It's time to lay waste to the myth that eating at night causes you to gain more weight than eating during the day. Whether you eat in the morning, at night or anywhere in between, a calorie is still a calorie, says Katie Clark, registered dietitian and an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, in "7 Diet Myths Exposed" on ABC News. That said, there are reasons to keep your nighttime nibbles to a minimum when you can.
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One of the biggest reasons to eat light when you eat at night is that late-night eating means your stomach is still working when you're ready for bed, making it harder for you to fall asleep. Eating close to bedtime can increase your risk of nighttime heartburn and make it harder for you to find a comfortable sleeping position, both of which can contribute to insomnia. To minimize the risk of digestive problems keeping you up, Clark recommends opting for a light meal, like broccoli, chicken and rice, instead of heavier fare.
If you're eating late at night because you're waiting too long between meals, you could be consuming more calories than you need, says Jo Ann Hattner, a registered dietitian and a nutrition consultant in "Real Simple" magazine. Hattner says that people who eat late at night tend to overeat because they've waited so long between meals that they feel like they're starving. Making sure that you eat a healthy meal or snack at least every five hours can help prevent nighttime overeating.
Another hazard of late-night eating is what Columbia University's Health Services department calls "mindless snacking." If you're relaxing in front of the television, surfing online or working on a project -- things that people tend to do later in the evening -- it's easy to snack without realizing how much you're actually consuming.
Late-night snacking can be a hard habit to break, but you can readjust your snack cycle by shifting more of your daily calories to the first part of your day. You can gradually erase late-night munchies by eating breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
Late-night eating may increase your risk for type 2 diabetes if you're regularly eating big meals at night after long stretches of not eating, according to Columbia University Health Services. If you know you're prone to late-night snacking, stock up on healthy, easy-to-prepare snacks, like fruit and vegetables or low-fat cheese, and limit the number of high-calorie convenience foods in your pantry to resist temptation.