Conquering Those Late-Night Hunger Pains

Everyone has been there: its 9:30 pm, dinner was hours ago and your stomach starts rumbling for a snack. Before you reach for those Chinese leftovers or dig into the cookie jar, thinking about the effects of late nighttime snacking could change your mind.

Eating too close to bedtime can cause indigestion and acid reflux. That’s because when you eat a substantial amount of food and then lie down, your esophagus can allow acid to rise from the stomach. This can lead to heart burn and discomfort in your abdomen, chest and throat. It can even get so uncomfortable that it wakes you up in the middle of the night.

And while it seems obvious, having extra food at night can also lead to weight gain. You’re adding extra calories to your day and you’re typically not snacking on necessarily healthy food options. For diabetics, some late night snacks may also cause a spike in blood sugar, making it difficult to manage insulin levels.

If you feel the urge to start popping candy or chips into your mouth after dinner, ask yourself a few questions before acting on it. Are you snacking out of habit or hunger? Will you not be able to fall asleep due to hunger? When was the last time you ate? If you’ve thought about those things and still think you’re hungry, drink a glass of water and wait 15 minutes. If that doesn’t do the trick, grab a healthy alternative to dig into. Here are some satisfying and filling options:

  • 4 to 6 ounces non-fat Greek yogurt with a handful of fresh berries
  • ½ cup cottage cheese with ¼ cup pineapple or raspberries
  • Sliced veggies with 2 tablespoons of hummus
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup almonds (or about 1 handful)
  • 1 medium banana with one tablespoon of almond butter

As an added bonus, hummus, almonds and milk have been shown to help you sleep better.

If you can’t break yourself of the habit of snacking at night when you aren’t hungry, try sipping warm tea, chewing a piece of sugar-free gum or brushing and flossing your teeth right after dinner.

Do you have other ways of resisting late-night cravings? Let us know in the comments below. And if you’re looking for even more ways to end the day on a healthier note, check out these other blogs:

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Photo credit: Pete Markham

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  1. I recently read an article in Reader’s Digest about fasting. Not for a long period of time, but daily fasting for 12-14 hours. It said our bodies were made to go a certain amount of time without food. 12 hours seems like a long time, but it has been a good thing. I have been trying hard to stick to this. It’s hard for me because I get up at 6 and like my coffee soon after. But I do feel better when I stick to this. I’m not hungry most nights, so knowing that I need 12 hours helps keep me from eating, most of the time!

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