Is Eating Late Bad For Your Health?

Open Late

As a recent college graduate, I often find myself reminiscing about the good old days.

Whenever I take a walk down memory lane, it’s always fun to remember freshman year in the dorms, including, of course, late night cramming. One of my favorite memories is venturing on late night food runs! It’s one of the many defining moments that make the college experience unique.

As most of you know, college students stay up until the wee hours studying (or attempting to do so). And let’s face it, when it hits midnight and you have an insatiable desire to munch on something salty, chewing on gum isn’t going to cut it.  At that point, trying to resist eating is pretty much a losing battle (instant noodles, anyone?)

For years, there has been a negative connotation associated with late night eating. The popular saying, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper” has become the popular mantra surrounding a healthy lifestyle. So the age-old question becomes, is eating late bad for your health?

Not necessarily.

Weight maintenance occurs when the caloric intake equals energy expenditure. This means that at the end of the day the total amount of calories you’re consuming is what matters the most for weight control. The common problem with late night eating is that we often opt for unhealthy foods or we tend to overeat. Here are some things to consider the next time those late night hunger cravings hit:

Are you really hungry?
Using food as a coping mechanism is common. When we feel anxious, happy, or even bored, we tend to turn to food. When you get the urge to snack, ask yourself if you’re really hungry or if you’re simply bored and want something to do. Try finding non-food mechanisms to cope with your emotions, such as going out for a walk or talking with a friend.

Choose smart options.
Yes, it may be tempting to drive to the nearest fast food restaurant but the overly processed food you’ll find there will leave you feeling bloated and sluggish.

What to look for:

  • Snacks and smaller meals that are easier to digest compared to large meals.
  • Low-fat cheese, yogurt, and lean meat all contain slow digesting protein that will allow you to feel full.
  • Fruits and vegetables are guilt-free snack options low in calories but high in vitamins and minerals. They are also high in fiber, which will help fill you up.
  • Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, increase levels of serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin regulates mood and contributes to overall emotional well-being.

Curb late night hunger by trying:

  • Greek yogurt topped with your favorite fruit.
  • Whole grain crackers with low fat cheese and sliced turkey.
  • Whole wheat bread filled with hummus and veggies.
  • A sandwich on whole wheat bread, lean meat, and veggies.
  • Oatmeal topped with sliced bananas.

Be prepared!
Having fresh healthful ingredients on hand will make it easier to combat junk food temptations. Stock up on your favorite snack options when you go grocery shopping so you’ll always be ready when hunger hits. 

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