Surprising foods it’s okay to indulge in

Many people enjoy an evening snack, and that’s fine—as long as you stick mostly to healthful foods and reasonable portions. Yet it is all too easy to overindulge if your willpower weakens as the evening wears on or if you’re too distracted to notice how much you’re nibbling. This is “night eating syndrome.” As I have learned in treating nearly 15,000 patients, it’s quite common, especially among people who stay up late (past 10 pm). Fortunately, changing this pattern does not require depriving yourself of an evening snack.
Here’s how…

Don’t mistake sleepiness for hunger. A few hours after dinner, hormonal shifts indicate that there is no more need for food as you prepare for sleep. If instead of going to bed, you stay up to read or to pay bills, you may feel an increased urge to eat. This is not true hunger, because you’ve probably already eaten enough for the day—but nonetheless it can spark a snack attack.

Identify snacking patterns. Evening activities lend themselves to mindless or mood-triggered eating. You may munch as you watch TV or balance your checkbook, scarcely noticing as the food disappears. Or perhaps you are bored or anxious about the day’s events, so you eat to fill the void or forget your troubles.

Reality check: For a week, keep a journal of what and how much you eat at night…and what you’re doing and how you’re feeling as you snack. Thereafter, to overcome bad habits, plan your snack schedule in advance, listing healthful foods and what time you will eat them.

Make a “no-shopping” list. Do you go out at night to buy the foods you crave? Probably not. Most people keep their kitchens stocked with favorite snacks, yet this creates constant temptation. It’s easier to resist just once—when you’re at the grocery store.

How: On your shopping list, include a separate section for foods you won’t buy.

Eat dinner—again. Sometimes a small treat stimulates rather than satisfies the appetite, so a morsel only leads to frustration. Instead of a calorie-dense smidgen of fudge or a sliver of cheese, have a satisfying mini-meal.

Consider: An egg-white omelet with fat-free cheese (try Borden Fat-Free American Singles, 30 calories)…two low-fat hot dogs (such as Hebrew National 97% Fat Free Beef Franks, 45 calories each) on a bed of sauerkraut (skip the buns)…or shrimp cocktail with a green salad.

Indulge yourself—100 calories’ worth. Go ahead and have a sweet nighttime treat or favorite salty snack—but control the portion. Products that come in 100-calorie single-serving sizes include pudding (Jell-O Fat-Free Chocolate Vanilla Swirl), frozen treats (Breyers Pure Fruit strawberry bar), popcorn (Pop Secret, Orville Redenbacher) and crackers (Goldfish, Wheat Thins). Sure, you get more food for your buck when you buy in bulk—but if single-serving packages help you slim down and safeguard your health, the extra money is well spent.