6 Ways to Curb Your Late-Night Cravings

Guilty of nighttime noshing? These tricks should help.

Medically reviewed in June 2022

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If you experience unhealthy nighttime cravings, you’re not alone. One survey suggests 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men have cravings, often triggered by stress, fatigue and boredom. Nighttime hankerings are normal, but you don't always have to give into the temptation.

An evening snack can be innocent enough, and if you make low-calorie choices, won’t likely blow your diet. But a late-night binge can cause unwanted weight gain, reinforce unhealthy habits and disrupt your sleep. Get the secrets to crushing 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, in more ways than one. Often times, we eat mindlessly, which can lead to overeating, especially if you're munching right out of the bag. Eating in front of the big screen can also be habit forming. Meaning, 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 you enjoy—besides watching and snacking—and spend time doing it every night. Try reading, walking or playing brain games, as each has its own proven benefits.

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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 our body. 

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

One study suggests 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 for grabbing convenient and unhealthy options. Scheduling between-meal snacks can help sate hunger and reduce your desire to binge or reach for an unhealthy snack the next time you sit down to eat.

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

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Keep your meals interesting

Mealtime doesn’t have to 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 a monotonous diet increases cravings among young adults. 

Try pairing a baked salmon filet with a side of quinoa and steamed broccoli or topping a green salad with grilled chicken breast. Transform any meal with a dash or two of your favorite spices and a sprinkle of aromatic herbs without adding calories.

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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. A small study found sleep deprived participants consumed an average of 549 more calories a day, when compared with those who got a full night’s rest.

You can also try brushing 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 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, easy and convenient.

Convenience is key, and research even suggests 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 dried fruit and nut mix 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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