Just imagine: it’s midnight, and you quietly go to your kitchen and immediately take out a packet of chips and eat them without feeling guilty! However, the guilt starts to creep in once you’re done binging. You start to feel bad if you give yourself tasty but unhealthy snacks every night. If that is you, understand that you are alone. We’ve all been there and done it so many times. But this bad habit is doing you more harm than you think. Midnight cravings can disrupt your sleep and derail your healthy eating goals. To overcome them, it is crucial to understand the underlying causes and how to avoid midnight cravings.
Health Shots contacted Doli Baliyan, Senior Clinical Nutritionist, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Dehradun, to understand how you can avoid midnight cravings.
What are the side effects of evening snacks?
It’s not always a bad thing to snack in the evening, as everyone does sometimes. But regularly taking more than what one needs at night can lead to:
• Weight gain: Eating too many calories too often can lead to weight gain, which can hinder maintaining a healthy body weight.
• Impact on work performance and mental health: Eating too much at night can cause symptoms such as headache, diarrhea and stomach ache the next day. Eating ultra-processed snacks in the evening can make you feel guilty, depressed, or ashamed, which affects your ability to function normally.
• Increased risk of chronic diseases: Eating at night leads to several health problems, including obesity and heart disease.
Recognize the cause of midnight cravings. Find out why they happen. Are they the result of overly controlled food intake during the day, habit, boredom or is it a sign of eating disorders? Addressing the cause is the first step in controlling cravings. Let’s find more tips to solve this problem.
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How can you curb midnight cravings?
Here are some tips from our expert to help you conquer your nighttime food cravings.
1.Add protein to your diet
“Include healthy protein sources such as lean poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, peas, lentils, beans and yogurt in your dinner. Protein provides long-lasting energy and keeps you feeling full for longer,” says the expert.
2. Add fiber-rich foods
The expert suggests: “Your diet should include more fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables, fruits and high-fiber grains that are low in sugar. Fiber takes time to digest and helps control hunger without compromising your nutrition.”
3. Reduce sugar and simple carbohydrates
Avoid foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates, as these can lead to highs and lows in blood sugar levels, causing cravings.
4. Avoid late night triggers
Avoid snacks high in sugar and caffeine before going to bed. These can disrupt your sleep and cause midnight cravings.
5. Stay hydrated
Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day and consider drinking a glass of water before going to bed. Adequate hydration can curb hunger pangs.
6. Stress management
“Practice stress reduction through techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, warm baths, yoga, gentle exercises and stretching. Managing stress can help prevent emotional eating at night,’ the expert suggests.
7. Consider a personal approach
Individualized solutions: Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another. Experiment with these strategies to find the ones that best suit your needs and preferences.
Be patient and consistent: Overcoming midnight cravings takes time and consistency. Stay true to your chosen strategies and don’t get discouraged if it takes a while to see results.
Keep a food diary: It will help in detailing what you eat and drink on a daily basis. And keeping track of the calories you’ve consumed throughout the day can help identify potential problematic patterns, such as skipping meals or going too long without eating.