How to Stop Snacking in the Evening

Guest post by Lisa Hunter

Many people, whether they are healthy eaters or not, find that during the evening they crave food to snack on, particularly salty, starchy or sweet choices. This generally happens a couple of hours before bedtime. Standard health advice is that we shouldn’t eat at this time of the evening, as our bodies don’t burn off fat and we simply store it, thus leading to weight problems. For sleep apnea sufferers, snacking before bedtime is particularly ill advised as it exacerbates this condition; however when you are not sleeping well, you crave snacks to boost energy levels in your body.

There are foods recommended for those tempted by snacking each evening, such as low glycemic choices and meals containing roughage. These will fill you up for longer and stop those nighttime cravings, leading to a better diet and healthier lifestyle.

Breaking the Pattern

People snack in the evening for different reasons. Sometimes it is because there is no structure, after a busy day, or we might snack as we’re cooking dinner, or end meals with a treat. Patterns are formed easily, such as craving cookies at nighttime, and a study in Obesity Journal shows that it is our internal clock that makes us reach for treats at around 8pm. It made sense for our ancestors who genuinely needed to store fat in order to survive, but today we do not need to replicate this pattern. Obesity is a debilitating disease and affects a significant number of people in the U.S today.

According to researchers at Oregon Health and Science University, our internal clock, known as the circadian system, intensifies our hunger at night and leads to obesity. Sugar tolerance is impaired in the evening and because we do not burn off energy at this time we simply store calories. Dr Shea, key author of the obesity study, explained that staying up later and storing energy leads to poor sleep, and these factors contribute to putting on weight. He recommends eating higher calorie meals earlier in the day, choosing lower calorie food for the evening meal and getting enough sleep to achieve weight loss.

Meals that fill you up for longer can break the pattern of snacking in the evening. You should also try to change your routine, to avoid munching on snacks in the kitchen or reaching for the calories during commercial breaks. Occupy yourself in other tasks instead so that you break the connection between activities and eating before you go to bed.

Foods to Fill You Up

Researchers have discovered that foods with a low glycemic content can help fill you up at mealtimes whilst keeping your weight down. The glycemic index was developed by researchers at the University of Sydney and relates to foods containing carbohydrates and how effectively they are converted into glucose within your body. If a food scores lower than 55, it is seen as low GL and is beneficial because it will allow glucose to reach your body in a steady stream, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.

Vegetables contain low glycemic levels and are high in fiber, minerals and vitamins. Peppers, broccoli, asparagus, cucumbers, eggplant, green beans and leafy greens are all low GL and can be served in a mixed salad or stir fried, tossed in chilli, served with rice or burritos for healthy meals that will satisfy you for longer.

Potatoes score surprisingly highly on the GL index, at 93, and therefore you need to cut down your consumption of baked potatoes and fries at evening meal times as they will make you crave snacks later on.

Dairy products such as skimmed milk are good for you, as its GL is just 32, but be careful of fatty dairy produce that contains lactose and try to stick to low fat choices.

Blueberry pancakes make a nourishing, tasty snack at mealtimes and there are many other low GL recipes to follow for your healthy diet. Try tomato and red kidney bean soup, bangers and mash or carrot and walnut cake. Opt for a tuna stir fry, skinny rice pudding or Thai green papaya salad. Hot smoked salmon with mango salsa makes a delicious meal and will fill you up and help you avoid those cravings for carbs.

Organic foods are considered to be healthier for you because of the lack of chemicals and additives within them. This means that they are ‘higher in beneficial vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants’ and therefore your body is receiving more nutrients than it would with processed food, explains Licensed Prescriptions. With organic food, your body is getting the roughage it needs in a more natural way, and you have the peace of mind of knowing that your vegetables, fruit and meats are prepared and delivered within a short space of time, fresh and ready for the table. Fresh organic foods are perfect for mealtimes and will taste delicious in any recipe. They also break the connection you may have with processed, pre-packaged food that have a high GL content and lead to cravings after dinner. Low GL recipes, made with organic, natural ingredients, will give you a greater sense of satisfaction and help stop snacking.

By breaking evening habits and discovering low GL recipes for making meals that have a far greater satiety, you can eat healthier and stay fuller for longer.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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3 thoughts on “How to Stop Snacking in the Evening

  1. I recently read a book of essays about humans and microbes titled “Honor Thy Symbionts” by Jeff D. Leach (see: http://www.amazon.com/Honor-thy-Symbionts-ebook/dp/B00ANVNQA2/ ).

    In the essay titled: “Do spider monkeys hold the key to why we get fat?” @9%

    Spider monkeys showed that:

    ” … the detailed dietary studies in the Bolivian rainforest found that across all age groups and sexes, spider monkeys aim for a target amount of protein, regardless of how few or many calories from carbohydrates and fats they consume in the process. In other words, the daily protein intake remained remarkably stable throughout the study period, but the overall calories from carbohydrates and fats fluctuated. ” @10%

    This was later seen in other animals and insects.

    When tested in humans:

    ” In short, the researchers found that diluting the dietary protein across meals with carbohydrates and fats promoted overconsumption. In other words, the test subjects would keep eating until they reached a target protein intake. ” @10%

    They go on to say:

    ” This would all be very academic if it weren’t for the fact that overconsumption of energy-dense foods may be in large part to blame – along with rising rates of inflammation, shifts in the quality of carbohydrates, ect – for the sky rocketing obesity in just about every corner of the planet. It’s also interesting to note that according to the most recent “The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” conducted in the U.S., a drop in the percent of dietary protein across 1971 to 2006 was associated with an increase in total energy consumption. Also note that stacks and stacks of peer-reviewed research has demonstrated that diets high(er) in protein are known to be more satiating and lead to longer and more sustained weight loss. ” @11%

    With this information, since I have learned that appetite control is very important in eating well, and since I am pursuing an active lifestyle with hours a day of activity and some resistance training as well, I do now fully intend to eat 1g of protein for each pound of my ideal BMI based body weight. This does seem to control appetite well with half of what I eat veggies and most of the protein consumed by the middle of the day. I think the active lifestyle also has a lot to do with appetite control.

    Also my “half veggies along with an active lifestyle” simple eating strategy was confirmed by Robert H. Lustig, M.D., in his book “Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease” (See: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Chance-Beating-Against-Processed-ebook/dp/B0095ZMPTU/ ). In the book Dr. Lustig presents added sugar as the big culprit in obesity due to it’s ability to disable appetite control. Eat sugar be hungry!!! He goes on to tell how fructose (half of sucrose (table sugar) and about half of the High Fructose Corn Syrup used in pop and processed foods) can be toxic recommending a limit of about 51g/d (so about 100g added sugar a day).

    So now I am making sure I get my dietary fiber and watching my intake of added sugar like a hawk!

    I think that learning to eat well is a life long process.

    I think that learning to eat well and learning to move well (active lifestyle with resistance training) are essential to recovery from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). I think that all diagnosed with OSA should be assigned a dietitian and personal trainer for a couple of years. FWIW – I had a two or so year use of a registered dietitian complements of Medicare for a couple of years which I do believe to be part of why I am 5 BMI points lighter and no longer obese these days.

    I continue to loose about ten pounds a year.

    OSA and/or UARS will upset appetite control. It is essential to treat these well for long term control of appetite. Once this is done learning how to eat and move well can then facilitate recovery from the disease.

    Of course learning to eat and move well will always help.

  2. Todd, an excellent and informative post. Thanks.

    Also, anyone out there find that you snack because you’re lonely? That’s my battle.