In between meals filled with veggies, lean proteins and complex carbs and my 5-days-a-week workout schedule, I’d count myself as a fairly health-conscious person. I’m no stranger to giving my muscles a run for their money with plenty of house chores and yard-work too. Although I don’t belong to a gym or walk 10,000 steps a day, I maintain my health the best way I know how: by incorporating healthy routines into my lifestyle.
Although I’m able to run through the day with full energy, nourishing my body and ensuring I don’t hit a slump mid-day, I still crave sweet treats late in the evening. You’d think 1,800 calories of nutritious food and adequate hydration would prevent me reaching for those packets of instant-oatmeal at night, but the mind and gut work in mysterious ways.
A part of me suspects it might be a habit I developed, and a cue sets off around 10 PM every night letting me know it’s time for a treat. Another part of me wonders how that cue got so strong and why I’m having such a hard time breaking it.
Luckily, or maybe unluckily, I’m not the only one who caves when it comes to a late-night treat. Many of us struggle with establishing routines that won’t leave us hopped up on sugar before bedtime or with a belly full of undigested food waiting for vengeance in the form of heartburn.
Nicolette Pace, an NYC-based registered dietician, chef, and nutritionist, has several helpful suggestions to reduce those late cravings. One of her first suggestions is to ensure you eat balanced meals in routine intervals throughout the day. Don’t wait too long between meals and stick to a schedule. Sticking to a schedule on weekdays and weekends also allows your body to process foods continually, ensuring your blood sugar levels don’t go haywire and cue a snack attack.
If you overindulge in junk food, just don’t buy it. I never feel guilty about my late night snacks, even though I don’t find the timing ideal. Why? Because they’re always healthy. I don’t keep any junk food in the house, so when I get a craving, I typically reach for something like a handful of nuts and dates, or a dried apricot snack pack. Even if I overeat in the evening, I know I’m eating items that provides me with good nutritional value and vitamins.
That leads us to the next suggestion: no deprivation. Strict dieting and rules around your food will make you overcompensate eventually. Focus on mindful eating practices, and if you love chocolate, allow yourself a little piece of chocolate when you crave it.
You need to listen to your body and its cues. Some of what you crave may come from an emotional place. Before reaching for a treat, ask yourself if there’s something on your mind or if you’re bored. If it doesn’t feel like you’re hungry, try a different activity for a bit. If you like video games, play a game, or paint something if you’re feeling artistic. If, at the end of your activity you’re still craving something, have a little bit and satiate the craving.
As always, get exercise and enough sleep. Lacking in either department will add unnecessary stress on your body and mind, making you reach for those extra snacks a lot more often.
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