Overeating, or eating past fullness at nighttime can happen for a variety of reasons. Whatever the reason for eating more at night, it is important to identify the root cause. Some reasons include: not eating enough during the daytime, not eating filling or satisfying meals and snacks, and eating due to habit, boredom, stress or emotional reasons.
If any of these reasons resonate with you, here are some tips to help:
- Often times, if we skip meals throughout the day and our body doesn’t get the energy it needs and compensates by eating more at night. Listen to your hunger and fullness cues during the day to make sure you are getting adequate energy. Try your hardest not to skip meals as this is a big contributor of cravings later in the day.
- Build filling and balanced meals and snacks. Typically a balanced meal consists of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with veggies, ¼ with protein, and ¼ with a starch or whole grain carbohydrate, as well as 1-2 tbsp of healthy fats. If you are going long periods of time between meals (>4 hours) you will likely need a snack or two. A combination snack of a protein/healthy fat with a carbohydrate is a perfect choice. A few examples: 1/2 cup grapes with a cheese stick, a handful of almonds with an apple, baby carrots with hummus.
- If you notice you eat at night due to being anxious, stressed, or bored, practice mindful eating habits and ask yourself if you are actually hungry before grabbing a snack. You could also try de-stressing techniques during this time such as journaling, meditation, yoga, or gentle exercise.
- If you find you are eating out of boredom, make a routine for a nightly activity such as a game, crossword puzzle, going for a walk, calling a friend, or other hobbies. Brushing your teeth after dinner can also help freshen your mouth so you’re less likely to need something.
- If you are actually hungry or even craving something, that is okay! Try to portion out a serving of your snack on a plate or a bowl and listen to your fullness cues.
- Depriving yourself tends to backfire so if after a moment of pause and checking in you are still looking for something, allow yourself to have it and move on. You might find that the more you allow yourself to have those “forbidden foods” the less you crave them.
— Written by Brigid King – Dietetic Intern
— Reviewed and edited by Carly Walker, RDN