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Calorie Count Blog

How to Flip 3 Common Night-time Slips


By +Elisa Zied on May 10, 2012 10:00 AM in Tips & Updates

By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN

Let’s face it…after a long, hard day of work, caring for children or an older parent, or just plain running around, many of us look forward to day’s end to relax and unwind—no doubt with some comfort food and drink. But when the lights dim (and before you’re ready to hit the sheets), feeling stressed or just plain tired can make it way too easy for you to lose your resolve and go overboard or make less than healthful choices when it comes to eating and drinking.     

Whether you’re simply trying to eat healthier to better manage your weight (or even lose a few pounds), don’t despair--here are some simple tips to help you painlessly sidestep three common night-time slips.      

The Slip:  You’re ravenous at dinner time.  Is you’re afternoon so jam-packed that you find you’re starved by the time dinner rolls around? Chances are, if you go too many hours—especially during the day, while you’re running around—without food, you set yourself up to grab whatever food looks appealing—even if that means fast food, or high calorie, fatty food. That can no doubt lead you to eat well past your comfort point.     

The Flip:  Always keep healthful, pre-portioned snacks on hand. Instead of ignoring hunger, satisfy it with some easy that you can easily store in your desk drawer, purse, or backpack. Some options include:   

If you have a place to safely store perishable foods—like the office refrigerator or a cooler—here are some healthy protein and fiber-packed snacks you can have mid-afternoon:  

  • A few whole grain crackers with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter or an ounce of cheddar cheese (sliced or cubed)
  • A piece of fruit (eg an apple or banana) with a tablespoon or two of nuts
  • One cup of low fat, plain, unsweetened yogurt (or Greek yogurt) topped with fresh berries or dried fruit
  • Half of a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread with a touch of mayonnaise and one slice of Swiss cheese
  • One cup of whole grain, high fiber cereal topped with nonfat milk

If you tend to work through your hunger, make sure to set your phone alarm to the time when hunger usually strikes as a reminder to eat a little something. 

The Slip:  You graze all night. In theory, eating every few hours throughout the day is a great way to keep your blood sugar levels steady and give you lasting mental and physical energy. But at night, when you’re less active—and when you’re priming your body for sleep—your body requires fewer calories. Eating too much too close to bedtime can also contribute to sleep problems—you may find that on nights you eat late, you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.   

The Flip:  Instead of grazing throughout the night, plan to have two evenly spaced mini meals (make sure to leave about an hour between the last mini-meal and bed time). Choose two to three foods from each of the five basic food groups for each mini meal. For example, the first mini-meal can include two ounces of skinless grilled chicken, one cup of brown or wild rice, and one cup of broccoli or another non-starchy vegetable. For the other mini meal, choose something like a cup of low fat plain, unsweetened yogurt or nonfat milk with some fresh berries.   

The Slip:  When it comes to dessert, one is never enough. Having dessert is a ritual many families—including my own—enjoy. But most desserts (can you say Haagen Dasz ice cream?) pack in lots of calories in relatively small portions. To make things worse, when you mindlessly eat your dessert while you talk on the phone, watch tv, or use your computer, your brain won’t easily register when you’re satisfied or full.   

The Flip:  The good news is that current dietary guidelines include room in the diet for some empty calories—calories from added sugars and solid fats found in foods like cookies, cake, chocolate, candy, and ice cream—each and every day. A good rule of thumb when it comes to night-time desserts is to stick to a small but satisfying 50 to 100 calorie snack. That’s two to four Hershey® kisses, one to two small chocolate chip cookies, or ¼ to ½ candy bar. Keep only those treats in the house that you aren’t tempted to overeat. If you know you can’t limit these treats to an appropriate portion size, don’t bring them home; instead, think of them as once in a while, pre-planned treats. Stock up on some other sweets (those that come from the basic healthy food groups). Examples include:  

  • Frozen 100 percent fruit/fruit juice fruit bars (100 calories or less)
  • Fresh fruit in season
  • Frozen grapes or bananas
  • Dried fruit
  • Unsweetened applesauces (in 4 ounce containers) 
  • Low fat, low sugar granola bars
  • Whole grain, high fiber cereal 
  • Low fat, unsweetened yogurt
  • Low fat flavored milk

 Your thoughts...

What’s your biggest night-time food slip? What helps you flip it? 

Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and award-winning author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips," "Feed Your Family Right!," and "So What Can I Eat?!." She is also a past national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For more information, go to www.elisazied.com.  Sign up for the free weekly ZIED GUIDE™ newsletter for nutrition tips and news you can use (go to right side of home page at elisazied.com).  Follow Elisa on Twitter/elisazied and on Facebook.



Comments


I work until 10 or 11pm every night so I always am hungry when I get home from work.  I keep frozen grapes and apples on hand to snack on but sometimes that just doesn't fill me up.  That's when I go toward the cheese or nuts .. or junk.

Sometimes it's like all reason escapes my mind in the late hours and I don't care about dieting anymore.  I just want to relax and eat and it is ruining my efforts to get the last little bit off.



I prevent the nighttime slips by having either a P90X protein bar and glass of skim milk, Shakeology smoothie, or a piece of fruit.  I have these 2-3 hours before bed.



I don't snack at night, I make sure I have a shower and go to bed early to avoid this kind of thing happening.  I do however snack on junk as soon as I get home from work, buscuits, chocolates, sweets etc.  Luckily I make provision for this every day so I don't run over my calarie limit for the day...



These were some nice suggestions to keep in mind. Thank you!

 

Chiquita- I don't know if you do this already or not, but you can try to balance your calories so that you leave a meal open at night. I do that now since my husband gets home late from work and we like to eat something together. So I eat less during lunch and that leaves enough over for a small snack in between and a meal when he comes home.

Another option that some do is start their calories at night each day. So at 6pm (or whatever time works) they are at 0 calories. That way they can eat what they want at night and then the breakfast and lunch they limit a bit.

 



I keep low calorie snack bars on my desk for while I'm working so I don't feel like I'm starved till lunch but I do make it a point to take a break about 12p for lunch since start work at 7am but am up from 6am each day. At night before bed I allow myself a bowl of watermelon and grapes or on occassion I make my own shake with nonfat milk, fruit, and if I need a sweetener a packet of Truvia.  For my fruit snack I've got the watermelon already cut up and in a storage container and the grapes already destemmed, rinsed and ready to grab as well in the fridge. For my shake I usually do that when my granddaughter is over and make a small one for her.  She seems to like it and it seems to calm her before bed too.



I take a piece of fruit with me to work every day for an afternoon snack, but also always have a little bag of almonds, dates and wholegrain rye crackers with me in case I get hungry or I need a small addition to my lunch.  It works out well and saves me money b/c I never need to go buy a snack when I am out and about or end up working late.



I zap a cup of frozen berries in the microwave for 2 minutes to get them hot and then stir in a cup of cold nonfat Greek yogurt. Heating the fruit brings out the sweetness and the combination of hot and cold mixed together is satisfying and delicious.



Tanya, I think it's great that you allow for treats that you enjoy and work it into your daily calorie intake. And even better if you are still able to lose/maintain your weight. However, I find that eating for nutrition, not just calorie intake has really helped not just my weight, but my health as well. The 2 are not necessarily linked and this change in mindset has really helped me. Just something to think about :) And that's not to say I never eat any junk, I love biscuits/baked goods, but do try to be mindful of what (besides yummy taste) I'm getting out of eating them.



I swear, every article talks about doing what my plan does: eating small meals and snacks all day!  I wish everyone would start eating half meals (like their 1/2 turkey sandwich recommendation) and see how easy it really can be.

From my plan:  Whatever your lunch, only eat half at lunch time.  Then eat the other half about 3 hours later.  So, if you have a tuna sandwich, an apple, and a bag o' chips, eat half the sandwich, half the apple, and half the chips.  Save the other half for your snack!  You'd be amazed how satisfied you are after only eating half!  

As for late night slips, mine is ICE CREAM!!!!  I love bwaltch's idea about fruit and yogurt.  I've been adding honey but warm berries sounds so--much--BETTER!!!  lol.  But since I cut 400 to 1000 calories out of my DAILY intake with the Half Meal Habit, I have no problem having a little bowl of ice cream at night.

Jim

Lose weight eating anything you want.



I drink half a glass of red wine especially when I'm stressed. It makes me relax and sleep well.



Original Post by: rozitanaghshin

I drink half a glass of red wine especially when I'm stressed. It makes me relax and sleep well.


Hey rozitanaghshin, Does that stave off hunger pangs???  If so, awesome!

Jim



I avoid the kitchen altogether and generally do not eat dinner. This is why I choose to exercise in the evening, because it keeps me busy and occupied, so I'm not tempted to eat junk food or some other high calorie food. My last snack is usually around 3pm at work. I have a cheat day every Saturday, otherwise I would not be able to hold onto a long-term diet plan. I still lose the 2 to 2.5 lbs. a week and this way, you have that one day when you can eat whatever you want without counting calories and don't feel so deprived.



I think doing something because it's "ritual" is foolish, especially if it's contributing to your own fatness. Sometimes tradition has to be reexamined and dessert is one of those. Why not elevate dessert to something special, like a once a week occurrence? And, instead have fruit that's grilled, baked, etc.


Original Post by: chiquita26

I work until 10 or 11pm every night so I always am hungry when I get home from work.  I keep frozen grapes and apples on hand to snack on but sometimes that just doesn't fill me up.  That's when I go toward the cheese or nuts .. or junk.

Sometimes it's like all reason escapes my mind in the late hours and I don't care about dieting anymore.  I just want to relax and eat and it is ruining my efforts to get the last little bit off.


I had the same problem when I worked second shift a few years ago!  It can be a struggle at night to keep oneself in line...



Original Post by: chiquita26

I work until 10 or 11pm every night so I always am hungry when I get home from work.  I keep frozen grapes and apples on hand to snack on but sometimes that just doesn't fill me up.  That's when I go toward the cheese or nuts .. or junk.

Sometimes it's like all reason escapes my mind in the late hours and I don't care about dieting anymore.  I just want to relax and eat and it is ruining my efforts to get the last little bit off.


same here, it is the worse time for me no matter how 'good' i have been all day.



Original Post by: bwaltch

I zap a cup of frozen berries in the microwave for 2 minutes to get them hot and then stir in a cup of cold nonfat Greek yogurt. Heating the fruit brings out the sweetness and the combination of hot and cold mixed together is satisfying and delicious.


this is my favorite snack, i add the frozen berries to greek yogurt and take it to work, they thaw by lunch, sooooo gooood!

 



Original Post by: tdirpincess

These were some nice suggestions to keep in mind. Thank you!

 

Chiquita- I don't know if you do this already or not, but you can try to balance your calories so that you leave a meal open at night. I do that now since my husband gets home late from work and we like to eat something together. So I eat less during lunch and that leaves enough over for a small snack in between and a meal when he comes home.

Another option that some do is start their calories at night each day. So at 6pm (or whatever time works) they are at 0 calories. That way they can eat what they want at night and then the breakfast and lunch they limit a bit.

 


GREAT IDEA!!!

 



I have decaf coffee and actually sit down and enjoy it.  My favorite is french vanilla flavored coffee.  It is a ritual putting in the right amount of cinnamon and Almond milk and just relaxing.  My new favorite night time ritual is Sleepy Time Extra Tea.  It has Valerian that really relaxes me.  My downfall is popcorn at night.  I love a big bowl with oil and butter and lots of salt.  I try to keep to once a week or so and cutting down the oil and out the butter.  I am trying dairy free to see if it will help my allergies.  I went Gluten Free and my sinus infections cleared up.  I had been chronic for 10 years and had 3 sinus surgeries.  I was so shocked by the improvement from going Gluten Free.  I can't wait to see if Dairy Free also gives me a boost.



Original Post by: jimmyloram

Original Post by: rozitanaghshin

I drink half a glass of red wine especially when I'm stressed. It makes me relax and sleep well.


Hey rozitanaghshin, Does that stave off hunger pangs???  If so, awesome!

Jim


Probably not, but I will bet it doesn't matter. Beer is food...wine is love! Wine will take you to a place where hunger becomes your pal...



Hi Chazmm, I can't agree with you more.  I am however new to this and I am doing this for a healthier lifestyle.  I however have started 2 wees ago with quitting smoking and it's hard for me to stop everything at the same time, so I've decided that the smoking is a little more important for me at this stage and a great start to a healthy lifestyle and therefore focus on this first until it's out of the way and then focus on my healthy eating.  I am logging my calories on a daily basis just to make sure I still stay in check - but like I said I am battling terribly as soon as I get home from work.  I am luckily not over weight and don't have any weight issues, I have put on 2 kilos since I've stopped smoking so my weight might become a problem soon, but I'm not going to beat myself up about it too much, but will still make sure that I eat the healthy and good stuff instead of the junk :-)  Wish me luck - 2 and a half months treatment left for the smoking and so far so good...



tanyahamer- Congrats on quitting smoking! I'd say that is a huge step in benefiting you're health! I have never smoked, but I have seen family and friends that quit and it is quite challenging. Most of them did it cold turkey and most gained a bit of weight while doing so. Like you said, you can only worry about so much at one time. Keep up the great work!! Laughing



My big issue is chips in bags. When I am stressed or needing to unwind now I just use a bag of greens.  The crunch is satisfying and I feel better afterward instead of worse.



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