For many, the end of the year is all about cozying up indoors, being with family and making it through the winter. But there can be parts of the holiday season that, unmoderated, can actually be bad for your health.
Take late-night snacking, for instance. A new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital shows that eating late at night actually increases hunger, decreases calories burned and changes fat tissue. Combined, this may increase obesity risks, and that can lead to extra expenses like health complications and higher life insurance rates.
Unfortunately, changing your eating habits is much easier said than done. But if late-night snacking isn’t something you want in your life, these steps can help.
1. Talk to your doctor
If you, like nearly half of Americans, are actively trying to lose weight and want to cut out late-night snacking, the first step is to talk to your doctor about your concerns. That’s especially important if you have existing health conditions, like diabetes, that may impact your weight loss strategies. Since your doctor knows your health history, they are best positioned to help you find a starting place to change your habits.
If you’ve had negative experiences talking to doctors about your weight or eating habits in the past, it’s worth voicing those concerns at the beginning of the appointment. After all, these topics can be difficult to talk about, and everyone deserves to be heard and respected.
Need help? Contact the National Eating Disorders Association if you’re having trouble and want to talk to someone: (800) 931-2237.
2. Plan for a high-protein, high-fiber dinner
Both protein and fiber can help you feel fuller for longer. So, by purposefully eating dinners that have higher protein and fiber contents, you can feel satiated (and less likely to snack) during those crucial late-night hours. It may take some experimentation to get your balance and preferences right.
If you live with your family, you may want to run your meal plan ideas by them to make sure the pickiest eaters have something to look forward to. And, of course, there are countless food blogs and sites out there, many of which specialize in eating for weight loss. Searching for terms like "healthy weight-loss meal plan" as well as modifiers, like "winter" or "cheap" can help you find more specific recommendations.
3. Listen to your hunger cues
Practicing mindful eating — using both physical and emotional senses to experience and enjoy the food choices you make — have been proven to help reduce overall food intake, change eating habits and increase awareness of internal cues to eat.
Listening to those hunger cues can be a great way to curb late-night snacking. An urge to eat doesn’t always creep up when you’re hungry; it can be prompted by emotions, like stress, or even boredom and sleepiness. So, when reaching for that cookie, stop and ask yourself, "Am I actually hungry, or is something else going on?"
Another thing to consider here is that hunger and thirst cues can often be confused, which can lead to overeating. In that case, drinking a glass of water or tea when you feel hungry — especially at unusual times — can help you figure out if you’re actually hungry or just need to hydrate.
4. Snack wisely
Snacking between meals can help regulate your appetite, but it’s important to be intentional about it. For example, snacking in front of the TV — where you’re distracted and not paying attention to hunger cues — can easily turn into overeating.
Another way to get more out of your snacks is to stock up on healthy options. Just as with meals, high-protein, high-fiber and whole-grain foods are going to be helpful in building a satiating snack. Consider options like nuts, yogurt, prunes and popcorn. Healthier snack options may be pricier than your go-to junk food, especially now, as inflation continues to soar. But it’s important to remember that, ultimately, keeping yourself healthy can help save you money long term.