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Snacking in the Dark

Should we be afraid of snacking at night?

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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:

  1. 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…
  2. 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.
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