It's all too often that my clients tell me they are “good” all day and then when they're settled in for the evening in front of the TV, they just couldn’t hold it together any longer! Sundown snackers will grab anything that can’t run away and call it a snack -- a handful of cookies, a sleeve of crackers, six ‘portion controlled’ packs of chips -- nothing is safe! And of course the calories mount up. Most of us do this because the evening is the only part of the day when we can really relax. The rushing around is behind us and we feel, if only subconsciously, that we deserve a reward. Also, while we may be distracted all day by overlapping demands, the evening is finally a time to call our own. Whew! Another frantic day done. Time to unwind. Time to comfort ourselves. Time to, well, eat!
Of course, excess calories are the biggest negative to evening snacking, but there are others. Late-night eating can cause you to sleep poorly and wake up tired and with a food hangover to boot. Here are some of my solutions to this common dilemma:
- The Turkey Solution. I discovered this trick myself to curb my own night time munchies. Keep three or four quarter-pound bags of sliced turkey (from the deli) in the fridge. Choose low-sodium turkey and avoid honey-roasted, smoked or spiced turkey. Each of these ¼ pound bags will have only about 150 calories. If you’re really, truly hungry, the turkey will satisfy you (and give you a tryptophan boost, which will help you sleep). But if you’re just munching, after a few mouthfuls of turkey, you’ll call it quits. If you're a vegetarian, swap turkey for 6-7 ounces of Greek yogurt or single-serve unsweetened applesauce that's been frozen.
"The kitchen is closed." I always tell my clients (and remind myself!) that once dinner is over, the kitchen is closed! No wandering in just to peek in the fridge during a commercial break. No using the excuse of a few dishes to put in the dishwasher. Once you've eaten dinner, you're finished in the kitchen.
Find a distraction. Substituting a good habit for a bad one is the single best way to change your behavior. Instead of eating, find some activity to fill your evenings and distract you from the temptations of the fridge. You could try knitting, organize a closet or a room in your house, make a photo album, read, catch up on social media or pick up the phone and call an old friend.
- Spa night. Instead of sinking onto the sofa, do some personal prep work. Take a shower or a linger bath, give yourself a mani/pedi, use teeth whitening strips. Most of these personal hygiene activities will help distract you from the temptation to simply veg out and eat. Moreover, you'll just feel better about yourself as you take control of your time and coddle yourself a bit.
A warm drink is your late-night friend. Try an herbal tea, it will give your mouth something to do without any calories. Or try a low-cal cocao: mix 1 teaspoon of cocoa mix in warm skim milk. It's only about 40 calories and is filling and calming.
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