Dining after dinner seems to be getting a bad rap for those trying to watch their waistline. Late night snacking is often associated with weight gain because there is not enough time to burn off the extra calories before bed, and is thought of as a sure diet sabotage. Evening eating can occur for many reasons. Some people do not feel that they have time during the day to eat, and consume the majority of their calories at night. For others, an evening snack is a way to relax after a long day. Some are just plain hungry after dinner.
However, evening snacks are not guaranteed to pack on the pounds. Weight gain, loss, or maintenance depends on energy balance in the body. When more calories are consumed than burned, weight gain occurs. When more calories are burned than consumed, weight loss occurs. Eating at certain times of the day (such as breakfast) can affect some aspects of weight, but overall caloric consumption when you go to bed has one of the greatest effects on the scale. This does not mean you should fill your entire calorie bank at the end of the day, because this may have a negative effect on your metabolism from your body running on empty all day.
If you love your evening snack after dinner, you don’t have to deprive yourself. Planning and adjusting your late night bite to fit in your caloric budget can help you stay on track. By planning to have an evening snack, you may help yourself feel like you are in control of your diet, and you can savor what makes you happy. However, if you feel like you are not in control of your eating, or you are eating to the point of pain or purging, seeing a psychiatrist or other professional who specializes in emotional eating or eating disorders may be necessary.
A small 150-200 calorie snack can include a variety of foods that can satisfy your pallet as well as your waistline. Some healthy and tasty foods that won’t disrupt your diet include:
- 100 calorie pack of your favorite snack, plus one fist sized piece or cup of fruit or vegetables
- 1 cup of a 120 calorie cereal with skim milk and a Clementine
- ½ cup of low calorie, slow churned ice cream or frozen yogurt with a squirt of chocolate syrup and a dab of whipped cream
- 130 calories of whole grain crackers and 1 piece of low fat string cheese
Remember, late night snacking is not always a bad thing. Having something to look forward to at the end of the day is great, and by adjusting your snack to fit your caloric budget, you can enjoy your evening munchies without the side of guilt.