You may worry that calories ingested at night are not burned as efficiently as those consumed throughout the day. However, the American Dietetic Association states that calories are likely to have the same effect on your body whether they are consumed at night or during the day. The amount you eat in a day is more important than when you eat it. If your late-night eating is causing you to always go over your desired calorie intake for the day, a few simple dietary modifications may help.
An effective weight-loss strategy includes monitoring your daily calorie intake. While the specific amount of calories you need in a day depends on your individual circumstances, you can use an online calculator or ask a doctor or dietitian to determine an approximate calorie range. To lose weight, avoid consuming more calories than this amount over the course of a day. If you managed to stay well under your calorie limit during the day, then indulging in your late-night hunger by eating a healthy snack or meal is not a cause for concern.
Energy density is a term used to describe the amount of calories in a certain weight of food. Foods with low energy density provide a smaller amount of calories per gram than foods with high energy density, and help you stay fuller longer. To calculate the energy density from the nutrition label, simply divide the number of calories in each serving by the number of grams in each serving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eating nutrient-rich foods with low energy density to manage hunger pains. Prepare low energy-density foods for dinner or as a bedtime snack to help you prevent late-night hunger.
Other simple dietary modifications may also help you prevent late-night hunger pains. Keeping tempting snacks and foods out of your house can help you avoid the temptation of indulging in late-night eating. Those who frequently wake up throughout the night may find themselves thinking of food, so improving sleeping habits may also help avoid late-night snacking. Head to bed at the same time each night and avoid excessive amounts of caffeine throughout the day, especially before bedtime. Finally, before turning to a nighttime snack, reach for a glass of water to ensure you are not mistaking thirst for hunger.
While it’s true that you need to consume fewer calories than you burn in a day in order to lose weight, be careful not to overdo this. Severe or persistent hunger pains may be a sign that you are consuming too few calories. This is especially true if you simply estimated the amount of calories you need in a day instead of talking to a dietitian or doctor, or if you are participating in a fad diet with unrealistic weight loss expectations. If you simply cannot shake your late-night hunger, see a dietitian or doctor to determine if you need to make adjustments to your diet.
- American Dietetic Association: Will Eating After 8 P.M Cause Weight Gain?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Low-Energy-Dense Foods and Weight Management: Cutting Calories While Controlling Hunger
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Evening Ready-To-Eat Cereal Consumption Contributes to Weight Management
- AARP: Hunger Management
- Night image by Einar Bog from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.