How to Conquer Evening Snacking Habits
Snacking throughout the evening is one of the biggest barriers to weight loss we see with clients. There are several reasons why this is such a common struggle, but there are some simple ways to overcome the urge to reach for those snacks!
Why do we love to snack in the evening?
Eating is an essential part of life, but there are many reasons we eat other than actually being hungry. Here are a few of those reasons:
- Not eating enough food during the day or skipping meals – Research shows that people who skip meals earlier in the day tend to compensate for those calories later. So even though skipping breakfast or working through lunch might seem like an easy way to save some calories, it almost always catches up later in the day by increasing hunger.
- Boredom – This is one of the main reasons we start reaching for those snacks in the evening. It’s time to wind down after a long day, and most people tend to spend the evening sitting in front of the TV or other screens. Wandering to the kitchen for something to eat is a natural extension of an evening spent sitting and relaxing.
- Reward – After a long day, sometimes we look for ways to feel more comfortable or seek out a “reward” for making it through the day. You might find yourself reaching for a treat because you feel you earned it at the end of a hard day.
- Emotional Eating – some people tend to eat more when their emotions vary – you might reach for a snack when you feel sad, stressed out, or even happy.
- Availability – we live in a society where food is readily available constantly. If we don’t’ already have it at home, food deliveries are just a few clicks away from phones or computers, fast food can be found on nearly every corner, and snacks available to grab and buy at the front of most stores.
- Dehydration – It’s common for the us to mistake the feelings of hunger and thirst. We often reach for a snack at the slightest hint of hunger when our body actually needs more water.
Why are snacks in the evening slowing down weight loss?
It comes down to calories in versus calories out. There is a common thought that eating later in the evening can affect metabolism or how we burn calories. But the most common issue with evening snacking is that there are extra calories being consumed, and they often come from food sources that are more calorie-dense. That means there are a lot of calories in a small amount of that food. And often the kind of foods in our evening snack routine are filled with calories but not much nutrition. Foods like ice cream, cookies, cake, candy, or chips are higher in calories but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This means we aren’t getting much from these foods other than the calories. These foods can still be part of an overall healthy diet, but eating them regularly, especially as part of an evening routine, can cause weight gain, and slow down weight loss.
What are some strategies to overcome evening snacking?
- Eat three meals complete, nutrient-dense meals during the day. Make sure breakfast,lunch, and dinner are filled with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. These foods provide healthy energy that last throughout the day, along with vitamins, minerals, and fiber our body needs to function and feel its best.
- Drink more water – When you feel hungry at any point in the day that’s outside of regular mealtimes, try drinking a glass of water and waiting a few minutes – often the feeling of hunger passes if the body really just needed some water.
- Find something to do in the evening – look for relaxing alternatives to screen time in the evenings. This could be something like going for walk, reading, doing some sort of project such as crafts, art, or taking a relaxing bath or shower. This could be helpful in stopping those evening cravings that stem from boredom.
- Plan ahead – sometimes you eat dinner earlier in the evening and really do get hungry later, or maybe it’s a special family movie night or you know you’ll just want a little snack later in the evening. Simply think ahead toward evening and plan accordingly. Choose whatever snack you really would like to eat, portion out a serving, and set it aside until you choose to eat it. Portioning food out into a bowl or container is an easy way to eat fewer calories. It’s much harder to stop eating out of a full container or bag of snack foods.
- Bring some color into higher calorie snacks – instead of a big bowl of ice cream as an evening treat, try a small scoop of ice cream topped with a serving of berries or other fruit. If you enjoy salty snacks like chips or crackers, try portioning out a small amount, and eating fruit, veggies (like carrot sticks of cucumber slices). You could even add a little bit of cheese or turkey on the side to make the snack more satisfying and add some filling protein to those salty snacks.
- Evaluate whether or not you are actually hungry – when you feel the urge to go to the kitchen and grab a snack, stop and actually take a moment to see how you feel. Are you bored, or feeling stressed out? If that’s the case, try to find something else to do instead of eating.
Here’s a nutrient-packed snack recipe to try!
Recipe from www.homemadenutrition.com
Crispy Kale Chips
Makes 4 servings
- 4 cups kale, roughly chopped or torn into large pieces with stems removed
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- black pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Make sure kale pieces are completely dry, and place them in a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, mix the oil, salt, and pepper together. Pour over the kale and massage the oil mixture into all of the kale.
Spread the kale in an even layer on a baking sheet (use 2 baking sheets if necessary) and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the kale is slightly browned and crispy. Keep a close eye on the kale in the last few minutes of cooking to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Once cooled, store in an air-tight container up to 3 days.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut of snacking at night or would like help improving your meal routine, consider seeing one of our Register Dietitians for guidance. We specialize in helping make healthier eating fit into any lifestyle!
Amber Ketchum, MDS, RDN, LD