Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Do You Eat Late At Night?

Whenever I tell people I'm a dietitian I get one of several reactions. The most common reaction is for people to start rambling off their diet and their weaknesses for desserts, pizza, fried chicken, alcohol, etc. Sometimes they even throw out a nutrition question, such as the one I received last night, "Isn't it bad to eat late at night?!" My answer? NO! There are some exceptions, however (read below).

Nick and I are notorious for eating late at night.
I typically have a scoop of homemade ice cream topped with some plain yogurt and frozen blueberries, followed by a few cups of freshly popped popcorn, and of course a piece of dark chocolate (Lindt's 85% dark chocolate).


Nick eats this:


2 scoops of ice cream, topped with my FODMAPs granola


2 slices of whole grain toast, topped with Smart Balance Crunchy Peanut butter, plus a side of chips and frozen blueberries




While I have never been against eating late at night, there are a few things you should consider before doing so;

1) Are you diabetic? If so, you should watch your carbohydrates (don't eat like Nick!) and always have some protein with your late night snack. Obviously this is a brief overview, and more specific recommendations depend on your diet plan and medication use.

2) Have you already had enough calories throughout the day? Some people really shouldn't eat late at night because they have already reached their calorie allotment for the day. This is when eating late at night will cause weight gain. You should always ask yourself "am I hungry? Or, am I just bored?". If you're watching TV and you see food commercials, you may think you are hungry but in reality you may just be getting sucked into the marketing schemes!

3) How late is it? You really don't want to eat too much, too close to going to sleep. Why? Some people may get acid reflux. If you eat something, then lay down, a common symptom is heart burn. This could have an effect on your quality of sleep. Also consider that it takes energy to digest your food. If you eat too much too soon before hitting the sack, your body will be working on digesting your food instead of concentrating on getting good sleep. This may result in not getting enough deep sleep (this may also happen if you drink alcohol, in any amount, before bedtime).

4) What are you snacking on? It may not be the best idea to eat really fatty foods late at night. These are the foods that take longer to digest. Carbohydrates are easier to digest, plus some data shows they may help make you sleepy!


Question: Do you do any late night snacking? What's your favorite late night snack?

36 comments :

  1. I snack in the evening. Around 8pm I normally have some air popped popcorn and a string cheese. Although if it is a day that I have eaten enough for the day I just skip it.

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  2. Agreed...light beer is not the way to go when you want to have a good brew!

    I try to eat light when I get a craving for something late. Last night I had some smoked trout...yeah, kind of a strange snack, but it settled well. I actually find that when I do eat a light snack, I often sleep better. The problem is, it's usually best for me to just not snack because I have a problem with mindless snacking as the night wears on.

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  3. I don't usually eat too late because I find it gives me energy and then I can't fall asleep as easily but if I'm hungry, I'll usually munch on some plain cereal or popcorn...

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  4. I am not too strict on the eating at night rule. I figure I'll be sleeping 6-8 hours and "breaking the fast" within 9-10 hours so I don't sweat it.

    My favorite pre-bed time snack is a protein shake (shocking, I know!) or popcorn or edamame. I'm a hungry, scratch that, healthy girl!

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  5. I usually eat a banana with a couple tablespoons of Smuckers natural peanut butter. Delish!

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  6. I am a nighttime snacker. Its almost habit/ritual now. I love mixing cereal with chocolate chips and raisins, or having chocolatge oudding with cool whip.

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  7. I am SO bad about snacking at night when I'm bored! I've gotten better about keeping myself occupied-- painting my nails, etc.-- so that I don't do it quite as much anymore!

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  8. That's something that is a real problem for me sometimes. I tell myself throughout the day that it's OK to have a nighttime snack, so then I eat one even if I'M NOT HUNGRY. I think the best thing is to have some kind of hot drink or other thing to focus on.

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  9. I always eat after dinner. Last night I had a brownie, oatmeal with PB, and a few spoonfuls of honey from the jar

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  10. I am single and go to bed every night with frozen quark, or pudding, or yogurt pop, or gussied up oatbran...
    and I am ALWAYS a fan of cereal!

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  11. every night.........something sweet.....frozen yougurt or banana soft serve

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  12. I use to a big late night eater but it seems I haven't needed a treat or snack in the pm. Sometimes I will just get out a spoonful of peanut butter and call it a day..or night in this case.

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  13. Yep I'm a late night snacker. I wish I wasn't because I usually just do it out of boredom and end up eating way too much. Don't get me started with cereal haha.

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  14. i'm not sure what "late night" is hahaha but i usually stop eating about an hour to an hour and a half before i go to bed just bc i'll get the acid refluxy feeling in the morning! not fun to do the pepto thang all day if ya know what i meaaaaaaan jelly bean

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  15. I have broken the habit of "snacking" late at night but I do eat if I'm hungry. I tend to eat dinner at 8 or so these days but if I'm hungry, then it's usually yogurt, fruit, or dark chocolate because I'm no saint!

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  16. I like the advice and questions you posed! I'm not much on the late night snacking.. but if it happens I usually grab some fat free yogurt (which I put in the freezer for a treat) and my husband goes for the 94% fat free poopcorn!

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  17. I always eat at night! It's like a small (or sometimes not so small) meal for me because I'm hungry for dinner early (4-5pm) and since I need to eat some substantial every 3-4 hours, it's necessary to eat again around 8! I guess some people have snack at 4 and dinner at 8, so I just switch them around :)!

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  18. I definitely tend to snack after dinner and I think it is mostly boredom. So, I've been trying to keep myself a little busier before bed to stop myself from creeping to the kitchen!

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  19. yeah I def have something at night!! usually have dinner around 7, then again something around 930 (if I am hungry) its usually cottage cheese and 1 T of PB...when you say really fatty foods, I am assuming you don't mean healthy fats right? or is that bad to have at night too?

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  20. i eat most of my calories at breakfast and have a light dinner. i don't like to eat after 7pm, otherwise i can't sleep. (er, is that a sign i'm getting old? lol)

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  21. I HAVE to have a late-night snack most nights...usually it is pretty small though, like a big spoonful of peanut butter, or one small scoop of ice cream, or even a few dark chocolate chips.

    To me, I think another big challenge of eating too late is when someone eats 70-80% of their whole day's calorie intake late at night...or like you said, eating really fatty foods late at night.

    Great post, Gina!

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  22. I have dinner late, around 8-9pm everyday, I don't believe on the 3 hours before bed not eat anything. it doesn't work for me. All it matters is total calories per day, not when.
    and if I have dinner early, I'd always snack before bed, preferable carbs.

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  23. I rarely eat a late night snack however if I do it mostly ice cream or yogurt or banana soft serve!

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  24. I have found that late night eating doesn't work for me. It's just too easy to get out of control... I do much better if I eat my calories earlier in the day. But I'm glad that you are pointing out that late night eating isn't "bad." It just doesn't work for everyone...

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  25. when i mindlessly ate or i guess emotionally ate, i always starved throughout the day and binged at night. now i naturally stop at around 5 or 6pm.. but i do have some fruit before bed if i need to. but anything heavy just keeps me up and i cant sleep.

    xoxo <3

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  26. I eat every 3-4 hours so I always have a yummy snack before bed. Usually Greek yogurt.

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  27. Haha sometimes don't you wish you could tell a lie about what you do for a living? I'm a paralegal, and I always get bombarded with legal questions, which I don't mind, but there are times where it can be annoying.

    I used to late night snack. I love half a grilled cheese sandwich, but I don't snack at night anymore because I ran out of calories :(

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  28. I'm definitely a snacker. I'll usually have some popcorn and fruit late at night. Every now and then I wake up with a growling tummy so I'll eat a granola bar because they're convenient when I'm stumbling around in the dark.

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  29. I tend to get snacky late at night and I notice that it usually happens when I stay up past my bed time (yup I have a bed time)

    I need to watch my carb in take at night...

    I wish I could eat like Nick and not gain a pound! must be nice to be a boy lol

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  30. I totally agree with you about late night eating. I always plan for a late night snack and work it into my day.

    I think that's better than telling yourself you can't eat anything past 7 pm and then all you are doing is thinking about food all night!

    I have a 250 calorie ish snack of ice cream or a cookie, or peanut butter and an apple.

    I will frequently cut up an apple, then microwave 2 TB. peanut butter for about 10 seconds, it gets really melty and I drizzle it over the apples. It's fantastic!

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  31. I have my biggest meal in the evening...I have proper meals in the day, but not as much as my late night meals, because that's when I can finally sit back and relax and not run around doing work.

    I like to eat big bowls of oats, or bread, some nuts, maybe homemade muffins if there's any left.

    I ate about 3 bagels for night snack when I was in NYC...that might have been a bit too much...

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  32. I hate when people do not understand the physiology of the body and decide not to eat at night. Yes, there are exceptions as you have listed. But, I will have someone tell me they do not eat after 8 pm and find out they go to bed at 2 am or later. I usually go with 2 hours before bed. With the metabolism slowing after 4 hours, if you are going to be not eating all night for more than this, the metabolism will not be burning efficiently if the person is up and doing things. I am usually running around until the late hours when Ryan is gone because it is hard for me to fall asleep so I try to be productive. I guess if I didn't eat maybe I would crash and burn and that would solve my not sleeping :)

    I am not kidding, in Vegas I had some people tell me they do not eat after 7 or 8 pm and I find out they wake up at 2 pm and work all night, then go to bed at 4-6 am. Then they wonder why they do not lose weight, and it is because they have messed up their metabolism and often are very restricted in the calories they are consuming because there just isn't time.

    I always have a snack at night, especially if dinner is early. If dinner is just before bed, then I am usually too full. Good thing I know when I am full!

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  33. I usually eat dinner pretty early, as soon as I get home from work basically. Therefore, I usually need a little snack around 7:30. It's still a good 2 hours before I go to bed so I figure its okay. Glad to hear you confirm it!

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  34. I know I am going to eat something at night, so I allow for it. It is totally a comfort thing for me..you know, sitting down, watching tv and relaxing. I don't drink because I don't care for the taste of it, so I eat a bowl of oatmeal, homemade ice cream or popcorn too.

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  35. Great post! I wrote a similar one and we touched on a lot of the same points! I will eat late night if I'm hungry for it and sometimes even if I'm not! I do find that I'm not as hungry when I wake up in the morning if I have eaten later than normal though!
    ps. sorry to hear you'll be cutting back on posts! Hope the job is still treating you well!

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