8 Simple Tips To Avoid Late Night Snacking

by | Feb 6, 2013

Photo by xJasonRogersx

Snacking can be a mixed blessing for anyone learning to eat healthy. On one hand, a small healthy snack after a workout or an hour or so before a late meal can help you avoid making bad, hunger-induced food decisions later. On the other hand, snacking can easily grow out of control and be a source of hundreds of excess calories.

Late night snacking almost never falls into the good snacking category and is usually driven by cravings or habit rather than legitimate hunger. Here are a few tips to help you make healthy post-dinner food decisions and break the habit of late night snacking.

8 Simple Tips To Avoid Late Night Snacking

1. Eat a satisfying dinner

This may seem obvious, but is often overlooked by someone actively trying to lose weight. Though dinners shouldn’t be excessively large, they should be balanced, nourishing and satisfying enough to keep you happy until bed time.

2. Eat fruit

Late night snacking is often fueled by a desire for sugar or dessert. A small piece of fruit can be a great way to satisfy this craving and help you make it to bedtime without indulging in unhealthy sweets.

3. Drink herbal tea

Often a desire to snack can be quenched by simply changing the flavor in your mouth. Warm mint or chamomile tea can substitute for dessert without actually contributing any calories.

4. Brush your teeth

Dentists will tell you it’s good to brush your teeth as soon as possible after a meal to avoid tooth decay. An added bonus of this strategy is that toothpaste tends to make foods taste bad and sap your desire for late night snacks.

5. Drink some water

Water is often overlooked as a simple and effective way to avoid excessive eating. Not only is thirst often mistaken for hunger, water can also help fill your stomach during the extra time it takes for your brain to realize you are no longer hungry. Sparkling water flavored with a little citrus or cucumber is particularly effective at distracting your mouth from the desire to keep chewing.

6. Call a friend

Since late night snacking isn’t a symptom of real hunger, psychological tactics can be effective at helping you make it to bed without extra calories. Eating and talking are not compatible, so calling a friend or family member can be a great way to occupy your mind and mouth until the cravings pass.

7. Get moving

Light exercise can be great for killing the desire to eat. Try burning a few calories instead of eating them by taking a walk or making a booty call instead.

8. Play video games

Though I do not consider the Nintendo Wii a particularly effective form of exercise, one bonus of playing video games is it occupies both of your hands and makes it difficult to eat. It also gets your mind off the kitchen and onto something more fun. I’d vote for video games over television any day of the week.

What are your favorite tricks to avoid late night snacking?

Originally published May 3, 2010.

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27 Responses to “8 Simple Tips To Avoid Late Night Snacking”

  1. Tyler says:

    Great post.

    Especially love the booty call suggestion – caught me off guard! 😉

  2. Great List! I have heard of them all before but not all in a list..I think I need to print this!

  3. Woot for the booty call! 😉 I love these tips. I use the “I’ve already brushed my teeth” trick a lot, mostly because I’m a goody-two-shoes and can’t stand eating after I’ve just brushed my teeth.

  4. baahar says:

    Nice list !!

    I heard from several dentists that you should brush your teeth at least 30 minutes after the meal though.

    Another thing I experienced after cutting off sugar and white flour from my diet is that I don’t get hungry often if at all. The whole wheat bread keeps you full for a longer time ( I eat one small slice at breakfast ) and the absence of sugar helps a lot too. For example, whenever I eat a large slice of cake during the day I feel the urge to eat something in the evening.

    • Alessandro says:

      An interesting fact, since you mention it, is that fat slows down the emptying of the stomach and fiber helps slower down carbohydrate absorption. Fat takes longer to digest, it may be a good idea to include fats to dinner that way late night food cravings diminish. Mind you fats are not at all bad, the best ones are: unsaturated fats, and the famous omega 3 and 6.

  5. Matt Shook says:

    This is such a great list Darya, thanks for posting it! I have to admit it…I’m full-fledged night owl. I rarely go to bed before midnight, and often after 1:30am. Fighting off late night snacking is something I had to teach myself. As a kid I stupidly believed the advice of an actor playing Babe Ruth who said “Never go to bed on an empty stomach.” Ha! I should have known better…

    On the bright side, I’m glad to say that I already practice 7 of the 8 suggestions (don’t usually talk on the phone to avoid cravings) on your list. I drink Kombucha more often than herbal tea, but they’re very similar. Totally dig the video game suggestion…and I usually drink water or kombucha while playing to get/stay hydrated.

    Another trick…pick up a musical instrument. I like to strum my guitar (uhhhh, that didn’t sound quite right) before bed and it’s a great way to chill and exercise your reflexes and mind before heading to bed. If I do ever end up snacking late, I always wait an hour or longer before finally going to bed.

  6. Erica says:

    Thanks to the joys of pregnancy I have developed the habit of heating up a small cup of milk with two tablespoons of hersheys syrup. I’m not a milk drinker so this was a must during prenancy. After three children I still have my glass of hot chocolate every night! It not only get’s me to drink milk but also satisifies my craving for anything chocolate during peak snack time at night.

  7. Hannah says:

    Awesome list, Darya! I regularly use #3 – and I also find that going to be early with a good book helps.

    H 🙂

  8. Stephen Wise says:

    As a seasoned health enthusiast, I strongly suggest the booty call – Best advice.

  9. Danielle says:

    Keep the drinks to a minimum! I don’t know about you guys, but a glass of wine turns into a beer which turns into a craving that ends up being a pizza.

  10. Ken Leebow says:

    While I don’t do a lot of it, late night snacking doesn’t bother me. My motto: “If you’re hungry, eat.”

    A healthy snack falls into the category of being between 100 – 200 calories. That number of calories is going to have an impact.

  11. Joy says:

    LOL @ the booty call. Good one.

    I’m a night owl and am usually up til 3am (I know, not healthy!), and aside from fruits, one other thing my naturopathic doctor suggested I snack on are cashew nuts if I really can’t avoid eating. I also drink warm water with freshly squeezed lemon juice, which seems to help with the hunger pangs, and gurgling. Haha.

  12. Chris says:

    Can’t stay up late anymore and learned that eating late makes for a restless sleep night. # 2, 3, and 5 are all around good moves to keep the cravings down (or temptation to eat what you shouldn’t eat) at any time. Thanks, Darya.

  13. Kevin Dinan says:

    I think a harsh truth needs to be addressed: You will feel some discomfort when you break from bad habits you have practiced religiously over the years. The first few nights will be a struggle. For me, it took about 4, maybe 5, days for late night snacking to stop being a regular issue. I have noticed that the cravings now only pop up on days when I have too much bad carbs (sugar, flour, cheese puffs, etc) without a simultaneous balance of fiber or protein. Great list here, I just wanted to advise anyone folowing it not to give up if the cravings seem unbearable for the first few days because it WILL get much easier.

  14. great tips! there are always times when the cravings hits hard…and going along with the exercise tip, yoga moves can really help!

  15. Sandhi says:

    great tips. I am ususally never hungry in the night ( after eating a good dinner) But if I am hungry, I like to snack. Best thing to eat before bed is protein. A protein shake, spoonful of peanut butter, a boiled egg, or some fat free greek yogurt. Protein fills you up and keeps you satiated. I have noticed that fruit never satisfies me when I am truly hungry. So that option does not work for me.

    • Darya Pino says:

      That’s interesting. I’ve found that too much protein makes me sick to my stomach if I eat it too close to bed time. I try to eat enough earlier so that I’m not actually hungry.

  16. Sandi says:

    Eating some protein would be number one for me if I am hungry. A boiled egg, or a protein shake

  17. Dee says:

    Drink a glass of water and go to bed!

    Avoid the kitchen at all costs – run from temptation

  18. Joe Garma says:

    All good ideas.

    I’ll add:

    1. Drink lemon water.

    2. Get satiated during dinner by eating an avocado, a good amount of protein, or a couple tbls of a good quality coconut butter.


  19. fanny says:

    I wonder if having ‘the big meal’ at night causes more midnight cravings. I grew up in a place where the big meal is lunch. We often have something light for dinner and we don’t think of eating anything after that.

  20. AJ says:

    These are great tipis indeed, but actually putting them into practice is another story!

    I am a tango dancer and so am out late 5 or 6 times a week, often until 3 or 4 in the morning. By the time I get home, I am starving from dancing all night, even if I eat dinner at 11. I also get up early-ish, which I believe makes me think I am even hungrier during the day.

    Any suggestions for when I should eat on this schedule? Should I just go to bed even if I am starving when I get home?

    Thanks in advance!

  21. Carole Ann says:

    For me, the late night snacking is somehow psychological. After my husband goes into the bathroom to shower at around 9pm, I go into the kitchen and start snacking. It’s like I turn into a kid without adult supervision. Most of the time I am not even hungry. It’s become like some sort of Pavlovian “naughty child” response. Weird!

    I don’t keep stuff in the house that could do real damage. I usually eat a piece of fruit and a couple of pretzel rods, so it’s not a major pig out. It is extra calories and I am not hungry, so it makes me mad that I keep doing it every night. Argh! I am going to try brushing my teeth when he goes into the bathroom.

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