As the sun goes down and your day wraps up, the temptation to reward yourself for a busy and productive day with a sugary treat can be hard to resist. But your body doesn't need the extra sugar, as too much of it is tied to an increase in obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions. While you can indulge in a sweet treat occasionally, take steps to curb those regular late-night sugar cravings.
Why Cravings Occur
Food cravings don’t indicate a nutritional deficiency, according to registered dietitian Joy Bauer on the Today Health website; rather, they come from learned behaviors, such as always eating a bowl of ice cream after dinner as a child; hormonal fluctuations; or sensory stimulation -- like when you see a commercial for a candy bar while watching television before bed. Cravings can be so tempting at night because it’s often the first time you get to relax after a long day, and feelings of tiredness or emotion make it harder to say no to temptation.
Eat Later, Eat Smart
If you get late-night sugar cravings, you might simply still be hungry. Push your dinner back by one hour, leaving you less time to snack before you go to bed. Bauer also recommends eating at regular intervals throughout the day -- she suggests every five hours -- as this keeps your blood sugar steady and stops you from binging late at night.
Purge the Pantry
If you know you have a problem with indulging in cookies, candy or other sweet treats after the sun goes down, do yourself a favor and rid your kitchen of these temptations. If there's nothing on hand, there's nothing for you to binge on. When you're already in your pajamas and slippers, you're less likely to head out to the store for dessert.
Plan Your Bedtime Snack
Trying to curb late-night sugar cravings doesn’t mean you have to skip dessert daily -- you just need to control your portions and work them into your daily caloric allowance. For example, if chocolate is your late-night downfall, don’t keep a gallon of chocolate ice cream in your freezer. You can, however, keep individually wrapped dark chocolate squares in the pantry and plan to allow yourself one a night. One ounce of dark chocolate has 164 calories and 10 grams of sugar, while a cup of chocolate ice cream contains 285 calories and 33 grams of sugar.
Keep Yourself Busy
As the day winds down, you might find yourself bored -- and then you start thinking about sugary treats, particularly if you’re spurred on by TV commercials. Turn off the TV and do something that will keep your mind occupied and off food. Read a book in a bubble bath, call your mother to catch up or finish the day with a series of crunches and jumping jacks. You might find that your cravings disappear when your mind stays occupied.
- Today Health: 6 Strategies to Crush Late-Night Cravings
- The Huffington Post: 20 Tips to Curb Sugar Cravings and Kick the Addiction
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Chocolate, Dark, 60-69% Cacao Solids
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Ice Cream, Chocolate
- Harvard School of Public Health: Public Health Takes Aim at Sugar and Salt