Whenever I tell people I’m a dietitian I get one of several reactions. The most common reaction is for people to start rambling off their diet and their weaknesses for desserts, pizza, fried chicken, alcohol, etc. Sometimes they even throw out a nutrition question, such as the one I received last night, “Isn’t it bad to eat late at night?!” My answer? NO! There are some exceptions, however (read below).
Nick and I are notorious for eating late at night. I typically have a scoop of homemade ice cream topped with some plain yogurt and frozen blueberries, followed by a few cups of freshly popped popcorn, and of course a piece of dark chocolate (Lindt’s 85% dark chocolate).
Nick eats this:
2 scoops of ice cream, topped with my FODMAPs granola2 slices of whole grain toast, topped with Smart Balance Crunchy Peanut butter, plus a side of chips and frozen blueberriesWhile I have never been against eating late at night, there are a few things you should consider before doing so;
1) Are you diabetic? If so, you should watch your carbohydrates (don’t eat like Nick!) and always have some protein with your late night snack. Obviously this is a brief overview, and more specific recommendations depend on your diet plan and medication use.
2) Have you already had enough calories throughout the day? Some people really shouldn’t eat late at night because they have already reached their calorie allotment for the day. This is when eating late at night will cause weight gain. You should always ask yourself “am I hungry? Or, am I just bored?”. If you’re watching TV and you see food commercials, you may think you are hungry but in reality you may just be getting sucked into the marketing schemes!
3) How late is it? You really don’t want to eat too much, too close to going to sleep. Why? Some people may get acid reflux. If you eat something, then lay down, a common symptom is heart burn. This could have an effect on your quality of sleep. Also consider that it takes energy to digest your food. If you eat too much too soon before hitting the sack, your body will be working on digesting your food instead of concentrating on getting good sleep. This may result in not getting enough deep sleep (this may also happen if you drink alcohol, in any amount, before bedtime).
4) What are you snacking on? It may not be the best idea to eat really fatty foods late at night. These are the foods that take longer to digest. Carbohydrates are easier to digest, plus some data shows they may help make you sleepy!