Hi – here are some great tips from nutritionist Matt O’Neill about Eating at night
The old saying goes, “Breakfast for a king, lunch for a prince,
dinner for pauper.” However, do you need to eat less at night,
particularly carbohydrate. Here are some facts and practical tips
to manage your eating night-time eating.
Can I still eat carbohydrates after 6pm? The simple answer is,
“Yes you can – just make sure you don’t overeat.” It is over
consumption of food late in the day, or “back-loading” calories, as
leading US dietitian Ellen Coleman calls it, which is the likely
cause of weight gain related to night-time eating.
It’s hard to find any conclusive evidence that carbohydrates or any
food eaten at night is more likely to be stored as body fat.
Metabolism drops when you are sleeping, but that simply lowers
your daily energy expenditure. The 24-hour energy balance (energy in versus
energy out) is what really matters for weight gain or weight loss. For weight loss
there appears to be no difference between eating three square meals and eating
smaller meals more often, as long as total energy intake remains the same.
Let’s get practical
Food eaten at night is not more likely to end up stored as body
fat. Even so, you still need to consider the reasons why you
might often eat too much at night and then implement some
practical strategies to cut back on what you eat late in the day.
Tick which ones apply to you.
Lack of planning – If you don’t eat enough during the day
you being hungry at night. If you skip breakfast, are too
busy for lunch or forget to snack, you leave yourself open to
overeating in the evening. By planning your food for the day,
and taking time out to eat regularly, you can satisfy your fuel
needs and avoid overfilling late in the day.
Eating habits – Habits are powerful behavioural patterns that allow us to
perform many of our daily tasks without conscious effort. Showering and teeth
cleaning are good habits that most of us do on autopilot. Unfortunately,
overeating at night also occurs on autopilot and the habit needs to be broken.
For example, try to serve the evening meal on a smaller plate or take leftovers
to the fridge immediately. These new habits will reduce the volume of food you
eat at dinner.
Eating at night
Social pressure – Your diet may be healthy until you come home and sit down
at the table with other people. It is in these situations where you may feel
obliged to eat everything served by your caring partner, mother or friend. Or
you might simply overeat during long social meals. To manage this feeding
pressure, make your diet plans known to those at home. Recruiting their
support to serve less or change what you eat at dinner will work in your favour.
And as for the belief that you should clean your plate, learn a new mantra, “It’s
better to go in the waste than around my waist!”
Emotional reward – After a stressful day, food can sooth and relax. Chocolate,
ice cream, cake and chips work well at delivering instant relief. Eating is also
an effective short-term strategy to beat night-time boredom. Identifying an
evening stress or boredom-food link is the first step. You then need to
establish alternative emotional rewards. This is not always easy, but is an
important aspect of successful weight management. Ask the question, “What
can you do in the evening that would reduce the need to eat?”
New guidelines for night-time eating
Catch up on your nutrition – The evening meal is an opportunity to achieve a
balanced diet for that day. For example, if you haven’t eaten three serves of
fruit during the day, aim to have some fruit salad for dessert. Eat a little less
of your main dish if needed. If you’ve missed out on vegetables during the
day, make your evening meal veggie-based; a stir fry, vegetable lasagne or
Eat enough to get to bed – Unless you are an athlete or
exercising strenuously in bed, you won’t need to carb-load
at night. Serve a smaller portion, take the edge off hunger
and then get to bed. If you are asleep, you won’t feel
hungry until morning. Then you can start another day of
nutritious eating with a healthy breakfast fit for a king. The
old saying still works, but for practical reasons.
“Remember, it’s better to go in the waste than
around my waist!”
Eating at Night – No. 27 (By Matt O’Neill & SmartShape.com.au 2006
Used under license)
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