Is it bad to eat after 8pm?

Hello everyone! Happy New Year! 

I am sorry I have been distant during the past two weeks. I was home with my family for just a short time and since returning to Baltimore I have had a lot of dietetic internship work to complete. I hope that everyone had a great holiday season. If you follow me on instagram you saw my NYE post about my "new year's resolution" (picture with the sneakers from 12/31). I think setting huge unachievable resolutions are unproductive but I am working on some mindset changes starting now. That being said, lets get back to it. You don't need a crazy diet or an extreme new year's goal to get healthy... just shift your focus back to real food...

Today, we tackle part 2 (A) in my post series "what to eat and when to eat it". We will shed some light on one of the biggest nutrition questions:

QUESTION: Should I avoid eating after 8pm?


The evening hours can be tricky. It is likely that between the hours of 8am-5pm you are most active. Daily activities such as walking to and from your car, walking around at work, taking the stairs, and doing chores, keep your body active and your metabolism running. After dinner, activities tend to get more sedentary in nature. It is a time when most of us are winding down, relaxing, or studying. We often find ourselves in the same situation each night. Temptation stems from the routine of sitting around at home with food readily available. This scenario sets us up to indulge "just because" and develop less than ideal habits. So, to eat or not to eat, that is the question...

when it's not the best.....

1. Eating out of habit or routine. I am the first to admit that I am guilty of this. I will grab some chocolate to take to my room to study or pick at a trail mix while I pack up my lunch for the following day. I often do these things without considering if I am actually hungry. Other examples include mindlessly munching on chips or popcorn with your nightly television shows or having a big bowl of ice cream for dessert. 

I love me some chocolate...but I definitely don't need it every night...

If you feel like the nighttime is your downfall, it is important to break the cyclePick 3 days (they don’t need to be consecutive) to “break your habit”. This means fueling your habit with real food instead. Replace chips with carrots or unsalted nuts and ice cream with yogurt. You will probably find you don't want to eat quite as much. You will also be surprised how great it can feel to free yourself from the habit. 

FUN FACT: Food scientists have developed a bliss point, which is the perfect taste/sensation profile of a food. This prevents you from feeling satisfied. (Think Cheetos, Doritos, and other processed chips). These foods are literally tricking your brain into overeating!!

2. Eating out of boredom. If you find that you fix yourself a bowl of a never ending snack food, such as a bowl of m&m's or Chex Mix, there is a good chance you are eating out of boredom. Remember, in these situations your only cues to eat are external, there is not hunger fueling that. Try making a tea! It will keep you "busy".

tea my sis got me! perfect for the AM or the PM!

3. Eating “junk”. Self control is a muscle. This means you can actually exhaust your self control by the end of the day. You may have made a lot of good choices such as deciding to pack lunch and skipping the pastry at Starbucks. However, this can make it harder to make good, mindful choices at night. 

Being aware of your potential weakness is a good thing. Use it to your advantage rather than as an excuse. When I feel stressed or just unable to control impulse eating I remove myself from the kitchen. This usually involves taking my work up to my room with a tea. It doesn't mean I forbid myself from eating, but it forces me to put a bit more thought into my night snack since I can't just reach across the counter and grab the first thing I see.

4. Eating to excess. When things taste good it is harder to stop eating them. Food scientists have developed a bliss point, which is the perfect taste/sensation profile of a food. This prevents you from feeling satisfied. (Think Cheetos, Doritos, and other processed chips). These foods are literally tricking your brain into overeating!! The bliss point is what keeps you diving in for those chips even when your stomach is full. (real food, anyone?)

These are instances of night snacking gone wrong. If any of these situations sound like your typical evening, then a short night snack "detox" may be in order. Use some of my suggestions mentioned above and check out my snack post for some real food snack ideas you can use to wean yourself off any processed foods you reach for at night. Additionally, remove the processed food from your house! Why tempt yourself and why bring up feelings of deprivation?? Self control is a whole lot easier when trigger foods aren't around!

frozen berries + peanut butter --> no bliss point here, just pure satisfaction :) 

Keep in mind: If you are a someone who isn't hungry in the morning but often overeats at night, the two are likely connected. Try forgoing your night snack three days during the week and see if there is any impact on your morning hunger.


Next week I will address when and why eating after 8pm doesn't need to be such a bad thing! (hint: it involves real food).

Until next time...