It’s a common misconception that eating late causes weight gain. In truth, it doesn’t matter when you eat. Whether you gain, lose or maintain your weight comes down to how many calories you eat and burn each day.
Eating the wrong kinds of foods later in the day makes it easier to pack on unwanted pounds, however. Sit down to a dinner full of refined carbohydrates and you’ll backload your day with a lot of calories that won’t get burned because you are less active at night and your metabolism slows down.
Instead, eat a dinner that combines lean protein and non-starchy vegetables and not only will you feel full longer on fewer calories, you’ll kick up your metabolism and burn off more of your meal.
Here are more ways to go lighter at night:
Fill up on fiber
Vegetables that are high in fiber, such as artichoke, broccoli, spinach and Brussels sprouts, are naturally filling and low in calories and carbohydrates. One cup of artichoke has a whopping 6g fiber. Roast them or add them to a salad to fill up on dinner without filling out! Instead of heavy carbs like bread, potatoes and white rice, have a double portion of veggies.
Plan your meals so most of your calories are consumed during hours when you are most physically active and able to burn them off. I tell my clients to “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”
Snack before dinner
Having a light snack containing some protein and fiber later in the afternoon helps curb hunger so you won’t feel ravenously hungry at dinner. Good snack choices include whole grain crackers and low-fat string cheese, a cup of Greek yogurt topped with crunchy high-fiber cereal, or slices of apple or pear with some peanut butter.
Eat at the dinner table
Eat in front of the television or around other distractions and it’s easy to lose sight of how much you are eating. Sit down to portioned meals and avoid snacking from open containers. Keep pre-portioned snacks at the ready.
Before reaching for a late-night snack grab a cold glass of water or sip a steaming cup of herbal tea. Wait a few minutes and see if you are still hungry. Chances are you were just dehydrated, which mimics the symptoms of hunger.
Go to bed
Stick to a reasonable bedtime and you won’t feel tempted to raid the pantry. Plus, studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause a hormonal imbalance that makes you hungrier during the daytime.
For delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes and tips on healthy eating, drinking and losing weight, check out my latest book, The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and the bestselling author of The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber as well as the F-Factor Diet. Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and register for new weekly newsletter by visiting her website Ffactor.com.