Ugh. Easily the hardest part of sticking to my nutrition goals comes when the clock strikes 12. Have you been wondering how to stop snacking after dinner? This has plagued me for years. Whether I’m focused on calorie-counting or eating right, I always have the biggest trouble at night.
I’m not sold that the act of eating late at night is bad for you (at least, not as long as you’re within your daily calorie goals and moving your body efficiently) – but in 2015 the Washington Post shared some other thoughts on the matter.
Regardless, recently I’ve focused on how to stop snacking after dinner and found some tips that really work for me. Here’s hoping they can offer you some help, too!
Listen, if your body is telling you that you are honest-to-goodness hungry, then you need to eat.
No WAY should you just drink some water or try to ignore your hunger pangs simply because it’s a certain time of day. Our bodies are designed to notify us when they need sustenance for energy and basic functions! If yours is hungry (even if you recently ate!), then by all means, hunker down for some food!
Use your best judgment here and maybe choose a snack that will offer you the most nutrition possible. Instead of a crunchy, salty bag of chips – grab a tub of Greek yogurt! You’ll have an awesome protein punch without feeling weighed down by too much snacking.
Which brings me to my next thought: if you cannot possibly help yourself and that delicious, delectable treat is calling your name – portion out a piece and move on.
Let yourself enjoy whatever snack you have to have.
Please don’t beat yourself up. Enjoy it.
Then, happily continue on with the rest of your night.
I think for a lot of us, once we go “off plan,” we have a tendency to throw in the towel and just say, “Well, I ruined the night. Might as well have all the snacks I can find and start again tomorrow.”
But that’s not necessary.
When needed, just have a portion of whatever treat you’re craving and be done. Grant yourself grace.
One trick we use in our house for how to stop snacking after dinner is to reach for a Tootsie Pop when we’re in need of a sugar fix. The calorie count isn’t crazy high and they last for several minutes. Hopefully, by the time you’ve finished the lollipop, the craving will have passed with minimal “damage”.
If you find that you’re having too much trouble saying, “No!” to those delicious looking treats in the pantry, maybe you shouldn’t keep them in there at all.
I’m not suggesting that you should cut them out of your life (because I am absolutely NOT a fan of restriction).
…but I do believe there is something to be said for having limited access to special things.
For example, my sweet husband can absolutely not have cookies ‘n cream ice cream in the house – or he will devour the entire tub within days. (It doesn’t matter how big the tub is.) The man just cannot help himself. It’s simply way too big of a trigger for him.
So, we try not to keep that particular ice cream around. Not because he “can’t have it”, but just because it doesn’t fit with his personal goals.
When he wants ice cream, he’ll make a special trip to our local ice cream parlor! That way, he can still enjoy the yummy treat – but 100% on his terms.
If you can’t totally remove the snack (maybe it’s part of the kids’ stash!), just put it further out of sight.
You might find yourself mindlessly stopping at the candy bowl on your kitchen island two or three times a day. But, if you just move those treats to a more hidden location, you’ll be much less likely to make the effort to go find them!
Another idea for how to stop snacking after dinner is to make sure that you’re getting lots of great protein in throughout your day. Protein sources can help reduce appetite, boost metabolism, and increase muscle mass according to an article by Healthline.
I’ve found that when I’m focused on protein first, I feel more satisfied between meals and am less likely to look for snacks. This remains true even after dinner is over.
Consider finding your protein source for each meal and snack before supplementing with your fats and carbs. You might be surprised by how satiated you feel!
One way I like to “shut down the kitchen” is to eat my dessert immediately following dinner. This helps my brain to know that food is done for the day.
I have my dinner and then my sweet treat right after. (I have such a sweet tooth, there is no skipping this step. Ha!)
This tip is two-fold, because usually I’m quite full from dinner, so there’s not much room for dessert. So, I’m less likely to over-indulge and I know that the kitchen is now closed.
Related: Why We Celebrate the Little Things
Sometimes, all I need to stop the late-night snacking is simply the treat of a small cup of tea! When I know I get to enjoy something else, the need to snack disappears. (Especially since, remember, I wasn’t hungry to begin with!)
Once I’m totally done with eating and drinking anything besides water, I like to brush my teeth. The minty taste makes everything else completely unappetizing, so I am unlikely to reach for a snack.
I also found that if I go through my entire nighttime routine, it sends a signal to my body that we are in relaxation mode. I brush my teeth; wash my face; and take my nightly supplements.
Now my body and brain know: Food time is over and it is time to sit back and relax. (I may, very well, be awake for another few hours, but my mindset is different!)
I think, after a long day, I like to reward my hard work by sitting down and vegging out. Sometimes, that’s with TV and a snack – or maybe just my phone….and a snack. But usually, it involves a snack.
So, one of my best tips for how to stop late-night snacking is to remember that I have a lot of other activities that I LOVE! Often, I’m so exhausted once the kids are asleep, I just settle in for the easiest choice and forget about the other things I want to do.
…but consider the activities that you enjoy! What could you do with your free time instead of snacking?
Here’s what’s on my to-do list:
And some of the above options can be done while watching TV. They work really well when you want to watch a show, but need to use your hands! …because sometimes, the whole reason we snack is simply because we’re so used to snacking!
SO, use your hands for something else! When you’re too busy coloring a picture, you won’t be able to grab handfuls of popcorn from a bowl on the couch.
When you’re learning to knit, you can’t possibly work on a scarf and snack on a bunch of treats at the same time.
SO, get creative! And use your hands for something that doesn’t involve snacking.
Honestly, the options that I’ve found for how to stop late-night snacking are actually pretty straight-forward. But you have to choose to do them mindfully to make it work. Otherwise, it’ll just be another night with a treat you didn’t really mean to have in the first place.
Do you have any other tips for working on after dinner snacking? How do you stop yourself from grabbing food from the pantry when you’re not actually hungry?
Katie Johansen is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University with her M.A.Ed in Children’s Literature. She spent 6 years as an elementary school teacher in South Florida before transitioning to stay-at-home #momlife. Now, it’s all things PB&J – with an extra large cup of coffee on the side.
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