Is Late Night Snacking Harmful?
Late night snacking, particularly before bed, is a topic that has received considerable attention in years. Over the past many years it was thought that health and weight conscious individuals should limit and/or avoid food late in the night before sleep because it would negatively impact health and body composition. Snacking at night will make you gain weight is what one routinely hears. While there may be some truth in that, late night snacking is not always bad, especially if done with the right foods and under the right circumstances. Research also shows that food eaten at late night does not feel as satisfying as it does earlier in the day, so we eat more when we snack late night. So, the major problem is not eating at night but what we eat at night and how much we eat.
Many people are struggling to keep their hands off the kitchen cupboards or the refrigerator after dinner. Most times the munching is mindless. It is true that the body is always burning calories – low when you are asleep. Weight gain is a combination of various factors including the intake of total calories vs expenditure of total calories, hormones, etc. So, if your total calorie intake for the day remains as per the body needs a small snack at night should not be of much harm. Infact for people who are physically active a small snack at night might even help in muscle protein synthesis, faster morning metabolism and satiety.
Here are a few tips on what one should not be doing when snacking at night –
- Eating Mindlessly: Reading or watching television and eating will definitely ensure that you are consuming more than what you should be thus downing more calories.
- Snacking on high fat and high sugar foods: Most people find comfort in sweet or processed foods at night which can be seriously detrimental if one is trying to watch their weight.
- Eating from the box/packet: You will never know how much you have eaten if you eat straight from the packet thus jeopardising any weight management efforts. Best is to take a small portion so you are aware of how much you have eaten.
So, if you are a night owl – if you are studying, working, etc then a small night snack will provide you with energy to do the tasks. Here are a few do’s or points to remember when snacking at night:
- Keep a check on the calories: A 200 or 250 calorie snack can turn out to be in fact beneficial in a number of instances – for physically active people or people who need to maintain their blood sugar levels.
- Eat whole foods: Fresh fruits, low fat yogurt, peanut butter sandwich, hummus with vegetable sticks, nuts in measured amounts, low fat milk, etc are good snacking options. A snack containing fibre and protein increases satiety.
- Practice portion control: Take a limited amount of food in the bowl or on your plate and enjoy it. This will help in keeping a check on the calorie intake. You will get both the physical as well as the mental satisfaction.
- Drink water. Sometimes body sends food cravings when it is really thirsty. So have enough fluids to keep you feeling full.
An occasional late night snack will never ruin a diet, However, if becomes a habit then one needs to review the intake of foods during the entire day and change a few habits if needed. Make sure the dinner is filling with a good mix of carbohydrates and protein with some healthy fat. This should keep you from getting hungry at night. And if you are still hungry then go in for the healthy options. If you are looking to watch your weight then nutritionists from various weight loss centres in Mumbai can help in planning a balanced diet keeping in mind the nutrient requirements as well as the weight management goals.