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When should I eat?

Does it matter what time of day you eat? It depends on who you ask. While most nutrition professionals would agree that if “calories in” exceed “calories out” you will gain weight regardless of the time of day the calories are consumed, new research suggests that time of day may actually play a role. In a prospective 20 week study published in the International Journal of Obesity, it was found that those who ate their largest meal later in the day lost less weight than those who ate earlier. It appears that the body’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wakefulness cycle) may impact the way the body handles calories consumed later in the day. Add to this that many of us experience cravings for sweet, starchy and salty foods in the evenings, and this can all combine to result in increased energy storage and weight gain.

What you eat is still more important than when you eat, but time may play a role. Regardless of the reason, it is a good idea to control cravings in the evening when consumption of unnecessary calories is more likely. Here are a few tips to curb your late-night munchies:

Be aware of mindless eating. If you are stressed or bored, and craving chips or ice cream, ask yourself whether you are truly hungry or whether there is something else at play. A great way to keep your body and mind preoccupied is to take a walk around your neighbourhood, or sign up for evening yoga classes or a sports team.
Pick a time to stop eating and set a plan for what you will eat if you do get hungry (for example, if you get hungry for something salty – crackers and hummus; if it’s something sweet – yogurt and fruit).
Avoid having unhealthy snacks on-hand. If you don’t have them, you can’t eat them!
Brush your teeth or chew a piece of minty gum after dinner – the minty taste of toothpaste and gum can trick the brain into thinking you’ve eaten something sweet, helping to satisfy the craving for sweets often experienced after a meal.
Set an earlier bedtime. Research has shown that those who are sleep deprived and/or stay up really late tend to eat more calories and unhealthy snacks.