Should You Embrace or Eliminate Evening Snacking? Here Are Our Experts Top Recommendations

Here are our experts top recommendations for evening snacks

Even though eating at night has been associated with weight gain, other research shows that a calorie is a calorie regardless of what time you eat it. Consequently, with these controversial results, what is a person to do when 9 PM nighttime nibbles occur?

Pause and ask yourself these three questions

  1. Did I eat a healthy well-balanced supper?
  2. Am I truly hungry or am I tired, bored, upset, or lonely?
  3. Am I eating out of habit?

Maybe, you can relate to some of these answers from my nutrition students:

"I am trying to lose weight so I generally eat just a salad or a bowl of soup for supper." "Whenever I am nervous about a test or meeting the next day, I head to the kitchen." "I always eat a bowl of ice cream when watching the news before I go to bed."

To curb or decrease evening snacking (or late-night eating), try these three recommendations:

  1. Eat a healthy well-balanced supper consisting of foods from all five food groups (lean protein, fruit, vegetable, whole grains, dairy or calcium source) so that you feel satisfied and fuller longer.
  2. If you are indulging for emotional reasons, try some healthy alternatives. Take a bath, brush your teeth, paint your toenails, call a friend, listen to music, write a thank you card.
  3. Habits are hard to break; thus, start with small positive changes. Instead of a large bowl of ice cream, switch to a smaller bowl or maybe use a shot glass or an eggcup for your new portion-controlled bowl. Try switching to non-fat Greek yogurt with fresh berries.

If you are still hungry, remember that healthy snacks can be incorporated into your daily eating plan. However, plan your snacks so you do not sabotage your healthy eating plan by indulging in empty high calorie foods at night.

Try these 4 tips if you embrace evening snacking

  1. Be mindful. Put your snack on a plate and sit down (not in front of the TV or computer).
    • Pour a few chips on a plate and put the bag away. Enjoy with salsa.
    • Take out two cookies from the container and put the package away.
    • Break off 1-2 small squares of chocolate, put on a plate and eat with a glass of lowfat milk.

  2. Eat foods that take time to eat.
    • Edamame - it takes time to squeeze the soybean out of the pod.
    • Orange - it takes time to peel.
    • Pomegranates - pry the small red seeds from the peel and membrane.
    • Pistachios - shell them - practice portion control because they are calorie dense.

  3. Eat 90% of your calories during the day. This leaves 150-200 calories for evening snacks.
    • If you are unsure of the calorie count of your snack, click on the "Instant Food Search" in MyNetDiary to find out.
    • Knowledge is power. A frozen low calorie ice cream bar or a prepackaged 100 calorie snack are quick and easy portion-controlled choices.

  4. Pair a food that contains protein with a food that contains carbohydrate for a satisfying snack.
    • 3 slices of turkey rolled up in lettuce leaves
    • Salmon on 1/2 whole grain bagel
    • Whole grain chips (10 chips) and 1/4 cup salsa
    • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup of your favorite berries
    • 1/2 cup of lowfat milk and 3/4 cup of high fiber cereal
    • Hard-boiled egg and whole grain crackers
    • 1/4 cup nuts with 1/4 cup of dried fruit and 1/4 cup of pretzels
    • 2 tablespoons hummus with red pepper slices and carrots
    • 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and tomatoes on a whole grain cracker
    • 1/2 cup vegetarian refried beans on a whole wheat tortilla
    • Tomato soup made with lowfat milk and 10 whole grain crackers.

If your nighttime snacking consists of spoonfuls of peanut butter, scoops of ice cream, and grilled cheese sandwiches, try those four tips to prevent sabotaging your healthy eating plan.

Originally published on 8 March 2016,
Updated: November 4, 2019

Martha M. Henze, MPH, MS, RDN

Martha recently completed her Masters of Public Health (MPH) in global epidemiology and aims to help people improve their health on a population basis around the world.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.

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Meal Planning & Diets/Snacks

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