Oh, those late-night cravings! One minute you’re lying on the couch watching your favorite reality TV show, and the next you’re raiding the pantry like a scavenging animal. Hunger pangs in the evening are common, so it's important to be aware of what you should and should not be eating at night.
Generally speaking, no single food choice can sabotage a healthy lifestyle. However, when it comes to nighttime snacking, your choices may affect your sleep cycle or digestive system, leaving you feeling restless, bloated and tired the next morning.
Since sleep deprivation has been linked to weight gain, Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions, it's important to make good sleep a priority. If you're tossing and turning all night or often wake up in the morning feeling bloated, consider avoiding the following foods and drinks before hitting the hay.
1. Caffeinated beverages
Sure, a little kick of caffeine in the morning helps jump start your day. Some people also count on a cup o' joe in the afternoon to stave off that sluggish, post-lunch feeling. But downing coffee, energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages too late in the day can be problematic.
Some studies have found that consuming any caffeine-containing food or beverage up to six hours prior to bedtime can reduce total sleep time by an entire hour. So whether you prefer a caffeine kick from espresso, tea, soda or chocolate, it's best to avoid these items past 3 p.m. to ensure a good night’s sleep.
2. Sugary snacks
Does your sweet tooth start howling in the midnight hour? Sugar-laden snacks such as ice cream, cookies and pastries can significantly increase your daily calorie intake. This is particularly important if you have already met your requirements for the day. A single serving of ice cream can add up to 300 calories to your daily intake. That’s almost a full meal!
If you absolutely must have something sweet, choose options such as sugar-free hard candies, freeze-dried fruit or frozen bananas.
3. Super salty foods
Eating foods with excess amounts of salt causes water retention, leaving you feeling bloated and uncomfortable. Rather than munching your way through a bag of chips or pretzels, opt for freshly popped popcorn flavored with your favorite salt-free seasoning blend.
4. Alcoholic beverages
Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good evening habit. In addition to adding excess calories, alcohol may hinder your REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is essential to a good night’s rest, and disruptions to your REM sleep can cause drowsiness and decreased concentration.
If you're having a cocktail or wine with dinner, be sure it's at least two hours prior to bedtime to ensure healthy rest.
This article was contributed by Amanda Musin, registered dietitian nutritionist with The Little Clinic (inside select Kroger locations). For more information about dietitian services, visit www.thelittleclinic.com/dietitians.