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6 Ways to Curb Your Late-Night Cravings

Would you like to cut back on nighttime noshing? These tricks should help.

Updated on October 25, 2022

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If you experience nighttime cravings, you’re not alone. One survey suggests 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men have such hankerings, often triggered by stress, fatigue, and boredom. Though it's perfectly normal to want to eat well into the night, you don't always have to give into the temptation.

Having a light evening snack can be a healthy habit, but late-night binge eating can cause unwanted weight gain and disrupt your sleep. Get the secrets to easing nighttime cravings and the inside scoop on what to eat when you can’t. 

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Distract yourself

If you’re an avid television watcher, the tube could be contributing to your nighttime cravings. For one, mindless eating can lead to overeating, especially if you're munching right out of the bag. Eating in front of the big screen can also become a self-reinforcing habit: You’ll likely crave a snack each time you take a seat on the couch.

Try kicking this habit by switching up your activities. Find something else you enjoy besides watching and snacking and spend time doing it every night. Try reading, walking, or playing brain games—each of which has its own health reward.

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Keep your mouth busy

Eating delicious food feels good, which is one of the reasons we crave it. When you eat, your brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which sends a pleasant feeling to the rest of your body. 

Instead of reaching for an unhealthy snack, try a lower-calorie and better-for-you option, like a glass of water, a stick of sugarless gum, or a cup of your favorite tea (without milk and sugar).

One study suggests that chewing a piece of sugar-free gum, which contains just five calories, can help sate cravings. Chewing gum or drinking a low-calorie beverage delivers the same sensation as snacking, known as orosensory stimulation, with fewer calories.

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Plan your meals

Planning your daily meals and snacks takes the guesswork out of eating and removes the temptation to grab options that may be more convenient but less healthy. Scheduling and portioning out between-meal snacks can help sate hunger and reduce the chances you might overdo it on limitless unhealthy snacks (think: that entire bag of chips).

What you eat is also likely more important than when you eat it. One study suggests that a diet lower in carbohydrates can help slash cravings for carb-heavy eats and even, at times, sweet treats and greasy fast food.

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Keep your meals interesting

Mealtime shouldn't be boring, even if you’re trying to make healthy choices. And a varied diet is especially important if you’re looking to squash late-night cravings. Results from one study suggest that a monotonous diet increases cravings among young adults. 

Try pairing a grilled chicken breast with a side of a grain that may be new to you, like quinoa or bulgur. If you always top your green salad with chicken, try a new protein like a baked salmon filet or a piece of pan-seared tuna. Transform any meal without adding calories by adding a dash or two of your favorite spices and a sprinkle of fresh, aromatic herbs like rosemary or thyme.

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Hit the hay

At the most basic level, sleeping can help prevent snacking: If you’re asleep, you can’t eat. Plus, getting adequate sleep can limit cravings in the first place.

Too little sleep can increase your appetite and your desire for high-carb and calorie-rich foods, according to research. One small study found that sleep-deprived participants consumed an average of 549 more calories a day when compared with those who got a full night’s rest.

Another trick to try: Brush your teeth right after dinner to deter late-night noshing.

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Stock your kitchen with healthy eats

Sometimes, the best way to satisfy a craving is by eating a healthy alternative. Loading your refrigerator and pantry with healthy snack options—like veggie sticks, hummus, fresh fruit, and nuts—makes eating well quick and easy.

Convenience is a powerful driver of eating habits, and research even suggests that a large number of shoppers prioritize convenient food options over healthy ones, despite their unhealthy ingredients and higher price tags.

Try these healthy, easy-to-make alternatives to your favorite treats:

  • Swap chewy candy for a mix of dried fruit and nuts with no added sugar
  • Trade your chips for crunchy carrot sticks and creamy hummus
  • Upgrade your microwave popcorn for crisp, oven-roasted chickpeas

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