Late Night Snacking: Hazardous to Your Health

You may have already suspected this, but science has proven it true: Your internal clock makes you crave sweet, starchy, and salty snacks late in the evening. Researchers suggest that this could have been a survival tactic for our ancestors — eating late at night would help them to store more calories to protect them during times when food was scarce.

But in modern times with plentiful food, those cravings for late-night snacks could be sabotaging your goals for weight loss and health. And while our ancestors may have needed to store fat to survive, most of us today aren’t interested in additional fat storage. Research suggests that eating a lot before bed — especially high-calorie foods and drinks like ice cream, chips, and soda — is linked to being overweight or obese.

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As if weight weren’t enough of a reason to cut back on unhealthy late-night snacking, it’s also been linked to a number of other health problems. Your ice cream or chips while watching television could cause high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. A new study even suggests that men who eat late at night — and who may still feel full in the morning and skip breakfast — may be at higher risk for coronary heart disease.

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If you’re getting off work late at night and haven’t eaten dinner yet, this doesn’t mean that you should skip a meal simply to avoid eating late at night. But in any case, it’s important to gauge your own hunger before reaching for chips, pizza, or ice cream out of boredom. If you need to eat dinner, choose healthy foods and sensible portions. And if you absolutely must snack, try a cup of Greek yogurt, some multi-grain crackers with cheese or hummus, or a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk.

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