As a registered dietitian, if there is one thing I hear all the time from my clients it is that they feel really empowered in their food choices during the day, but struggle with mindless nighttime snacking in the evening.
Nighttime snacking is a really easy habit to get into, and for many people there is absolutely nothing wrong with a little nighttime snack. For some people, this is a perfect way to end your day, especially if you are the type of person who tends to an early eat dinner with your kids, is very active, or even has a difficult time keeping your blood sugar balanced throughout the day and night.
For the purpose of this article we will not focus on this type of healthy evening snacking, but will instead discuss the kind of nighttime snacking that feels impulsive and out of control. There are many reasons why this can happen, but luckily, there are also many simple steps to help curb mindless nighttime snacking and help you break this cycle for good.
Most of the time people snack late at night because they did not eat enough during the day and went into dinner hungry. This results in eating dinner too quickly, and feeling hungry soon after dinner because your mind has not been able to catch up with your digestion yet. When we go into dinner hungry we are less likely to be aware of our body’s hunger cues, which I have found for my clients, leads to mindless snacking post dinner.
So I recommend adding a balanced snack around 4:00pm. This can be a simple protein smoothie, or a balanced protein bar that will help keep your blood sugar stable, and your hunger under control so you can go into dinner feeling mindful of your body and its hunger signals.
In order to help break the cycle of mindless nighttime snacking it is very important to identify when you tend to do most of your mindless snacking and what triggers it.
Do you find yourself always reaching for a snack when you are watching TV? Do you immediately start looking for a snack after dinner? Do you snack to preoccupy yourself while you are doing homework, or finishing up work for the night? All of these examples are very common, and when identified can easily be shifted to help support a different behavior.
For example, if you always find yourself wanting to snack while watching TV but not while you are reading, try taking a little break from TV and pick up a book instead. Do this a few days out of the week, and notice if your desire to snack while watching TV shifts. If that does not seem to work, have no fear as I have a few more simple swaps for you to try below.
When you are first trying to develop new nighttime habits, you may need to have a go-to snack that curbs your nighttime desire to mindlessly pick at food throughout the evening. Over time your desire for this designated nighttime snack may fall away, or become less routine, but for my clients who are just beginning to break their struggle with mindless snacking, having a healthy go-to option can be a great way to transition out of mindless snacking and into a mindful nighttime routine.
One of my favorite recommendations to my clients is to have them choose one of ALOHA’s Protein Bars, which are balanced and will not spike their blood sugar close to bedtime. Additionally, I recommend choosing a non-food related activity that will help them relax before bed, such as taking a bath, reading, or drawing.
I love replacing one habit with another, it helps make the process of giving up a habit feel less like the person is losing something, and more like they are gaining an even better alternative. One of my favorite recommendations is to have my clients pour themselves a cup of tea, such as ALOHA’s Calm Tea, and do a relaxing activity, such as reading, diffusing essential oils, or taking a bath to get the mind focused away from food and ready for bed. Many times this simple switch is all my clients need to shift their nighttime focus away from food and towards something that makes them feel really pampered and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Ultimately, there are many different nighttime routines that can help shift your focus away from mindless snacking, but it is also important to remember that like all habits, change does take time. Start by making small changes, and give yourself plenty of love and compassion throughout the process.