Does Eating Late at Night Cause Weight Gain?

Does eating late at night cause weight gain? There’s some nuance to this answer, so hang in with me.

If you are like me, the best part of your day is finally being able to sit down, watch TV, and snack on some munchies.

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The Real Problem With Eating Late at Night

woman at refrigerator eating a sandwich late at night
Late-night eating is a common problem, but it’s not the time that we’re eating that is the problem. It’s what we’re choosing to eat.

Even when most of us eat well during the day, it is eating late at night where we get into real trouble. But, it’s not the time that we’re eating that is the problem. It’s that we tend to eat processed, high-calorie foods at night.

Studies show that eating at night does not make you fat unless you exceed your caloric intake for the day.

That’s the key- exceeding your caloric intake for the day.

In other words, if your maximum intake is 1800 calories per day, your late night snacks should not bring you over that allotted amount. You must plan for your snacks to be part of that 1800 calories.

Stress Eating Can Cause Weight Gain

All day long, we run around busy with work or family so we don’t have time to wallow in our worries until we get home and have some quiet time. The problem is we nurse our woes with food.

Since we just finished dinner, we know we are not really hungry, so our late night snacking comes from pure boredom or stress relief.

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With that in mind, here are some ways to lessen your urge to raid the cupboards:

Make sure you eat enough throughout the day. If you come home late, and have skipped meals all day, you are most likely ravenous.

You begin to grab everything in sight and eat way more than you need to.

If you are “mini-mealing” it all day, this should be a problem. Keep snacks handy when you are on the go, so you are never feeling hunger pains for long periods of time.

Eliminate Junk Food

You can’t eat what you don’t have. Take the junk food out of your house and trade it in for the good stuff. Always have your fridge stocked with low fat, high fiber, high protein foods that can be prepped in a jiffy.

Learn to indulge in other ways than food. Think of all the things you enjoy, a facial, a manicure, listening to music or a hobby.

Pamper yourself with candles or aromatherapy to truly relax. If you are to wired tackle that odd job you have been putting off-keep yourself busy.

Late Night Snacking and Idle Hands…

If you must snack however, try to keep your snack under 250 calories. This is a great way to do it. Try foods that are high in fiber and with lean proteins and low fat.

Heavy foods or sugar will only keep you up at night, so keep it to a minimum.

Some foods I call snack traps are anything involving chips, crackers, cheese or those 100 calories individual snack cakes because in moderation they are okay but who can stop eating them after one serving? Not me.

Late Night Healthy Snacks

  • Sweet Snacks:
    Fresh fruit
    Cottage cheese with sugar free jam
    High fiber cereal with a sprinkling of cinnamon
  • Creamy Snacks:
    Plain yogurt or Kefir with some bran flakes
    Nonfat fruit smoothie (try freezing it for a creamy treat!)
  • Crunchy Snacks:
    Low fat hummus with carrots
    Crispy salad with anise and cucumbers with balsamic vinegar
  • Savory Snacks:
    Low fat egg white salad
    Turkey or chicken luncheon meats
    Herbal teas
    Chicken or beef broth

Again, all in moderation and don’t eat too close to bedtime, it will interrupt your sleep patterns. Good night snacking!

Fiorella DiCarlo RD, RDN, CDN