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.