Sure, we can come up with a slew of reasons (most of them pretty flimsy) for snacking at night: to keep our hands and mouths busy while we watch TV, to reward ourselves for making it through a hard day, to give in to a craving, etc. But knowing what we do about snacking in the dark – mainly, that it’s when we’re mostly likely to consume empty calories that pack on pounds – is there ever a good reason to do it?
actually, there are two:
- If you didn’t eat a nutritious dinner. Whether you skipped dinner altogether or ate something un-dinner-like (say, nachos and a beer with some buddies after work), this may be a good time to give your body its daily requirement for healthy food, like whole grains, vegetables and fruit. A hearty Mushroom-Barley Soup would taste especially good this time of day, as would sliced veggies with low-fat Sesame-Feta Dip. For something cool and creamy (rather than ice cream) make a Tropical Papaya Smoothie or a Perfect Parfait. Just be careful not to overdo it; an overly full stomach can interfere with your ability to sleep well, which is the perfect segue to reason number two…
- If you have trouble sleeping. According to Mayo Clinic sleep specialists, a small snack a few hours before hitting the hay may help prevent hunger pangs from waking you up at 3 a.m. Aim for snacks that pair carbohydrates and protein, the building blocks of tryptophan – an amino acid that the National Sleep Foundation says causes sleepiness.
here are some especially good, sleep-promoting options:
For more information about nighttime snacking and what to eat to help you sleep, read A Little Nighttime Knowledge.
foods to avoid at night:
- Caffeine – The effects of that mid-afternoon cup of coffee could last up to 8 hours. So make last call for caffeinated beverages at 3:00 p.m.
- Alcohol – Although it may help you fall asleep faster, too much can interfere with your sleep patterns and cause you to wake up after just a few hours.
- Spicy food – Nighttime is not the right time for heartburn or acid reflux. You don’t want to take either lying down.
- Too much liquid – Although we’re big proponents of being well hydrated, avoid guzzling down a day’s worth of fluids right before bed to avoid a middle-of-the-night sprint to the bathroom.