With a weekly routine in place, eating the same breakfast and prepared lunches and snacks during the work week, it may be difficult to imagine why we are not losing weight. A common problem may be that when we come home from a long day, we may engage in a long night of grazing without even realizing it.
Dinners may differ from day to day, and some nights we may just reach for the take-out menu. Therefore, it is dinner and evening when our calorie consumption can get out of control. In addition, getting the kids to bed, going out to social events and happy hours, or just having a late night of television can cause us to graze long after the dinner dishes are placed in the sink. Here are some tips on how to avoid overeating in the after hours:
1.) Put a time limit on your snacking: It is best to stop eating and hour or two before bedtime to aid in proper digestion, so if you go to bed at 10pm, stop snacking at 8pm. Allow yourself to drink some sugar-free beverages between that 8pm and 10pm time period to keep your mouth busy, but without ingesting any more calories after your designated dinner and dessert.
2.) Keep a food journal: Writing down everything you eat throughout the day can keep a handle on what you consume. If you have to write down everything you eat, you will realize when you consume the most, and you will be able to identify when your grazing occurs most often. Once this problem is identified, it can be nipped in the bud before it leads to weight gain.
3.) Keep healthy snacks accessible: If you have kids in the house, or even just a snacking spouse, it may be difficult to keep unhealthy treats out of the house. You can, however, keep healthy snacks accessible for those times you have a snack craving. Keep some fresh fruit in the fridge, sliced and washed veggies such as sliced celery and carrots in the fridge, or some lightly salted popcorn in the pantry.
4.) Clean up and control your eating environment throughout the day: Make sure you have healthy snacks prepared ahead of time to take with you to work or while running your errands. Lack of preparation can lead to temptation, and hunger pangs may lead to fatigue and in turn cause you to put off preparing a healthy dinner and grabbing a convenience meal from the local take-out restaurant. In addition, get your family involved in eating healthy (since it isn't just a weight loss thing...it's a healthy lifestyle thing!) by cleaning out the pantry of high fat, high sugar processed foods and snacks and replacing it with healthy snacks that the whole family can enjoy. Try a new food each week for dinner so your children, you, and/or your spouse can get used to trying new things instead of staying in the same rut of eating the same foods. This will help everyone develop new cravings for healthier foods!
5.) Go to bed earlier: Instead of staying up late to watch your television schedule, get to bed an hour or so earlier to not only get more sleep, but to prevent unnecessary snacking in the late night hours. Not only will you save calories, but the extra sleep will give you more energy to be active the next day, which will in turn help you literally "move " closer to your weight loss and health goals!
6.) Create filling, healthy post-dinner snacks: About an hour or so after dinner we all crave something to snack on. Therefore, make your evening snack count, and keep you full until bedtime by balancing fiber and protein. Such snacks may include:
- One cup greek yogurt with 1/4 granola and dried fruit
- 2-3 cups lightly salted popcorn sprinkled with 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup frozen yogurt with 1/2 cup diced fruit or 1/4 cup maraschino cherries
- 2-3 lightly salted rice cakes spread with 2 tablespoons whipped cream cheese or 2-3 teaspoons peanut butter
- 1 cup strawberries dipped in 1 tablespoon chocolate hazelnut spread
Drink plenty of water or decaffeinated tea with your evening snacks to help with digestion and to make you feel full until bedtime and prevent late night snacking.