For many of us, snacking is as much a national pastime as the game of baseball!

A  special report in the latest Health & Nutrition Newsletter published by Tufts University indicates that, in recent years, snacking in the American diet “has grown to constitute a full eating event or fourth meal, averaging about 580 calories a day”.

We know that snacks often consist of processed foods, heaped with sugar and salt.  These are the types of foods that are linked to obesity, inflammation and increased risk of heart disease particularly when eaten late in the day.

Despite what we know, we “snack on” as day turns to dark, sometimes because we’re bored,  when we’re lonely, when stress has taken its toll, or maybe because we haven’t eaten enough during the day.

If “snack attacks” are derailing your efforts to nurture healthier eating habits and, instead, adding extra pounds, here are 5 tips that should help:

  • Eat regular meals.  Skipping and/or skimping on meals often leads to snacking later in the day.  I’ve emphasized before my belief that eating breakfast lays the foundation for healthier eating throughout the day.  Setting aside time for meals and spreading out your food intake so you’re properly “fueled” will help you be less hungry at night.  This doesn’t mean you have to always eat three meals at the exact same time.  You might do best with two meals and some healthy snacks in between.  Find what works best for you so you’re not mindlessly emptying that bag of chips at bedtime.
  • Close the kitchen. Yes, seriously.  Pick a time, say 8 pm, and just pretend the kitchen, like your favorite restaurant, has closed for the day.  If you’ve eaten adequately during the day, you should have no problem not having any more food for 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.  Chances are, you’ll get a better night’s rest as well.
  • Pay special attention to the quality of the food you are consuming during the day. Flour and sugar can be as addictive in your brain as cocaine.  Try to avoid eating unhealthy processed foods. Instead, eating high quality nutrient dense foods and adequate protein will go a long way in shutting down the need to binge at night time.
  • If you  find high sugar, high fat junk food irresistible at night, remove it from your house. If you must have some of the foods that tempt you in your house, keep them out of sight.  Store them in the basement, way in the back of cupboards or in the back of the refrigerator.  The only foods out on your counters should be healthy foods.  Goodbye cookie jar.  Hello fruit bowl!
  • Absolutely can’t resist your craving? Whatever it is, don’t eat from the package.  Portion out the food into a dish or bowl and be in control of your serving size.

As the saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”.  Finding a way to end nighttime snacking is possible, you just need to choose what works best for you and then make that choice a habit.  It won’t be easy at first.  But I guarantee the results will be worth it!