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Satisfying Nighttime Snacks: Improving Nutritional Value

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Can understanding night cravings help individuals who constantly eat at night plan meals that satisfy and choose nutritious snacks?

Satisfying Nighttime Snacks: Improving Nutritional Value

Eating At Night

Snacking after dinner and eating at night is common and not bad; however, snacking mindfully can help one truly enjoy and savor snacks. Consider some of the reasons why you might be hungry or not completely satisfied after dinner. Improving the nutritional value of nighttime snacks can make late-night hunger work toward meeting nutritional needs. Common reasons include:

  • Not meeting the right macronutrient balance during dinner.
  • Not being completely satisfied with dinner.
  • Dehydration.

Macronutrient Profile

Getting the right amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein during dinner is integral to feeling satisfied. Adults need 130g of carbohydrates, 56g of protein, and 3.7L of water daily. The amount of fat required varies, but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the most healthy fats to consume, helping the body feel satisfied. Several studies show that eating protein during a meal reduces hunger and decreases cravings. (Kohanmoo, A. et al., 2020)

Unsatisfying Dinner

Another reason individuals eat at night is that they are unsatisfied with dinner. Eating satiating foods can help the mind and body feel full throughout the evening.

  • Satiety is the sense of satisfaction from food.
  • Foods high in fiber and healthy fats are known to help produce satisfaction.
  • When the body is full and satisfied, it produces hormones that signal to the brain there is no need to continue eating.
  • Try to plan healthy meals that are genuinely exciting to eat.
  • Create time to cook and make and eat meals you can genuinely enjoy.

Dehydration

Sometimes, when the body is dehydrated, it can have difficulty distinguishing thirst from hunger. As a result, some may eat in reaction to dehydration. This isn’t always bad, as some foods, specifically water-rich foods like melon and other fruits, can provide hydration. But sometimes, individuals don’t realize they are misreading their body’s thirst for hunger, and they reach for any food. They are still dehydrated, so they keep eating. If hunger persists after dinner, drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes to see if that impacts hunger.

Maximize Nutrition

Snacking at night is not bad, but it is wise to plan to ensure the body gets the right balance of nutrients.

Satisfy Cravings

Many crave something sweet after dinner or later on. Eating healthy foods that satisfy cravings will help trigger hormones that tell the body it is done eating. Keep your favorite fruits and vegetables for a quick bite to get some sweetness and fiber. Vegetables like red bell peppers and carrots provide sweetness and crunchiness and can be satisfying. One small red pepper provides 100% of the daily recommended Vitamin C in 20 calories. (U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. 2018)

Foods that Promote Sleep

The foods chosen can affect sleep. Whole grains, walnuts, cherries, and kiwi increase serotonin and decrease the stress hormone cortisol. Complex carbohydrates contain melatonin, a hormone responsible for feeling sleepy. A whole-grain snack is a healthy choice before going to bed. (Nisar, M. et al., 2019) Some research shows that dark chocolate is rich in magnesium and can help promote deep sleep. However, it also contains caffeine, which can inhibit sleep. If dark chocolate is a favorite, make sure to eat it early enough in the evening.

Alternative Nighttime Routine

Some people eat out of boredom at night. To curb this, individuals in this category should change their routines. Here are a few tips to help adjust nighttime habits.

Healthy After-Dinner Activities

  • Go for a quick walk after dinner. 10 to 20 minutes can help, as physical activity signals the shift from dinner to other evening activities.
  • It also gives the body a chance to feel the fullness sensation.
  • Hobbies and other light meditative activities can help take the mind off eating.

Watch TV Mindfully

  • Many individuals eat more at night because snacking can go on and on in front of the television.
  • Use smart and healthy snacking strategies like portion control.
  • Remember to take a drink of water in between snacking.
  • Stay active – simple chores or activities while watching TV can help avoid overeating.

Rest and Sleep

  • Not getting enough sleep has been linked with increased appetite. (Hibi, M. et al., 2017)
  • Engage in activities to encourage rest.
  • Meditation can help calm down the mind and body.
  • Consider going to bed earlier.

Using an integrated approach, Dr. Jimenez’s Functional Medicine Team aims to restore health and function to the body through Nutrition and Wellness, Functional Medicine, Acupuncture, Electro-Acupuncture, and Sports Medicine protocols. We focus on what works for the individual through researched methods and total wellness programs.


Eating Right to Feel Better


References

Kohanmoo, A., Faghih, S., & Akhlaghi, M. (2020). Effect of short- and long-term protein consumption on appetite and appetite-regulating gastrointestinal hormones, a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Physiology & behavior, 226, 113123. doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2020.113123

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central. (2018). Peppers, sweet, red, raw. Retrieved from fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170108/nutrients

Nisar, M., Mohammad, R. M., Arshad, A., Hashmi, I., Yousuf, S. M., & Baig, S. (2019). Influence of Dietary Intake on Sleeping Patterns of Medical Students. Cureus, 11(2), e4106. doi.org/10.7759/cureus.4106

Hibi, M., Kubota, C., Mizuno, T., Aritake, S., Mitsui, Y., Katashima, M., & Uchida, S. (2017). Effect of shortened sleep on energy expenditure, core body temperature, and appetite: a human randomised crossover trial. Scientific reports, 7, 39640. doi.org/10.1038/srep39640

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The information herein on "Satisfying Nighttime Snacks: Improving Nutritional Value" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional or licensed physician and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.

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Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN*, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*

email: coach@elpasofunctionalmedicine.com

Licensed as a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) in Texas & New Mexico*
Texas DC License # TX5807, New Mexico DC License # NM-DC2182

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, RN* CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
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