Its 12.00 am, approximately 3 hours post your last meal of the day. At this time when the stomach has almost digested the food and you should be ready to sleep, an alarm goes off in the gut where hunger strikes. Unfortunately, at this moment we pick whatever food is accessible and in our sight. Sometimes not so healthy chocolates and chips and sometimes we dig in the so-called diet snacks.
Theoretically, nutrition professionals emphasize on eating every 2-3 hours. To keep the metabolism up, help the insulin to stay stable and to prevent the body from going into a starvation mode. My point is, if your last meal was at 9.00 pm and you are a late sleeper (which anyone with a midnight binging habit is), then technically around 12.00 am you should be eating your next meal. Right? But, after the last meal of the day, you are going to sleep and not be able to burn down those extra calories. So we usually say don’t eat 3-4 hours before going to bed. However, if you are extra mindful about your food choice, you’ll not damage your diet and won’t beat yourself over it the next day.
Low calorie- stick to healthy low calorie options. This way it is not detrimental to your diet. It is easy to say this on paper, but when the ice-cream cravings begin to creep in, all the health goals seem irrelevant. Remember, you are making a big mistake if you given in. You could settle with a glass of skim milk having 90 calories or have a bowl of ice cream with 200 calories. The choice is difficult but very easy to make.
Plan- with a little bit of planning you can bring in this additional meal in your routine, keeping your fitness goals and the diet undisturbed. Make sure it is a meal which is calculated as a part of your daily requirement. If you are certain of a late night, keep the snacks prepared for yourself beforehand to avoid picking up the unwanted stuff. Like sprouts or carrot sticks.
Frequent meals- if you are not eating enough or skipping meals through the day, you are going to be hungry and picking up on late night snacks. Try to eat fairly regular meals in the day with minimal gaps. This will keep the stomach full and can help in preventing a dinner after dinner.
Distant- don’t stash your room with chocolates and snacks. Let the food stay away from your room where it is not easy to grab. Sometimes if it is not in your sight you may just dismiss the craving considering the effort you’ll have to put to go and get the food.
Emotional control- if your mood is not manageable, the food you choose will be uncontrollable. Emotional eating and leaning on comfort food can make the weight skyrocket. All you need to do is calm yourself and deal with the problem on hand. Whether upset or purely pmsing, you cannot justify finishing a bar of chocolate. Try to mediate or exercise to elevate the mood. When the unwanted craving begins just deep breathe and allow it to pass away. If this doesn’t help reach out for the healthy snacks and keep the high sugar high fat foods at bay.
Taper- if you feel night time binging is like an addiction and you cannot stop instantly, then flip to healthier choices rather than completely stopping it. Take one step at a time. Once you are confident and in better control over your food and emotions, gradually wean yourself completely from snacking at night.
Professional help- get yourself an individualised plan from a nutritionist that includes late night snacking without hampering your weight goals. Discuss your lack of self control over the post dinner meals and the urge to grab any food lying around. By understanding your needs, providing good nutrition guidance and establishing a regular meal plan, you may not need late night snacking at all.
Water- sometimes its not hunger, its just thirst. Drink 2-3 glasses of water or have a cup of green tea. You’ll be surprised, the hunger may just vanish.
If you have to choose a midnight snack, take my advice and stick to the following- plain low fat yoghurt, sugar-free jelly, nuts, cucumbers, apples, carrots sticks, milk, sprouts, channa and high-fiber oatmeal.
So when you wake up the next day with guilt and questions begin to flash in your mind that “did that one snack ruin my entire diet?” “Are the effects of eating late night irreversible?” “Since I’ve broken the diet I may as well continue breaking it?” The answer to all of the above is NO. Midnight snack can be a part of your daily routine. What really matters is what you eat. Diet-friendly snacks won’t sabotage your health and weight loss efforts.