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Thursday, April 19, 2012
By Karen Kwan
Always get a case of the munchies late at night that sends you into the kitchen to grab a snack from the fridge or cupboards? Turns out these late-night snacks aren’t necessarily bad for you. “Some experts used to recommend not eating after 7PM, but our guidelines are to eat every three to five hours,” says registered dietitian Michelle Saraiva of GetRealGurls Nutrition. So if you’re having dinner around 6 or 7PM, a snack at about 10PM is fine. She does, however, recommend having your snack about an hour before you go to bed, so that your body has a chance to digest it and use up the calories.
This doesn’t mean, though, that you have a free pass to have that bowl of sugary cereal you love to munch on while watching Revenge. A healthy late-night snack should be 200 calories or less and you want something that’ll provide you with nutrients and minerals. Plus, “your best choices of a balanced snack at night should contain carbs and protein — a little more carbs than protein since protein may keep you from falling asleep,” says Saraiva. As for how much carbs and protein per se, it depends on many factors (If you just worked out after dinner, you need more protein, for example) but as a general rule of thumb, it should contain 15 to 30 grams of carbs and about 15 grams of protein. Some examples of healthy snacks you can have:
• half a sandwich containing lean protein
• high-fibre cereal with some milk
• vegetables and hummus
• a fruit and yogurt smoothie
• an apple with peanut butter
Bad late-night snack choices? As you probably know, anything high in fat and/or sugar is not good for you. Cookies, chips, ice cream — all of these will not only take longer to digest, they’ll cause a spike in your blood sugar and may lead to weight gain. And use your common sense and avoid caffeine, which may keep you awake. This means coffee, tea and chocolate are off limits.
Also, before you have your late-night snack, have a glass of water and wait 10 minutes or so. “If you still have a craving, have a balanced snack,” says Saraiva. She suggests trying a glass of water first because our bodies have difficulty telling the difference between hunger and thirst.
If you are find you’re craving your snack every night, though, be sure to monitor your feelings of hunger. “Some people, it’s just a habit to eat at night,” says Saraiva. “And for other people, their late-night cravings are a sign that they haven’t eaten enough in the day. Perhaps they’ve skipped breakfast, or they’ve eaten lunch on the run.” In this case, you’ll want to readjust your daytime eating habits so that your body is better fueled throughout the day, making that craving for a late-night snack not as strong.