Have you been told that you shouldn’t eat at night if you want to lose weight? Or that eating late will make the food go “straight to your thighs”? Or have you heard that eating after 7pm is bad because your body stores those calories as fat? Well, I am here to tell you that those nutrition tips are bogus- if you get hungry at night, you can eat something without it ruining your weight loss goals! Overall daily calories are more important than late night snacking habits.
The best things to eat at nighttime for a healthy weight include Greek yogurt, protein smoothies, fruit and cottage cheese, popcorn and nuts, carrots and hummus, avocado toast, and whole wheat crackers with ham and cheese.
What you choose to eat late at night is important because your body feels the best when you give it the right foods at the right times. I often encourage people to have a higher protein snack, paired with a little bit of carbs and healthy fats in the evenings if they get hungry before bed to help their body recover. Eating an excessive amount of sugar and carbohydrates before bed tends to overload your body with energy, spike your blood sugar, and might even make it harder to fall asleep.
Read on for more healthy tips for weight loss, and information about what kinds of foods to eat in the evening before going to bed.
Healthy Tips for Weight Loss
Unfortunately, our dieting society puts a lot of emphasis on weight loss and often encourages unhealthy means of losing weight. This diet culture we live in might even make it feel like if you aren’t actively trying to lose weight, you are doing something wrong! In fact, you can be actively trying to be healthier without trying to lose weight.
While there is nothing wrong with having a desire to lose weight, being at a lower weight does not mean you are “better” or “more worthy of love and kindness.” In fact, your weight has nothing to do with your worth.
For a lot of people, the pursuit of weight loss can become obsessive and lead to unhealthy habits. If you have a goal of weight loss, here are some of my best tips for you:
- Remember that weight is just a number and by itself, doesn’t really mean all that much. Letting the number on the scale determine how you feel about yourself or your overall health is never helpful, even when trying to lose weight.
- Turn your focus more toward nourishing your body and developing healthy habits, rather than decreasing your body weight. The truth is, your health is much more tied to your habits than to your weight.
- Don’t weigh yourself every day. Your body will undergo natural fluctuations in water weight that can change your weight by many pounds over the course of the day. Jumping on the scale constantly is not going to do you much good and will likely cause more stress and frustration.
- Make note of how you feel. Usually there are other things to notice before the scale ever changes. If you are feeling more energized, stronger, less anxious, are sleeping better, etc. this is probably a sign that the changes you are making are working!
- Include regular, enjoyable exercise in your routine. Think outside of the box and find something active that you enjoy doing! Maybe that would be rock climbing, swimming, skiing, hip hop dance classes, tai chi, jumping on the trampoline, pickleball, walking with a friend, weight training, kickboxing- there are so many options out there!
- Remember that there are many other things that affect your weight (other than just food and exercise). Getting enough sleep is one of the most underrated things you can do to help your body get to a healthy weight. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, but take some time to evaluate your own sleep habits and figure out what feels best for your body.
- Manage your stress levels with exercise, meditation, fun hobbies, therapy, or other healthy coping skills. Did you know that high levels of stress hormones can actually lead to your body storing fat differently? Practicing simple stress management can be extremely beneficial in maintaining a healthy weight because it helps your body feel more comfortable and safe.
- Drink lots of water, but don’t overdo it. Water is actually an essential nutrient and is involved in so much of what is going on in your body. When your body has all of the nutrients it needs, it will feel much more comfortable and willing to let go of excess fat stores that it doesn’t need.
- Eat regularly throughout the day. Don’t go long periods of time (more than 3-4 hours during the day) without eating- that often results in overeating later on! Keep snacks with you for crazy days that throw you off your schedule.
- Eat a balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) at each meal and snack. Carbs are your body’s main source of energy, but eat something else with them to help your body sustain that energy for longer. Since most foods aren’t balanced by themselves, this usually means you will need to pair foods together to get all of your macronutrients at meals and snacks.
- Practice mindfulness regularly. In our busy culture, it is easy to eat while you are distracted and miss out on cues that your body is giving you. As much as you can, slow down and take a break from other things while you eat so that you can truly focus on what you are eating and how it makes your body feel. You can start by tuning in to all five senses while you eat to help you be more present and make the experience more mindful.
- Eat a variety of foods from each of the food groups- grains, dairy, fruits, vegetables, protein, and oils. Our dieting culture often demonizes certain foods and food groups, but all foods have a place in a healthy diet and getting variety from each food group ensures that you aren’t missing out on any important nutrients that your body needs!
Can You Eat Before Bed?
One of the most common questions I get as a dietitian is if it is okay to eat before bed. My answer is absolutely yes! This might surprise you, especially if you have been taught that eating before bed or eating after a certain time is unhealthy. That is one of those nutrition myths that many people don’t know is a myth!
I think that the advice to not eat before bed came because of the types of food a lot of us typically eat before bed. I speak from experience when I say that those sweet foods, salty foods, candies and treats taste extra yummy when paired with your favorite TV show after a long day.
Overeating can sometimes happen at night, usually because people undereat during the day. When you are absolutely ravenous, it makes it a lot harder to be mindful of what you are eating and pay attention to when you start feeling satisfied.
A lot of emotional eating also happens at night because it is after the stress of the day is over and people are unwinding and trying to find something that makes them feel good. In fact, many people are emotionally and physically hungry and bored in the evening which can lead to the perfect storm! To combat all of that- “experts” started telling people to just not eat anything in the evening rather than actually getting to the root of the issue.
The other reason that people give for not wanting to eat before bed is that they are afraid their body will store that energy as fat if they eat after a certain time. The reality is, your body doesn’t just shut off and start storing everything as fat just because the clock strikes 7 PM. Excess calories that your body doesn’t need will get stored as fat- regardless of when you are eating those calories. Overall calorie amount is more important than timing.
Should I Eat After A Late Workout?
If you are working out in the evening or later at night, you might actually need more food at night than the average person. Remember, the key to meeting any health goals, including weight loss, weight gain, building muscle, and others, is giving your body the right foods at the right times. Fueling and recovering from a late night workout is no different!
If you are worried about eating back the calories you just burned during exercise, think about how your body must feel when you have pushed it to work hard and change, but you aren’t giving it any fuel to work with. It won’t do your body much good in the long run to exercise without fueling properly!
If you don’t like eating right before you go to bed, try taking a snack with you to the gym or wherever it is that you are exercising. Eating or drinking something there gives your body a little bit more time to process the food and still have time to shut down and go to sleep.
A good post-workout snack is one that has both carbohydrates and protein. Feel free to throw in some healthy fats too!
What is Best to Eat Before Bedtime for Weight Loss?
Depending on your situation, you may need a different ratio of carbohydrates, protein, and fat late in the evening. Someone that just did a tough workout might need a bit more carbohydrates and protein and total calories than someone who did not do anything active that evening. However, a good rule of thumb is to get a balanced snack or meal in the evening to help you feel satisfied and give your body what it needs to recover during the night.
If you have no idea where to start, here are a few snack ideas to get you started. These snacks can work in most situations, regardless of whether you are wanting to lose weight, gain muscle, or anything else!
Best Snack Ideas for Eating at Night:
- Cottage cheese and crackers
- Chocolate milk (I love the Fairlife Chocolate milk because it has a little bit more protein and less sugar!)
- Greek yogurt
- String cheese and pretzels
- Protein shake and half a bagel
- Toast with peanut butter
- Toast with avocado and hard boiled eggs
- Beef jerky and wheat thins
- Crackers with ham and cheese
- Peanut butter pretzels
- Popcorn and nuts
- Hard boiled eggs and a whole wheat roll
- Carrots with hummus
- What Are Healthy Snacks For Teenagers?
- The Best Protein Snacks for Teenagers
- How Many Snacks Should a Teenager Eat a Day? According to a Dietitian
- Dietitian Recommended Protein and Energy Bars for Teens
There is no need to be afraid of eating at night, even if you are trying to lose weight. In fact, a lot of people have quite a large gap between dinner and bedtime and probably will start feeling hungry in the evening. If your body is giving you hunger cues, I encourage you to honor them, even if it is later in the evening.
If your body is telling you that it is hungry, you should probably listen to it. Our bodies are smart and know what they need! If you are constantly feeling ravenous in the evening, or if you feel like you are having uncontrollable cravings, that might be a sign that you need to evaluate your eating habits earlier in the day.
Eating more regularly and balanced earlier in the day, and eating enough to sustain your body’s needs might help to regulate some of your eating in the evening. But if after that you still feel hungry at night- go find something to eat!
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