Blame "island time" for the late post...I am currently feasting on mangosteen, macadamia nuts and other such local delights on the beautiful island of Kauai. I have got a whole handful of posts on the local food scene here that I will post next week, once I am able to upload my photos.
For this week, I want to attack a habit that undermines healthy eating for many of us (including myself), night time noshing. Most of us have heard the myth that eating anything after six makes us fat. That statement actually falls into the "well, sort of..." category. Technically (and scientifically speaking) you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want it and not gain weight and vice versa. However, what is true about eating at night is the following:
When you eat after dinner, it is unlikely that you NEED to eat. Extra, unneccessary food means extra, unneccessary pounds.
When you eat after dinner, it is likely that you will eat less healthful food...providing little nutrition and empty calories.
When you eat after dinner, it is likely in front of the television. When we eat and watch, we are likely to overeat...and pile on the pounds.
So this week, examine your after dinner habits and consider going cold turkey. If you are eating a good dinner, you don't really need to snack. You may find it helpful to keep some "food journal notes" in the evening about what and when you eat if you end up eating and what is going through your mind and what you are doing in the evening for activity.
If you find yourself going mental and craving a snack, consider distraction. If your favourite television show is your trigger to eat, consider turning the TV off (gasp!) and going for a walk or doing some other activity. If your absolute favourite show is on...it is the playoffs after all...try an alternative snack to keep your mouth busy. An evening cocktail can be an invitation to snack (and pack on the pounds themselves) so if you love a night cap, watch the munching.
Here are 5 night time options to keep you munching, without packing it on:
1. Try just drinking something, like water! Won't cut it? Try sparkling water or tea or coffee (easy on the sugar and milk). Go decaf if the caffeine interferes with your rest.
2. Snack on raw plain veggies, like bell pepper, broccoli and carrot. You almost can't eat too many! Loads of nutrition for very few calories.
3. Try plain, airpopped popcorn. It is an unsung, low calorie whole grain snack. Need a microwave alternative? Try an organic, low cal variety.
4. Chew gum, get flavour without the calorie punch. Go for a naturally sweetened variety like xylitol gum and avoid artificial sweeteners.
5. Warm skim milk is a great option, as milk's protein keeps you feeling full.
If you find that nighttime noshing is not just habit or craving but true hunger, have a healthy option as mentioned above and then examine where you are skimping during the day. Some people eat very little during the day and then gorge all night. There are plenty of ways this can happen and knowing your trigger is key to overcoming the pattern...
Scenario A: You are so busy from sun rise to sun down...it isn't until the end of the day that you start thinking about eating. If that is you, set yourself a timer for every 4 hours during the day to ensure that you eat at least a little something. Plan tons of healthy snacks for your desk drawer, gym bag, pantry so you always have something healthy and on the go.
Scenario B: You aren't hungry until lunch, making it pretty tough to make it up at lunch and dinner....if that is you, it is likely that because of your night time feasting, you really aren't hungry in the morning. Once you cut out the night time eating, your hunger should return.
Scenario C: You watch what you eat pretty closely and restrict yourself during the day (ladies, this is usually you!) and then get so hungry and lose all willpower at night, eating way too much in the way of treats. If this is you, it is time to eat more during the day. We typically have far more willpower during the day, so harness that energy to eat bigger portions of super healthy food so that you will be satisfied enough to resist the junk food party post dinner.
If you are still having trouble busting the habit after this week, consider keeping a detailed diet journal for a week or two. In addition to what and when you eat, writing down your mood and activities may help. If viewing your journal doesn't make your pattern leap off the page, try sharing it with a registered dietitian, who can help you get to the bottom of it. You can find a dietitian in your area on the Dietitians of Canada website.
Good luck this week...and if all else fails, chew celery!