We’ve all experienced that 9 PM craving for something sweet that just can’t be ignored. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying some sweet treats every now and then, but when these cravings for sugary foods occur on a regular basis, we can fall into a constant cycle of late-night snacking that may affect our weight loss goals. Research has shown that late-night eating is linked to excess intake of empty calories, which makes it tough to move past plateaus and achieve health goals. Nutritionist Kim Bowman has some tips for you to help manage cravings and stay on track with a sustainable healthy eating routine. It’s really all about incorporating plenty of nutrient-dense foods, such as those rich in fiber, while avoiding processed carbs to keep blood sugars stable throughout the day.
Eat regularly throughout the day
Having consistent meals throughout the day is key for keeping blood sugars balanced and maintaining feelings of fullness. By eating regularly throughout the day, we keep blood sugars balanced and avoid hunger cravings.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
Breakfast is essential for setting your body up for either a productive day or one that may leave you feeling tired, irritable, and craving snacks later. Why? Breakfast is key for jumpstarting our metabolism after a period of sleep, and we want to ensure that we fuel up with quality nutrients that will keep our metabolism functioning optimally. Having high-glycemic foods—such as baked goods, donuts, croissants etc.—in the morning will cause blood sugar to skyrocket and crash soon after. While we might feel satisfied for a brief period, you’ll be more likely to feel hungry shortly after. High-glycemic foods induce a rapid increase in blood sugar and a rapid insulin response, causing feelings of hunger to return more quickly than low-glycemic foods.
Low-glycemic foods cause a slower, steadier increase in blood glucose. These include sweet potatoes, quinoa, oats, whole grain bread (ezekiel bread), beans, veggies, and some fruits, including bananas. Low-glycemic foods contain lots of fiber, and having them for breakfast alongside a quality source of protein and fat is key to avoiding cravings while also optimizing metabolism for efficient calorie burning throughout the day.
Protein and fiber are key to sustain feelings of fullness
Ensuring we achieve adequate protein and fiber intake throughout the day will ensure we avoid filling up on empty calories. Protein increases satiety, which helps to suppress ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger cues. There are two types of fiber, soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber, which includes fermented and resistant starch, is key for moderating cravings. It slows digestion, keeping us feeling more satisfied for longer and regulating appetite.
A homemade smoothie is a great way to incorporate protein, fiber, and number of vitamins and minerals. Be sure to incorporate a quality protein source and add a source of fiber, such as chia seeds or oats, to a smoothie for more nutrient density.
Stick to a meal timing method, such as intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is a mindful eating pattern that focuses on cycling through time windows of fasting and eating. By eating regularly throughout the day during a specific time window, such as 10 AM to 8 PM, we allow our body to adopt an efficient pattern for metabolizing and digesting the food we consume in the day. Intermittent fasting research has highlighted that it is an ideal method for regulating insulin and stabilizing blood sugars, which is key for avoiding late-night cravings.
To start intermittent fasting, simply pick an 8-10 hour time window that you know you can stick to throughout the day and incorporate your meals at regular intervals throughout this period. It’s a great way to become more mindful of your hunger cues while also ensuring you stay on top of consuming quality foods in the day to avoid cravings at night!
Note: always consult with a health care professional for more information prior to starting a dietary protocol such as intermittent fasting.