You get home from a long stressful day, and the only thing you want to do is lay on the couch and binge the latest season of your favorite Netflix show. But it’s 9 p.m. and you don’t have the time or energy to cook yourself something for dinner. Naturally, you grab a pint of ice cream and settle in for the night. An hour has passed and you're ready for something a little saltier. You grab yourself a bag of chips—you’ve had a stressful day, you deserve it!
If this sounds like a typical Tuesday night for you, you may want to continue reading!
Why Eating Late At Night Isn’t Good For Your Overall Health
Eating late at night is a common problem among people with busy schedules. Food often helps us relax physically. After a meal, more blood goes to the digestive organs and away from the areas of physical and mental activity. Eating lightly throughout the day, getting hungry at night after work, and having a meal or snack late at night is a convenient pattern for many people’s schedules. However, going to bed on a stomach full of your favorite late night cravings does not benefit your digestion or your sleep. The food remains undigested through the night, often causing you to wake up full and sluggish. Eating late becomes a habit that robs you of your energy.
To start feeling happier and healthier, take control of your eating habits. Minimizing late night binging will help you get a restful night’s sleep and reap the rewards of increased energy levels.
The Reasons Behind Your Late Night Cravings
Tastes for specific flavors, such as sweet and salty, develop when you are young and can be difficult to change later in life. In the United States and Canada, sugar and salt are the most common food additives. With added sugars in breakfast cereals, peanut butter, coffee, and more, and added salt in almost everything else, these two flavors constantly bombard us. That explains why cravings usually consist of sweet, salty, and savory foods.
Sugar happens to be one of the most addictive substances added to food. It can cause various health issues down the road when consumption is high over a long period, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. If you find yourself giving in to a nagging sweet tooth more often than not, try checking out our blog post on 6 Ways To Cut Down On Added Sugars.
When you eat sugar or fats, your brains produce large amounts of a hormone called dopamine. Dopamine is a hormone that uplifts and contributes to feelings of happiness! Your brain perceives sugar as beneficial and releases large amounts of dopamine when you consume sugary, high-calorie foods. Over time, this can mimic the effects of addiction, making it difficult to resist the urge to consume sweets and high-fat foods late at night.
You might find that your late night cravings are intense following a stressful day at work. Our emotions strongly influence our eating habits, often leading your mood to influence your food choices. It's necessary to recognize bad habits stemming from stress or other emotions and develop healthy alternatives to late night binging.
You can learn to deal with stress, sadness, frustration, and so on through self-development techniques. Not using food to cover up feelings, thoughts, and issues is crucial to maintaining optimal health.
3 Ways to Get Rid Of Late Night Cravings
1. Don’t Skip Meals
Giving in to late night cravings and overeating has been linked to erratic eating patterns that are often categorized as disordered eating. If you regularly skip breakfast, lunch or don’t eat until dinner time, it is no wonder you find yourself snacking at night! The issue with being hungry at night is that people tend to reach for the easy (and often unhealthy) food options. We’ve all been there; it’s much easier to set up camp on the couch with a bag of chips than it is to take the time to cook a healthy and wholesome meal. Eating regular meals throughout the day will prevent you from getting too hungry at night and thus will help you manage your late night cravings.
2. Eat balanced meals
Not only is it important to eat enough food, but it’s also important to eat a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat with your meals to help curb cravings. If you find yourself eating late at night due to hunger, try including protein at every meal. Eating enough protein can help keep you satisfied throughout the day and prevent those mindless late night snack feasts. If you’re someone who's constantly on the go, you may benefit from incorporating meal prepping into your routine. Check our 9 Meal Prep Tips to Help You Hit Your Health Goals and become a meal prep master.
3. Ask yourself: “Why?”
Am I hungry? Stressed? Tired? Did I eat enough today? These are all questions to ask yourself when you’re reaching for your favorite late night snack. Although there are many strategies to help manage your cravings, the best way is to find the cause. Identifying the cause will help you make the necessary steps to solve the problem. One way to determine the cause of your late night snacking and the things that trigger it is to keep a diary of the food you eat and your mood while eating. Tracking your eating habits alongside your feelings will help you identify patterns so that you can work on breaking any negative cycles with food.
Get Back on Track & Stop Late Night Cravings
Saying no to your late night cravings might seem impossible, but it may be just what you need to reclaim your eating habits and keep your overall health in tip-top shape!