How to Avoid Nighttime Eating

For many of us, it's our biggest diet pitfall. But you can beat it - here's how.

It can be easy to have a very reasonable dinner, but then follow it up with dessert, and a snack, and a last morsel before bed… Before you know it, you’ve had more food after the meal than the whole rest of the day! This can be discouraging when you worked hard to stay on track through the morning and afternoon, and it can cause setbacks in your weight loss or fitness goals.

Thankfully, by figuring out what prompts your nighttime eating and developing some techniques to avoid it, you can make this pattern a thing of the past. Here are some ideas to try:

Identify triggers, habits, and routines that lead to late-night eating. Maybe watching movies makes you want popcorn, or you’ve gotten used to a bowl of cereal before bed, or even pour yourself a glass of wine at a specific time. Just noticing what the habit is gives you more control over whether it is an every-night thing or a once-a-week thing.

Try different dinner times. Many times, the culturally “normal” dinner time doesn’t fit perfectly with your daily schedule. If you are a person who stays up really late at night, see what you can do to shift your meal time a little later in the day; you may find that you don’t get hungry for nighttime snacks in the same way.

Don’t keep as many snacks/non-meal foods visible or available. If there are foods that are only nighttime eating foods that don’t feature in your other meals, try putting them away on high shelves or not buying them for a week or two. If you don’t miss them, this might be the easiest way to get rid of a late night habit!

Seek emotional support (especially from other night time eaters in your space!). Sometimes we are prompted to eat by the snacking of others around us. If you’d like a roommate or spouse to avoid eating in front of you in the evenings, level with them and talk about how you can both do what you want while respecting each other’s needs.

Replace eating with other low-stress or relaxation activities. If you can reward yourself with a yoga routine, a hot bath, or a call to a good friend at a certain time at night instead of a snack, that can be a great way to take down your daily stress levels while replacing the food at the same time. Finding a delightful no calorie tea or seltzer beverage might work for this too!

Detach activities from the foods that often accompany them. If you love popcorn with movies, or cookies with girls night, or some other combination, try re-associating healthy snacks or no snacks at all with those activities. This is a hard thing to do, but especially if the habit becomes quite common, it’s worthwhile to realize that it can still happen without the snacking part. Aim for regular meals and plenty of protein to avoid intense hunger: One of the best ways to avoid snacking at night is to reevaluate what the evening meal contains: more protein and fewer hours between meals can reduce cravings at night!

Make it WayBetter

Trying even one of these strategies may not be the cure for nighttime eating, but it is sure to teach you something else about your routines and habits! It’s worth it to know more about yourself.