Do you tend to eat late at night? If so, you're not alone. While eating late at night isn't the end of the world, it may contribute to weight gain if you're overeating or not making the right choices. Here are 6 tips to help you stop eating at night.
Hi, I’m Heather Lake, a health and lifestyle contributor for Jenny Craig. Here’s your healthy tip for the week: Avoid eating late at night. Our metabolism naturally functions best during the morning and afternoon via a 24-hour cycle referred to as our circadian rhythm.1 The patterns are typically divided into two 12-hour periods, which are dictated by daytime and nighttime. Since your metabolism peaks toward mid-day and tapers off towards the early evening, your body isn’t primed to process large meals at night. By eating your last meal at a decent hour, you’ll be working with your metabolism, naturally!
Is late night eating bad for you? New research suggests that the effects of eating late at night could affect your health, potentially leading to a higher risk of prediabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).2 In one study, participants who ate 30% or more of their daily calories after 6 p.m. were 19% more likely to develop prediabetes and 23% more likely to develop hypertension, compared to those who ate at an earlier time.2 So, rather than reaching for a midnight snack, here’s how to stop overeating at night and how you can practice healthier habits — starting tonight.
6 tips to stop overeating at night
1. Stick to a schedule
So, what time should you stop eating at night? To work with your body’s natural rhythms, you can try time-restricted feeding: Eat within the first 12 hours of the day and allow your body to rest during the remaining 12 hours by avoiding food and caloric beverages. For example, try having breakfast at 7 a.m. and finishing your dinner by 7 p.m. As a rule of thumb, try to eat dinner at around the same time each night to maintain consistent eating habits. To get dinner on the table and avoid late night eating, make mealtime simpler by prepping ingredients ahead of time — here are 13 meal-prep tips to get you started!
2. Don’t forget about breakfast
Although there’s plenty of time between breakfast and dinner, eating breakfast may help to prevent unhealthy snacking in the evenings, one small study found.3 In the study, women who ate a high-protein breakfast experienced increased fullness and reduced their high-fat and high-sugar snacks in the evenings, compared to breakfast skippers or those who had a normal amount of protein during their first meal.3 Here’s how you can lay out your meals for the day, plus delicious ideas for breakfast.
3. Eat a well-balanced dinner
Photo by Trang Doan on Pexels
Enjoy a dinner that includes all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fat. Fiber, protein and healthy fats may help you feel more satisfied between meals and prevent mindless munching. This helpful portion size infographic can help you get the right amounts of each of these food groups at every meal.
Here are some delicious options to make a healthy (and satisfying) dinner plate:
- Fiber-rich sources of carbohydrates, like non-starchy vegetables, fruits and whole grains, are more nutritious than simple carbohydrates like white bread and soft drinks.
- A small portion of lean protein, like fish, chicken or turkey, is a great choice over more fatty cuts of meat. If you avoid eating meat, check out these 14 vegetarian-friendly, protein-rich foods.
- A small portion of unsaturated fat, found in avocado, nuts and olive oil, provides important nutrients that may be beneficial for heart health and “good” HDL cholesterol levels.4
4. Try sipping water or herbal tea
The next time you feel hungry at night, try drinking a glass of water or a cup of tea, which could help you feel full. Some symptoms of mild dehydration, including headaches, difficulty concentrating and feelings of tiredness, may be easily mistaken for hunger pangs.5 To stay hydrated, a general rule of thumb is to aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce cups of water daily. Check out these 10 easy ways to start drinking more water.
5. Try a low-calorie snack that could help you sleep
Try to avoid high-fat, high-sugar foods before bed that could leave you feeling weighed down all night long. Pass on the late-night ice cream or fast food and opt for a more nutritious option, like one of these seven healthy, sleep-friendly foods. Now go ahead, catch those zzz’s!
6. Avoid skipping meals
You might be tempted to skip a meal to lose weight. But when you skip breakfast or lunch, you might always feel hungry and be tempted to reach for unhealthy foods to satisfy your hunger. To avoid feeling ravenous and overeating at night, try to enjoy balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. On Jenny Craig, you’ll eat six times a day!
Ready to put a stop to late-night eating?
Although it might be tempting to grab a sugary or salty late-night snack, following these tips can help you to make better choices when hunger pangs hit.
Want even more healthy tips? Stay tuned for next week’s healthy tip of the week by signing up for our health and wellness newsletter. You’ll also receive 10 ways to jump-start your weight loss right now!
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig and has written for the health and wellness, tech, and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. They employ an “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoy the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find them photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: green apple slices with sunflower butter
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.