What to Eat Just Before Bedtime to Lose Weight

Strawberry dessert
A good snack before bed might include a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt and strawberries. (Image: SusanadelCampoPhoto/RooM/Getty Images)

If you're trying to lose weight but wake up in the middle of the night ravenous, you may not be eating enough. Have a little snack before bed to keep hunger under control, stop the late-night fridge raid and help you get a good night's sleep. If you find that your late-night snack still isn't helping, consult a registered dietitian who can review your diet and make suggestions, helping you stay satisfied all day and night, while still losing weight.

About Weight Loss

There are many ways to lose weight, but the one commonality is calories. To lose weight, you need to create a negative calorie balance so your body is burning more than you're eating. If your snack at night increases your calorie intake so you're no longer in a deficit, you won't lose. When it comes to weight loss, it's important to know how much you have to cut back so you can still fit in your bedtime snack.

Weight-loss calorie needs vary depending on age, current weight, height and activity level. An online calorie estimator can help you determine your baseline needs. Knowing that 1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, subtract 500 calories from your baseline needs to find the amount of calories you should eat to lose 1 pound per week. For example, if your baseline needs are 2,300 calories a day, you should cut back to 1,800 calories each day to lose weight.

Bedtime Snack to Lose Weight

While there's nothing wrong with eating a snack before bed, there's a lot of concern about late-night snacking because it often leads to unhealthy choices and excess calorie intake. However, if it's planned and part of your weight-loss diet, eating a snack before bed may help you lose weight by preventing uncontrolled late-night snacking or overeating at breakfast.

A good before-bed snack should have 200 calories or less, and contain a mix of fiber and protein. Fiber and protein both work to control hunger. Fiber slows digestion so it helps keep you feeling full longer. It's not quite understood how protein helps control hunger, but it affects hormones that regulate hunger, according to 2005 article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Good Snack Options

A good snack before bed might include a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt topped with 4 chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup of halved strawberries -- totaling 180 calories, 18 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. One tablespoon of peanut butter with five whole-grain crackers also makes a good nighttime snack, with 195 calories, 6 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber. If you like to dip, try 1 cup of carrot sticks with 1/4 cup of hummus, which has 150 calories, 6 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. There's also nothing wrong with eating breakfast foods as snacks, such as one hard-boiled egg with a slice of toast, which has 160 calories, 10 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, or 3/4 cup of whole-grain cereal with 1 cup of nonfat milk, for 180 calories, 11 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber.

Bedtime Snack, Sleep and Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss, getting enough sleep is an important part of your overall plan. A poor night's sleep disrupts hormones that control appetite, which means not getting enough may make you extra hungry. And how much you eat, or don't eat, before bed may affect your sleep.

An over-stuffed belly makes it harder to get a good night's rest, so you shouldn't eat a large meal or snack two to three hours before bed. However, going to bed hungry may also disrupt your sleep, and having that small 200-calorie snack may just do the trick to help tide you over for a good night's sleep. Avoid any stimulants such as coffee, cola or tea close to bedtime. Chocolate also disrupts sleep and should be avoided before you hit the hay.

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