17 May Ask Jenny: How Do I Stop Overeating at Night?
This question actually came to me via one of my Comprehensive Wellness Analysis patients at Russak Dermatology in NYC. She was incredibly successful at sticking to her nutrition plan during the day. But she had a habit of overeating at night, which sabotaged her progress.
My advice for how to avoid overeating at night
1. Eat enough during the day
Evening hunger and overeating can often be due to not eating enough during the day, resulting in low blood sugar. This will mean that your body will want to restore the balance as quickly and as easily as possible, making you crave high carb, high sugar and high fat food. To stop overeating at night, try upping your portion sizes during the day. Do this with the hierarchy of first adding more veggies, then more protein, then more fat, then more low GI carbs.
2. Have a mini-meal in the afternoon to prevent overeating later
I recommend a minimum of 3 hours and a maximum of 4-5 hours between meals and snacks. This gives enough time for effective digestion. It also allows our bodies to utilize any carbohydrates within the meal so we switch over to fat burning mode. But it’s not so much time that our blood sugar drops too low, which results in high cortisol (our stress hormone) and cravings for high carb foods (aka getting ‘hangry’). Quite often I find my clients going 7-8 hours between lunch and dinner, making them understandably ravenous at dinner time!
To prevent overeating at dinner, add in a healthy snack (or as I prefer to call it a ‘mini meal’ since snacking has connotations of chips, cookies, candy, etc). Great options are hummus and veggie sticks, an apple and nut butter, a small smoothie, some jerky, or a real protein bar such as those from Epic, Bulletproof or Primal Kitchen Foods.
3. Eat fibre-based appetizers to reduce appetite at night
I often do this whilst I am cooking or before a meal. Not only does it help up nutrient and fibre intake, but it also helps control my portion sizes during the meal too. Cut up some carrots, celery, peppers, jicama, tomatoes, etc, and have these on hand to snack on. I also love to add some Flackers, a low-calorie flaxseed cracker that tastes great and helps to fill you up. Having a big glass of water with these appetizers will help the fibre expand in the stomach, reducing appetite and benefiting your digestion. A light vegetable-based soup will also have the same effect, and can help you from overeating when it comes to the main course of your evening meal.
4. Have a Daily Green Veggie Smoothie
This has been one of my tools for my weight loss and detox clients for years. It is something I implement if I find I am nowhere near my PRIME Principle of 8-9 servings of veggies and low GI fruit a day. Simply blend together 2 handfuls of spinach or kale, 1/2 zucchini, a little avocado, 1/2 peeled lemon or lime and 1/2 an apple if you need some sweetness, with 2 cups of chilled water. This will boost your nutrient and fibre intake for the day. It also helps balance hunger hormones and curb your appetite.
5. Serve dinner in the kitchen, then take your plate to the table
This is one of those practical solutions that is so easy, but that we never think of! If food is in front of us, we are wired to eat—it’s a biological response for survival. Serving yourself in the kitchen with one plate of food and then take that to your dinner table. You will automatically reduce the amount that you are eating, remove temptation, and make it easier to monitor portion sizes. This is a great trick to stop overeating at night or for any big meal.
6. Wait at least 20 minutes before having more
It can take at least 20 minutes for the brain to register that you have eaten, so don’t rush back to the kitchen for seconds! We can also disrupt the satiety signals to the brain if we do not chew our food properly, or if we are distracted whilst eating. So, practice eating only whilst sitting down (ideally not at your desk), not using your phone whilst eating, and putting your knife and fork down between bites.
I’m a Holistic Nutritionist working in Boston, New York and London, and every week I answer one of your most pressing questions on gut health, weight loss, hormone balance, better sleep and more! Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org to have them answered on the site.