By: Laura M. Howell
We’ve All Been There
You better believe it. Everyone has eaten right before bed. Tired? Eat for energy to stay up. Tipsy? Eat to soak up the booze to promote feeling better the next day. Bored? You betcha bring on the p.m. snacks. Work late? Well dinners been moved up. You get the point. Sometimes eating before bed or night eating happens when we’re having a weak moment and sometimes it happens out of necessity. I’ve been there myself. Many times. Yes, I am a fitness trainer and yes my husband has witnessed me eating a late dinner and on a few occasions even consuming cold pizza or leftover birthday cake over the sink at 10 pm. Guilty as charged. The truth is eating before bed can actually make you healthier, if done properly.
My most likely scenario that leads me to eating right before bed is working late and having dinner past 9 pm. I can’t help it, I’m hungry and it’s nice to eat one meal of the day NOT in my car. I have always stuck to the belief that, hey “I’m not overeating because my calories are sufficient and I’m (mostly) eating healthy when I’m eating after an evening shift. Was I correct to think my body didn’t know what time it was? Or, was I just telling myself that so I didn't have to change my routine? lets look at the facts.
The Verdict on Eating Before Bed
So I went over to see what our friends at WebMD had to say. They cited the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weight Control Information Network web site, “it does not matter what time of day you eat. It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the entire day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.” Well, I like that! That fits in with my thinking exactly, eating before bed can actually make you healthier. My weekday chicken and rice bowls are cool. But, lets face it it’s nice to do some mind-less eating while binging on your latest Netflix obsession.
Why Going to Bed Hungry is Even Worse
Now that we’ve looked at why it’s okay to eat at night, assuming the calories fit into your daily caloric needs. lets look at the opposite, going to bed hungry. Going to bed hungry and successfully falling asleep will not earn you a badge of honor from the calorie police. In fact, it could actually be savotaging your health goals.
Going to bed hungry will slow down your metabolism. When your body is running internally on empty for too long it can actually resort to burning through muscle. Not cool. In addition, your brain doest care much for being hungry as it turns of either. Carbs are the main fuel for your nervous system. Sleep is a key time for the brain to shift through memories and events from the day. Adequate fuel will give your brain the tools it needs to do it’s job while you take a break. Plus, who can deny it’s harder to fall asleep and stay asleep when you're hungry. You will be counting cheeseburgers because all you will be thinking about is your next meal. Which, by the way will likely be over-consumed because when you skip meals you’re more likely to overindulge later.
Okay I can’t feed you with all that late night food info and not offer some healthy options. Here is a list of my favorite not-so-guilty snack options…
10 Healthy Snack Choices to Eat at Night That are Not Vegetables!
Greek yogurt frozen bars
Greek yogurt and fruit
Small bags of baked chips
Apple and 1 tbsp of peanut butter
Hummus and chicken
Low-carb protein pancakes (this is my ABSOLUTE favorite)
1 tablespoon of peanut butter (yes, measure this one!)
2 Hard boiled eggs
Protein bar (200 calories or less, at least 15 grams of protein)
What are some of your favorite healthy food options to eat at night?