by Guest Author,

Mylie McMahon, student dietitian at Curtin University

How often have you found yourself searching for a snack only an hour or so after finishing dinner?

You’re not alone. Late night eating is a struggle for many of us, but it can be overcome!

Keep reading for 5 tips on how you can stop your late-night frolics in the fridge.

1. Eat enough dinner

Allow yourself suitable servings, whether you’ve eaten too much during the day or not. I can almost guarantee that whatever is on the dinner menu is more nutritious and less energy dense than your go to after dinner snack.

Fill your plate up with plenty of vegetables and wholegrains to increase fibre, and lean protein to help you feel full and stay that way (for at least a few hours).

Creamy vegetable curry

2. Get enough sleep

When you’re tired, you are more likely to overeat. The body will start to crave energy from food sources, especially carbohydrates. Your brain signals for sweet foods, starchy foods and energy dense foods with lots of glucose to keep it alert and stimulated.  

We know, getting enough sleep can be easier said than done. Try getting to bed just 15 minutes earlier and notice how you feel, and what you reach for!

3. Snack smart

Shop for ingredients to have on hand, food that you know you’ll want to eat, that will nourish your mind, body and soul, without the negative emotions. This will help get rid of the guilt that comes with eating a mindless, unplanned and/or nutrient poor food.

Ask yourself what you normally reach for. Is it sweet or salty? Smooth or crunchy? Hot or cold?

Once you’re aware of what your favourites are, shop to have nourishing versions of these foods on hand that you feel good about eating.

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4. Keep hydrated

Raise your hand if you're someone who doesn’t drink enough fluid (my hand is up too)! We very often confuse thirst for hunger.

When was the last time you had something to drink? Learning to ask yourself this before reaching for a snack may help you recognise your thirst signals vs. hunger cues. If it has been a little while since your last drink, have a glass of water or pour a cup of tea. If you’re still feeling hungry after 10 minutes or so, allow yourself to eat - you’re already prepared with healthy options from following point 3!

citrus water

5. Portion your pleasure food

You’ve had enough dinner, kept hydrated and slept well. You have snacks you feel good about on hand, but still find you’re reaching for some chips/chocolate/insert pleasure food of choice.

It’s okay. Serve yourself a portion (think, 4 squares of chocolate, ~20 g pack of chips) and savour every bite. Slow down, turn off your screens and enjoy it.

Practising mindfulness techniques while eating will increase how satisfied you feel and decrease your risk of overeating. If you’d like to read more about eating mindfully, click here.

Now you have 5 ways in which to manage your late-night cravings. Put them in to practice and notice how they make you feel.

Do you have any tried and tested ways you cope with cravings? Let us know if the comments section below.

If you have concerns regarding food or eating, seek the support of an Accredited Practising Dietitian.

LiveLighter supports future health professionals through engagement with Australian Universities. This student blog was created for LiveLighter as part of Advanced Public Health Nutrition Practice coursework (Master of Dietetics at Curtin University, Western Australia).

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