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Whether it’s staying up late with friends or studying for a big test, it’s always so tempting to grab some food to get you through the night. Personally, midnight snacks are a sort of reward for me when I stay up late doing homework. Despite what many people say, snacking late at night isn’t directly responsible for weight gain, but it can definitely be a contributing factor.

In general, though, midnight snacking is not recommended because your body is more likely to turn the food into fat the later at night you eat it. In fact, eating past 10 p.m. has been linked with metabolic problems. Because of this, it’s important to make sure that whatever you do eat at night is good for your health. 

The best thing you can do for your body is to avoid a midnight snack altogether. One way to do this is if you know you are going to stay up late, eat a later dinner. This will ensure that you don’t get hungry later on as we tend to get hungry every five to six hours we are awake. Throughout the day, try to eat foods rich in healthy fats and proteins, so you don’t crave foods high in sugars and unhealthy fats in the night when your body begins to look for the calories it lacked throughout the day.

While it’s best to avoid eating late at night, there are inevitably going to be those days when we’re craving something. During these times, try to eat foods rich in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, such as a slice of bread with peanut butter. Some of my personal favorites are hummus with pita bread, apples and almond butter and a cup of yogurt.

Pretty smoothie bowl surrounded by fruit.
Photo by Trang Doan from pexels

Dieticians recommend something between 150-200 calories to keep you full while preventing you from overeating. Some examples of these snacks are an apple, a half cup of yogurt or cheese or a protein bar. On the other hand, eating snacks that have a lot of fat and sugar in them is not only unhealthy but will also make it harder to fall asleep once you do get to bed.

Another tip to follow in the night (and throughout the day) is to practice mindful eating. Instead of just reaching for more food if it’s out or when you are bored, think about if you are actually hungry. Pour out your snacks instead of eating them from the bag so that you are more aware of the quantities you are eating.

Once you start eating, monitor how much you are consuming and track how full you feel throughout. This will keep you from overeating, which is something that so many of us tend to do without realizing it. If you are on a diet especially, restricting yourself through the day can lead to intense cravings in the night. Make sure your diet is filled with food that is not just healthy, but also heavy enough to keep you going. 

While snacking late at night isn’t ideal, the reality is that most of us still do it. Just make sure that you are doing your best to go for healthy options that your body will thank you for.

Tanya Kurnootala is a sophomore at VCU majoring in biology. She enjoys writing about issues that enrich the female perspective, with a focus on politics and women's health.
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