Story last updated at 6:11 PM on Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Curb Late-Night Snacking

By Tresa Erickson

It's 10:30 at night, and your stomach is growling something fierce. You can't stand it any longer. You've got to get something to eat. You go into the kitchen, scrounge through the cabinets and grab a bag of potato chips. You head back to the living room, plop down on the couch and turn on the TV. Before long, you fall asleep and wake up several hours later with potato chip crumbs all over you. Oh, no. You did it again. You fell prey to the late-night munchies, and if you keep this up, your waistline is going to expand rapidly.


Photographer: McKibben Jackinsky, Homer News

Marsha Rouggly greeted more than 1000 visitors to the 26th annual Rotary Health Fair with information on Homer Farmer's Market and the Alaska Grown Program.

Eating late at night does not pile on the pounds unless you consume more calories than you burn off. As long as you keep your calorie intake in line with your calorie expenditure, you can have an occasional late-night snack. You should choose something healthy, however, like low-fat crackers and cheese or an apple or banana.

If you snack late at night frequently, you may want to take steps to curb the habit, especially if you are gaining weight. There are several ways to go about this. First, you need to sit down and determine why you eat late at night. Is it because you are hungry? Is it because you are bored? Is it because you lack structure?

If you eat late at night because you are hungry, the trick to curbing the habit is to eat more throughout the day. If you only eat breakfast and a light dinner, chances are you will be hungry when 10 o'clock rolls around, whereas if you eat several small meals throughout the day, you will feel full and be less likely to raid the kitchen cabinets.

If you eat late at night because you are bored, you want to find something to keep your hands busy and your mind off food. You can work out, clean house, read a book, pursue a hobby, talk on the phone or watch TV. Be careful with the latter. Some people have a habit of eating while watching TV. If you are prone to this, you will either want to break the habit or find something else to do besides watching TV.

You also want to get rid of the junk food in your kitchen. This will ensure you don't consume high-calorie foods late at night. You may just discover that you don't eat as much if you don't have a lot of tempting treats around. Imagine going to the cabinet and finding nothing good to eat. You would probably shut the door and find something else to do.

If you eat late at night because you lack structure, you may want to set some boundaries for yourself and make some rules regarding late-night snacking. Perhaps you could allow yourself one healthy snack between the hours of 6 and 8 p.m. and nothing after that. For some people, having rules and forcing themselves to stick to them works better than anything else when it comes to curbing late-night snacking.

Occasional healthy late-night snacks are fine; frequent high-calorie late-night snacks are not. Do your best to curb your need to snack late at night, but don't expect it to happen overnight. Give yourself some leeway and be prepared to succumb to temptation now and then.