Nutrition Tip- Dealing with the Late Night Munchies

By Jennifer Patzkowsky, MS, RD/LDN

You just got done eating dinner after a hard workout. You are so tired and need to go to bed. But you have that gnawing feeling in your stomach. You want something sweet. But you can’t be hungry- you just had dinner. Sound familiar?

It is common for athletes to want to drop some weight in the offseason. You might do a good job of eating healthy during the day, but the late night munchies might be sinking your efforts. The Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the freezer is calling your name! What to do?

Keep in mind that prevention is better than a cure. Eat regular, well-balanced meals and snacks. Sometimes if you don’t eat enough calories during the day, you might make up for it plus overeat at the end of the day.

 If that is not the issue, try these strategies. First, try the distraction approach. Go for a walk or call a friend. Wind down for the evening with a good book or magazine. Or try to wait ten minutes before indulging an urge- the intensity of it may pass. But if this doesn’t work, don’t restrict certain “forbidden” foods- this almost always guarantees a craving. Allow yourself to indulge but be smart about it. Try these 100 calorie indulgences:

23 chocolate-covered raisins
3 chocolate kisses
2 miniature chocolate bars

25 plain M&Ms
1 C of hot chocolate

Fun Size candy bar

1 small chocolate or oatmeal chip cookie

1 granola bar
1 Rice Krispie treat
2 chocolate sandwich cookies
1/2 C of pudding
1 slice of angel food cake
1/2 C of frozen yogurt
1 fudgesicle

100 calorie snack packs


Finally, the idea that eating late at night will make you fat is a myth. Calories are calories--no matter what time they're eaten. There is no magic hour in which your body decides that incoming calories must be stored as fat. But if you routinely overindulge after dinner, it's the overindulging that's sabotaging your weight-control efforts, not the hour on the clock. For some people, the "no calories after 8 p.m." rule is an effective diet strategy because it means they take in fewer calories and less saturated fat over the course of a day. But what if dinner is late or you're hungry before bed? By all means, eat. Feed and fuel your body. No harm is done if you're balancing your calories over the day and not scarfing down junk food. What you eat and how much is far more important than when you eat it. But do make a point to spread your food intake out over the day to sustain your energy.


Read more about Jennifer’s nutrition coaching here.