Don’t eat after sundown – it’s one of the top diet rules, right?
But who says we must resign ourselves to not eating anything from the early evening until the following morning? Eating healthily doesn’t mean we have to deny ourselves when we’re truly hungry.
Long-lasting weight loss comes from learning to recognize the difference between hunger and a craving – and that means knowing how to choose the right food to satisfy that hunger, even if it is past your 7 pm cut-off point.
Here we explain why eating at night isn’t the dieting sin that we’ve been led to believe and list the healthiest nighttime snacks to munch on if you do get hungry after dinner.
Eat Late, Gain Weight?
It’s a popular belief that eating at night will make you gain weight.
The argument against nighttime eating centers on the idea that we’re more likely to be sedentary in the evening. Accordingly, we’ll burn fewer calories, so the food we eat will ‘sit’ there instead of being burnt off.
However, denying yourself a nighttime snack could actually be slowing down your results.
It seems logical to think that eating at night could cause weight gain since the earlier you consume calories, the more time you have to burn them off throughout the day.
We’re also encouraged to ‘eat breakfast like a king and dine like a pauper’, to avoid weight gain by eating a light dinner.
There have been studies that support this idea, such as findings that healthy adults burn fewer calories when digesting a meal at night than during the day.
However, a closer look at some of the findings shows that the link isn’t quite so straightforward.
While research has shown that eating at night can be counter-productive if you consume most of your daily food intake at night, it doesn’t mean that eating after a certain time is necessarily bad for your weight.
If you have your evening meal early and feel hungry a couple of hours later, isn’t it better to reach for a healthy snack than to go to bed with a rumbling stomach?
Since we’re often advised to eat every 3 to 4 hours to keep our blood sugar levels steady and keep our metabolism running, why doesn’t this rule apply after dark?
A recent review by the Department of Nutrition, Food and Exercise Sciences at Florida State University looked deeper into the issue of nighttime eating and showed some interesting findings.
They explained that it’s more important to focus on what you eat than when you eat it.
Their research showed that if you opt for small, nutrient-dense nighttime snacks when hunger strikes after dark, then you could actually help your body to build lean muscle and boost your metabolism.
This is particularly relevant if you exercise in the morning, as your metabolism will be more tuned in to getting started on burning off your pre-workout breakfast to supply fuel for exercise.
The Top 10 Healthy Nighttime Snacks
It’s important to ensure that late-night snacking doesn’t undo the good work you do during the day.
So, you should make your snack small and nutritious, and be sure to eat at least an hour before bed to avoid the possibility of acid reflux and problems sleeping.
So, here is our list of the best nighttime snacks, all around 150-200 calories or under:
1. Greek Yogurt With Fruit
Protein-packed Greek yogurt leads the way for metabolism-boosting effects, plus it contains a good amount of calcium and is low in sugar.
Choose non-sweetened fat-free Greek yogurt, then mix in some slices of nectarine, one of the healthiest summer fruits, for added flavor.
2. Multi-grain Pretzels With Nut Butter
If you’re looking for crunch when it comes to nighttime snacks, then pretzels make a great alternative to chips.
An ounce of pretzels (about a handful) is around 100 calories, so you have a few calories spare to add a little nut butter to the mix for a metabolism-boosting protein hit.
3. Strawberry Smoothie
Ditch the Ben & Jerry’s and go for a smooth and creamy strawberry smoothie to satisfy those nighttime hunger pangs instead.
To make your smoothie, blend kefir, strawberries, and a little pineapple juice for one of the healthiest nighttime snacks around.
Kefir is like drinking yogurt, but it’s naturally lower in sugar, so the strawberries and splash of juice will counteract the slightly tart taste.
A cup of kefir made from nonfat milk contains just 46 calories and 8 grams of muscle-boosting protein, plus a whole host of nutrients.
In addition, it contains friendly probiotic bacteria to reduce inflammation and help you achieve that flat stomach you’ve been working towards!
4. Homemade Trail Mix
Combine almonds, dried fruit, coconut flakes, and sunflower seeds for a filling snack that’s also sleep-enhancing!
Almonds are a good source of the sleep-supporting amino acid tryptophan, as well as the nutrient magnesium, a natural muscle relaxer.
The carbohydrates in the dried fruit and coconut will help to make the tryptophan available to enhance sleepiness, and the sunflower seeds will add extra goodness, crunch, and flavor.
Be sure to keep your snack to a handful, though, as the calories can add up when it comes to nuts and dried fruit.
Not only are cherries one of the healthiest summer fruits, but they also make for one of the best nighttime snacks.
That’s because cherries are one of the few foods which are a natural source of melatonin, helping to control your body’s internal clock.
This sleep-enhancing hormone helps to induce drowsiness and lower body temperature to get you ready for bed.
6. Topped Crackers
Try multi-grain crackers or low-fat rye mini toasts with a spread of protein-packed homemade hummus or some light cheese for a hit of fat-fighting dairy.
7. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese isn’t to everyone’s taste, but if you’re a fan, then it’s one of the best nighttime snacks.
That’s because the protein in cottage cheese will stop you from getting hungry during the night, while the calcium eases you to sleep.
Top a small bowl of cottage cheese with fresh berries, chopped nuts, and cinnamon for a satisfying metabolism boost.
8. Raspberries With Dark Chocolate
Chocolate with a high cacao content contains less sugar and packs in more antioxidants to keep you healthy from the inside out, so be sure to go for a cacao content of at least 70%.
For an indulgent yet healthy snack, combine a few squares of dark chocolate with a handful of raspberries to benefit from even more antioxidants, vitamin C and filling fiber.
You might just think of oats as a breakfast food, but they also make one of the best nighttime snacks too!
Like cherries, oats are also a natural source of melatonin, so they help to regulate sleeping cycles.
Make your oatmeal with nonfat milk, another sleep promoter, for a double hit of sleep-inducing goodness.
10. Banana With Nut Butter
The unique mix of potassium, magnesium, carbohydrates, and vitamins in bananas helps to reduce stress, boost mood and encourage muscle relaxation, making them one of the best foods to eat in the evening.
More importantly, bananas contain the sleep-enhancing amino acid tryptophan, therefore creating the perfect recipe for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Adding a little nut butter to add flavor and a hit of filling protein will make this a winner when it comes to nighttime snacks.
So, if you do ever get the munchies at night, don’t be afraid to snack; just be sure to reach for something small that will keep you feeling satisfied until morning and provide essential nutrients in your diet.
However, if you often find that you’re craving food at night, despite eating enough calories throughout the day, then you may need extra help from the weight loss supplement Phen Caps.
Phen Caps will help to suppress your appetite and take your mind off cravings throughout the whole day, meaning more chance of weight loss success!
Do you get hungry in the evening? Or, are you a firm believer in not eating after a certain time? Let us know what you think by commenting below!