A lot of us find the hours before bedtime the most trying when we’re trying to lose weight or eat more healthily.
It’s all too easy to reach for the snacks while we’re watching TV or relaxing. This can undo a whole day of healthy eating, and can also disrupt our sleep. What would happen if we stopped eating after dinner and before bed?
Writer Chloe Pantazi decided to cut out night time snacks altogether for one week, to see if it would make a difference to the way she felt. Here’s her take on what happens when you stop snacking on an evening:
Cutting out snacks doesn’t always encourage healthy choices
Pantazi says she started the experiment absolutely dreading it, as she has very little willpower.
She found out quickly that eating her usual low-carb dinners just weren’t going to work, because she still felt hungry afterwards. One night she skipped rice and had green beans instead with her curry, and was so hungry that she let her brain talk her into having some fruit as an after-dinner snack.
She added more carbs to her evening meal, and had bigger portions. She also says she found a way to cheat by having her snacks before dinner! Knowing that this was a step on the slippery slope, she kept these snacks to raw fruit and vegetables.
Pantazi says that she’s not sure if cutting out bedtime snacks made a difference to her feeling like this, but she found that she was sleeping slightly better than usual.
Dietician Lisa De Fazio told Pantazi that snacking before bed doesn’t help you sleep. It will cause your blood sugar to spike and crash while you sleep, and this puts strain on the body and weakens the digestive system.
Changing eating patterns
Having her usual light breakfast and lunch made Pantazi feel hungry after dinner. She came to the realization that she probably needed to eat more during the day to help counteract this.
Pantazi found that the habit of eating in front of the TV was hard to break. She said she felt like there was something missing when she watched her favourite programmes. She wondered if she really needed the snacks, or if she was just used to having something in her hands while watching TV.
While she managed to cut out evening snacks for her experiment, Pantazi says she doesn’t think it’s sustainable or realistic. It would mean denying yourself food if you were ever genuinely hungry after an insufficient dinner.
Andy Bellati, the strategic director of Dieticians for Professional Integrity, says that if you can’t cut out evening snacks altogether, you should opt for healthier choices.
He suggests snacking on a handful of almonds, two squares of dark chocolate, unsweetened coconut milk, or chia pudding.
As for Pantazi, she says she has no intention of cutting out her after-dinner snacks altogether, but she has made a move to choosing healthier snacks.