Fighting the Nighttime Snack Monster


A woman eating donuts in front of the refridgerator.A friend told me that her mom gave her a 10 p.m. curfew when she was a teenager because “nothing good happens after 10 p.m.” When it comes to nighttime eating, that’s probably true. 

So many of us plan healthy meals and snacks during the day, but once we’ve finally gotten the kids to sleep (ahhh), out comes the wine (anyone? sound familiar?) and a host of other snacks that we probably didn’t plan for as we decompress after a crazy day. If good nutrition and weight management are priorities for you, it’s time to face the nighttime snack monster head on!

The good news is that research shows that meal timing isn’t as important as your overall intake, so if you’re at your kid’s evening soccer game and you don’t get to eat dinner until 8 p.m., that doesn’t mean automatic weight gain (Tip! Since you are eating dinner late and may be ravenous, making it harder to have a sensible portion size, have a more substantial snack before you head off to the game, and then a slightly smaller, fruit and vegetable-heavy dinner).

It’s the post-dinner, “I have stuff to do” (i.e. I just want to veg and watch Netflix, it’s MY time) eating that we need to watch out for. That’s when the nighttime snack monster appears, and we tend to eat for reasons other than hunger, and our choices tend to be calorie dense, low nutrient value, and double (or triple portion sizes). A sleeve of Thin Mints anyone?

Here are a few things you can do to fight the monster.

1. Go to bed earlier.

Most of us would benefit from going to sleep earlier. Set a “ready for bed” alarm to remind yourself so that it isn’t suddenly midnight and you’ve eaten a bag of chips and are overtired. Know that you cannot finish every task and that your shows will still be there another day. Pick a few tasks or relaxing actions and then let it go and go to sleep (I know, this is so hard but so worth it!).

2. Make a food “only in the kitchen” rule.

Just as you might tell your kids, “If you are hungry, let’s sit at the table to eat,” give yourself the same rule.

3. Ask yourself, “If my kids asked for this, how much would I be comfortable with them having?”

You wouldn’t want your kids to eat a whole box of cookies, would you?

4. Plan healthy evening snacks you enjoy.

When you feel like eating a snack, first ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” and if so, choose from the fruit, yogurt, part-skim string cheese, or other healthy snacks you have planned.

5. If the nighttime snack monster attacks one night, be kind to yourself.

It’s ok once in a while. Instead, choose a plan from #1-4 for the following night. Don’t let guilt derail your efforts, and don’t call yourself “bad” for eating ice cream.

Some days, you might consciously choose to have a glass of wine, dessert, or other snack, and that’s okay too! Enjoy it!

Has the nighttime snack monster come after you? How do you tame him?

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Elysa Cruse
Elysa Cruse is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer and is the Manager of the Corporate Wellness Program for Pitney Bowes ( She moved to Fairfield County after college and has been enjoying great ways to be active and eat well in the area ever since, including teaching exercise classes such as Stroller Strides, Pilates and Boot Camp. She is mom to an adorable 3 year old boy and loves getting outdoors whether hiking, biking, or running (really anything as long as it's not weeding). Elysa is still working on the ultimate in work life balance and she's okay if she never quite finds it. Connect with Elysa on Twitter @ElysaCruseRD


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