Have you ever eaten dinner only to find yourself hungry shortly after? You’re not alone!
Many people struggle with feeling full after dinner and resort to midnight snacking. Although late-night snacking seems harmless, it can lead to weight gain and sleep issues.
On the flip side, there are many potential health benefits of avoiding evening snacks and waiting until the morning to eat, such as weight loss and improved fasting blood sugar levelsl.1 (If you’re curious about intermittent fasting, check out our beginner’s guide.)
Read on to learn how to stop snacking at night to support your journey to better health.
1. Eat a balanced, nutritious dinner
Filling up on foods that will nourish you and keep you full after dinner is one of the best solutions to curb midnight snacking.
A nutritious dinner should consist of a balance of the following macronutrients:
- Protein: Choose lean proteins from poultry, fish, lentils or beans. Protein supports satiety and helps you retain and keep lean muscle mass.2
- Carbohydrates: Incorporate plenty of non-starchy vegetables that are high in fiber. Adequate intake of fiber helps you stay full and decreases hunger after a meal.3 Examples of healthy carbs include spinach, bell peppers, asparagus, Brussel sprouts and mushrooms.
- Fat: Be sure to consume healthy, unsaturated fats from sources like avocados, almonds and fish.
Photo by Lyndon Stratford on iStock
2. Eat six times a day
It may seem counterintuitive, but eating more often can support your weight loss efforts!
Skipping meals may seem like a viable short-term solution to reduce calories, but doing so can make you hungrier later on. A study found that people who only ate one meal a day had elevated ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and blood sugar compared to people who ate three meals a day.4
Additionally, a study in mice found that skipping meals can increase belly fat and decrease insulin sensitivity.5
Overall, eating more regularly throughout the day reduces your hunger, supports your weight loss journey, and prevents overeating later on.6,7 You can do this by having three balanced meals and three small snacks in a day.
3. Treat yourself earlier in the day
Losing weight should be enjoyable, not miserable! All foods fit as part of a healthy diet, including sweet and salty snacks in moderation.
Rather than depriving yourself of your favorites, try indulging in a healthy and tasty snack earlier in the day while being mindful of the portion size. A few Jenny Craig favorites include BBQ Crisps, Chocolate Lava Cake or Kettle Corn. Check out our smart snacking tips for more daytime snack inspiration.
4. Keep your mind and body active
When you’re bored, you may find yourself mindlessly scanning your pantry or fridge. This is totally normal and can happen even when you’re full after dinner.
Instead, try going for a walk or engage in a nighttime hobby like reading or crafts to keep your mind and body active.
5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Are you really hungry? Or are you just thirsty?
Research suggests that thirst is a stronger and more consistent sensation than hunger.8
If you’re not sure if those are hunger pangs that you’re feeling in your tummy, your best bet is to start with drinking more water. Follow these tips to drink more water every day.
If plain water isn’t cutting it for you, try making some fruit- and herb-infused waters for added vitamin C and antioxidants. Just cut up some fruit and add fruits and herbs to a water pitcher. If you prefer to prepare ahead of time, put fruits and herbs into ice cube molds and freeze them for later use!
Prefer hot drinks in the evening? Try sipping on a hot cup of herbal, caffeine-free tea with some lemon and a natural sweetener like stevia or monk fruit.
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6. Chew some sugar-free gum
If you’re craving snacks after dinner, consider chewing some sugar-free gum. It’s a refreshing way to end the evening and might distract you from eating other high-calorie treats.
One study found that chewing gum intermittently after a meal helped women feel full and reduce intake of high-carb snacks like pretzels and cookies.9
7. Design a healthy environment around you
Even with the best intentions, you can fall victim to midnight snacking if you have unhealthy temptations around you calling your name.
Look around you to see if you have healthy cues around you:
- If you have a bowl of candy on your countertop, consider replacing it with fresh fruit to see if you’re truly hungry or just craving added sugar.
- Have some tasty treats in your pantry? Try putting these away in a hard-to-reach place, such as the top shelf of your pantry or in a storage closet.
- If you work late into the evenings and have a vending machine at your office, leave the cash at home so you’re more likely to stick to your eating routine.
8. Plan ahead
Planning is key when it comes to avoiding late-night snacks.
Look ahead to your week and try to map out what, when and where you’ll eat. Even if you take a couple of minutes tonight to plan out the next day, you’ll be able to stick to healthier choices.
What can you do today to make tomorrow easier for yourself?
9. Develop a healthy nighttime routine
If you’ve had a particularly rough day (we’ve all had those!), you may be prone to more emotional eating and midnight snacking.
A recent study shows that when you’re stressed, you may respond by eating more.10 When you’re stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which may promote overeating.
To support a healthy nighttime routine and reduce your stress, try some of the following activities:
- Keep a gratitude journal and write down what you’re thankful for
- Turn off your TV or phone after dinner
- Meditate or do light yoga for 15 minutes in a quiet space free from distractions
Take care of yourself so you can take care of those around you.
Photo by simonapilolla on iStock
10. Determine the root cause of your hunger
Many people have already tried these tips on how to stop snacking late at night but still face challenges.
If nothing’s quite working for you, try to pinpoint why you’re not feeling full after dinner by keeping a log of the food and timing of your late-night eating. You may be surprised to discover some patterns and triggers that you didn’t notice before.
The bottom line
With some simple, healthy changes to your evening routine, you’ll be able to feel full for longer — especially after dinner. We hope some of these tips and tricks will help you on your weight loss journey.
Looking for a complete plan that takes the guesswork out of weight loss? Jenny Craig’s Rapid Results Max provides dietitian-approved meals and snacks with no counting or cooking required so that you can feel full after dinner. Learn more.
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written and reviewed by certified professionals.
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 the topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Certified 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.