Ah, evening. For most busy people, it’s the most relaxing time of the day. The workday is over, the house is tidy and the kids are in bed – time to relax and watch a favourite show or catch up with friends on Facebook.
But if that relaxation time also means grabbing a snack and chowing down, beware – you could be adding inches to your waistline without even realizing it.
“Even if you’re eating an extra 100 calories a day, that adds up to 10 pounds a year,” says Krista Leck Merner, a registered dietitian who runs Bent Fork Nutrition in Halifax. “And 100 calories can be nothing more than 10 jelly beans… when you’re just grazing mindlessly, those little extras can really sneak up on you.”
The problem, she adds, is that at night, we crave comfort food that is often high in carbohydrates and sugar like chips, candy and chocolate.
“Who wants carrot sticks and dip at 10 p.m.?” Leck Merner asks. “What you might have for a snack at 2 o’clock in the afternoon is not what you’re going to reach for at 10 o’clock at night. You tend to reach for the comfort foods that do a lot more damage.”
How do you curb nighttime noshing and prevent slow, steady weight gain? Leck Merner offers these tips to help keep it under control:
Eat breakfast: And lunch and dinner too. You may skip meals in hopes of saving up calories for a nighttime snack, but that will actually work against you, says Leck Merner. Your body needs a certain number of calories to sustain itself, and if you don’t spread them out properly throughout the day, your body is going to crave more food at night, causing you to overeat. Leck Merner recommends starting your day with a healthy breakfast, then eating lunch and dinner, plus one or two small snacks throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable and your metabolism revved up. If your body is satisfied, you are less likely to binge eat in the evenings.
Don’t say no, though: You do have to watch what you eat at night, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever have a snack while watching TV, Leck Merner adds. If you know you’re going to want a snack while watching your favourite show, go ahead and have one. Just plan ahead and try to find a snack that is in the 100 to 200 calorie range.
Choose wisely: In a perfect world, if we had to eat at night, we’d choose yogurt and a piece of fruit. But if that won’t hit the spot, Leck Merner suggests choosing an appropriate amount of your favourite treat. If you want chocolate, for example, choose a 100 calorie chocolate bar or just a piece of a bigger bar. If chips are what you crave, either grab a 100-calorie bag of chips or measure out the right amount in a bowl. Sure, that’s not as fun as mindlessly plowing through an entire bag of chips while watching Grey’s Anatomy, but your waistline will thank you for it.
Change your habits: If nighttime snacking is a big problem, consider changing your routine. “If you know that after supper, you normally take your treats and sit in front of the computer or plunk yourself in front of the TV, create an avoidance plan,” Leck Merner recommends. “Maybe you add a walk in the evenings, or you make a rule not to eat in front of the TV. You could knit so that your hands are busy so you don’t eat.”
A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.