Late-night eating might be the norm if you’re a night owl, but it’s important to know that nighttime noshing could be affecting your health. At one time or another, most of us have eaten late or, at least, later than usual. However, falling into the habit of sitting down to a heavy meal or even drinking too much coffee or alcohol late at night can lead to a host of problems. Read on to learn about these health consequences and some tips for managing those midnight munchies.
- Weight gain. The reality is that eating late into the evening doesn’t necessarily lead to weight gain. Your weight is determined by a number of factors, including the number of calories that you consume over the course of the entire day. However, the types of foods that you turn to in the evening might not always be the most nutritious. For example, you might settle down to watch the late night show or catch up on Downton Abbey, and it’s common to turn to high-calorie, fat or sugar-laden foods, such as potato chips, cookies or ice cream. In addition, studies show that “mindless eating,” which can occur while watching television or surfing the internet, means that you end up eating more than you realize. If this continues, the pounds can pack on.
- High blood sugars. Night-time eating can make it especially tricky to manage your blood sugars if you have diabetes. Dinner is the largest meal of the day for many people, and that combined with snacking on high carb foods before bed (or in the middle of night) can lead to higher-than-desired blood sugar readings the next morning.
- It’s never a good idea to eat too close to going to bed. The real reason? Lying down soon after eating can cause acid from the stomach to move up into the esophagus, causing pain, burning and even shortness of breath. Constant heartburn can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short. If it isn’t properly treated, GERD can lead to more serious problems over time.
- Increased breast cancer risk. It’s no surprise that limiting your eating after dinner can lead to better blood sugar levels. However, there’s another good reason to slash the snacks: a lower risk of breast cancer in women. Women who have type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women without diabetes. Researchers believe that better blood sugar control can lower the risk of hormonally-related cancers, such as breast cancer.
Dealing with Midnight Munching
- If you can, go to sleep earlier. Early to bed means less of a chance of night-time eating.
- Skip the multi-tasking. Instead of eating while burning the midnight oil or watching television, take a break and sit at the table if you need a snack. Do nothing else.
- Make breakfast and lunch your big meals of the day, and eat a smaller dinner. Doing so can give you a better chance of burning off those calories. And you won’t be going to sleep on an overly-full stomach, either.
- If you must eat at night, go for healthier, lower-carb foods, such as raw vegetables, Greek yogurt, popcorn, nuts or seeds, or soup.
- Make sure to include a good amount of protein and fiber at dinner to help fill you up and keep you feeling full for longer.
- If you like to snack at night but see that your morning blood sugars are higher than your target, either change your snack to something lower in carb, or talk with your doctor about increasing or changing your diabetes medicine.