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  • Writer's pictureWellness Workdays

Eat Right if it’s at Night

snacks in fridge

One weight loss tip people have cited for years is to stop eating later in the evening, but is there any scientific support to back the claim? One systematic review looked at all the past and present research on the topic.

Previous research found that eating large, mixed food meals (such as pasta with meatballs and sauce, or chicken and rice with veggies) at night can be detrimental, especially where weight loss is concerned. People reported feeling less satiated with the same amount of food at night, leading to a greater calorie intake than earlier in the day. Also, a few studies have inferred a link between obesity, dyslipidemia and impaired glucose tolerance with people who consumed most of their calories at night. This research likely created the well-known idea of not eating late at night for weight loss; however, new research looks deeper into this.

While studies showing that eating large amounts late at night may increase susceptibility to obesity and other cardiometabolic diseases may still be true, new evidence is building against the need to completely avoid any late-night snacking. These studies found that small, nutrient dense, low-energy foods that were less than 200 calories and stuck to one macronutrient (composed primarily of protein, fat or carbohydrates) didn’t have the same effect. In fact eating a small, healthy, protein-rich snack late in the evening was tied to increased metabolism, satiety and muscle protein synthesis. Some examples of healthy snacks include ¼ cup of nuts, sliced apples with peanut butter, raw vegetables dipped in hummus, kale chips and shelled edamame. The addition of exercise three times a week for sedentary individuals seemed to reduce the adverse affects of nighttime eating on cardiovascular health.

Bottom Line: One of the biggest reasons eating at night can be problematic is that people tend to overeat calorie-dense foods. If you do want an evening snack, try to keep it to low calorie, nutrient-dense foods and portion it out.

Written by: Kyla Greenwell, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

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