful drink will often satisfy my need for a sweet treat. I’m a big fan of herbal teas, sparkling water, and dare I say…a diet soda (gasp). I realize that diet soda is controversial in the health community, but I have no issue with it as long as it’s not abused.
And on that note, I’ll say, “Cheers to your health and happiness.”