There’s plenty of advice out there about what time of day you should and shouldn’t be eating your meals, especially when it comes to night-time snacks.
Given society’s current obsession with health and exercise, it’s no surprise there are all sorts of articles and advice columns on the internet with claims about everything from fasting to snacking and extreme eating plans.
One of the most commonly recurring claims is that it’s a bad idea to eat at night, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. However, just how much truth is there to that claim?
Nutritionist and sport scientist Tom Fitzgerald has weighed in on the much-debated topic and says its a myth you should only be eating during the day.
“Overall energy intake will determine weight gain or loss — time of food consumption plays no factor,” he told Starts at 60. “If you ate all the food in the morning or evening, it wouldn’t make a difference (assuming same intake).”
However, Toms says food consumed at night can often tip your allocated energy intake over the top.
“The same goes for snacks in the evening. Someone might stick to their 2000-calorie plan throughout the day and then consume an extra treat at night, which tips them over.”
He adds that most of the time people aren’t actually hungry or need to eat, “they simply have food nearby that can be consumed and is easily accessible”.
The easiest way to avoid after-dinner snacking is to make sure you’ve filled up on a tasty and nutritious meal. Tom recommends adding sufficient protein and increasing your veggie intake at dinner.
“Sufficient protein and increasing vegetable intake at dinner is to the best way to promote satiety post-dinner,” he says.
And while we’re told to eat more in the morning, Tom reckons eating less at breakfast is better, adding: “Breakfast doesn’t make much of an impact on dinner, in fact eating less at breakfast means people have more room in their energy budget to consume at dinner.”
If you’re feeling a little peckish before bed, Melbourne-based nutritionist Melissa Smith suggests munching on a few almonds and half a banana.
The almonds and banana will provide your body with tryptophan (the body uses tryptophan to help make serotonin, which is thought to produce healthy sleep) and carbohydrates, which she says “help produce melatonin, and they also contain magnesium to help you feel relaxed and ready to sleep”.