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5 Ways to Stop Nighttime Snacking

brush teeth early to avoid nighttime snacking

A high-calorie nighttime snack can quickly undo a day’s worth of healthy eating. If late night snacking is sabotaging your effort to lose weight, consider making one or two small changes to reduce the temptation to eat after dinner.

Habit or hunger

It is important to determine whether you are snacking out of habit or hunger. If you eat an early dinner at 5:30 p.m., and you stay up until midnight, then you are probably experiencing true hunger around 9:30 p.m. Listen to your body and feed it when it's hungry. Choose healthy snacks that are just filling enough to take away the hunger. A low-fat yogurt or a cup of hot tea with toast and nut spread will usually do the trick.

If you finish dinner and are sitting in front of the TV an hour later with a bag of chips, then you are probably snacking out of habit. Habits can be difficult to break, but the good news is that you're not fighting physical hunger.

Close the kitchen

Clean up the dinner dishes immediately following your meal. With a clean kitchen, you are less likely to dirty a dish for your snack. Once the kitchen is spick-and-span, turn off the lights and close the kitchen for the night. If there is no door on your kitchen, put a chair in the middle of the walkway or in front of the refrigerator or food pantry. Make a sign that says "Kitchen Open" on one side and "Kitchen Closed" on the other and hang it in a prominent place. Get creative with ideas that will remind you to stop and think before you begin snacking, which will help you break the habit.

Create a nighttime ritual

Once the kitchen is closed, head to the bathroom and brush and floss your teeth. This age-old tip works very well because it signals that eating is done for the day.

Stop multitasking

Snacking most often occurs while you are standing in the kitchen, sitting in front of a screen, or driving in the car. It's hard to listen to your internal body cues when you're multitasking. Always sit down at the table and eat mindfully when you have a meal or a snack. Once you do this, mindless snacking will feel foreign.

Change your schedule

Shake up your nightly routine for a while until your urge to snack at night lessens. If you simply can't resist snacking while watching TV, you may need to replace your TV watching for a few weeks with something that is not associated with snacking. Pull out a card game, walk the dog, engage in meditation, or call a friend. It may be the perfect way to gain a new hobby or revisit old hobbies. Once you develop a new routine, you will be less likely to snack out of habit.

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