Many individuals experience nighttime cravings that urge them to reach for foods they shouldn’t be indulging in late at night. From ice cream to pizza, to frozen meals, comfort foods such as these often lack nutritional value and can lead to weight gain, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, and several other health problems.While some might experience late-night cravings out of boredom, the majority of these individuals often suffer from underlying health problems that trigger food cravings in the first place — such as stress, anxiety, biochemical and hormonal imbalances, and nutritional deficiencies.
Addressing chemical imbalances is an important first step in combating problems with late-night cravings and emotional eating. Additionally, here are 10 more effective ways to end those detrimental nighttime eating habits.
1. Identify the root cause
Work on identifying the root cause of your late-night cravings. Is it due to boredom? Is it because your partner, friends, and/or family are also eating late at night? Are you skipping meals during the day and making up for it at night?
2. Identify triggers
Try to identify triggers that influence you to reach for late-night snacks. Consider keeping a journal or diary in which you can track your daily moods and eating patterns so you can effectively identify these triggers. Do your cravings kick in after having a bad day? Do you snack on days you feel tired, stressed, or sad? Knowing what triggers late-night eating can help you beat your habit.
3. Establish a routine
In some cases, late-night cravings could be triggered by a lack of structure in your day. If you rarely make food a priority during the daytime, your hunger hormones could be off-balance — leading to overeating and poor food choices. Same goes with sleep; lacking the proper amount of sleep from day to day can also upset your hunger hormones.
Schedule more time in your day for meals and plenty of sleep, and monitor your late-night cravings to confirm they subside after settling into a routine.
4. Eat regularly during the day
Establishing regular eating patterns helps regulate your blood sugar levels, which lowers the risk for cravings, binge-eating, and diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Eating at regular intervals also helps regulate your hunger hormones to prevent irritability, ravenous hunger, fatigue, and cravings for foods high in fat and sugar.
Schedule breakfast, lunch, and dinner into your day, and snack on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and other healthy foods between meals when you need an energy boost.
5. Consume protein at every meal
Eating frequent meals high in protein can reduce late-night cravings by 50%, according to a study conducted by the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at The University of Missouri, Columbia. Protein helps you stay full for longer periods of time, and helps reduce overall cravings throughout the day and night.
Start consuming healthy sources of protein with every meal, such as eggs, almonds, tuna, broccoli, Greek yoghurt, quinoa, chicken, and turkey. Protein also helps contribute to healthy digestive and bowel function.
6. Plan meals in advance
The busier you are throughout the day, the more you’ll feel inclined to grab food on the go — whether it’s fast food, frozen meals, vending machine snacks, and other foods that lack nutritional value.
Start planning meals in advance so you’re guaranteed to eat healthier foods throughout the day. Pack lunches the night before, or do meal prep on weekends so you can grab salads, chicken, and bags of nuts on the go. This helps you manage food intake, and staves off late-night cravings.
7. Get emotional support
Sit down with your partner, roommate, friends, and/or family members, and discuss your goals about controlling and managing late-night food cravings. In some cases, your loved ones might not be aware they’re setting a bad example, or influencing you to snack late at night.
Alternately, seek professional help if you suspect you suffer from emotional eating or another eating disorder. A counselor, physician, and/or nutritionist can help you identify the source of your eating disorder, and help you on the path to wellness.
8. Manage stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety are the two main reasons most people grab late-night snacks when they’re not truly hungry. Unfortunately, using food to make yourself feel better offers a number of negative health consequences, and can worsen stress and anxiety.
Find new, healthy, more effective ways to manage stress and anxiety, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, and stretching. These natural relaxation methods are proven to help you de-stress and stop late-night cravings.
9. Eliminate junk food from the home
As long as your home lacks junk food, you won’t have the urge or opportunity to snack on junk. Remove all junk food from your pantry and cabinets, and stock up on healthier snacks that lead to fewer cravings and improved health.
For example, buy a variety of berries, fresh fruits, plain yoghurt, and your favorite nuts and seeds, then snack on these items when you’re feeling hungry. Chances are you’ll consume far less of these nutrient-dense foods, which are effective at keeping you feeling full.
10. Find new distractions
If you’re prone to late-night cravings due to feeling bored, restless, or practicing the same late-night routine, find new hobbies and activities that prevent you from thinking about food. Turn off the television and stretch or meditate to relaxing music, or enjoy a warm bubble bath with a new novel. The busier and more distracted you are, the less time you’ll spend thinking about what to eat next.
Yours in Health,