How to nix nighttime snacking

Do you struggle to keep your hand out of the popcorn bowl after dinner? Here's how to nix nighttime snacking. (Daily Record/Sunday News -- Kate Penn)

Do you struggle to keep your hand out of the popcorn bowl after dinner? Here’s how to nix nighttime snacking. (Daily Record/Sunday News — Kate Penn)

Dinner is over. The dishes are done. You make yourself a small snack to enjoy while watching some nighttime TV. And then you make yourself another. And another. And another. The next thing you know, you’ve snacked your way through your entire Netflix queue!

If you struggle to control your nighttime snacking habits, know that you aren’t alone. So many of us eat healthy, balanced meals throughout the day, only to sabotage our efforts come 8 p.m.

To get to the bottom of the issue – instead of the bottom of the bag of chips – you first must ask yourself that all-important question: Why? Why do you keep returning to the kitchen for more goodies? Why can’t you keep your hand out of the popcorn bowl?

Here are some of the most common answers to the question of why, plus some concrete strategies for getting your nighttime snacking tendency under control.

Why are you snacking so much at night?

1. You don’t know how else to relax. Many of us fly through our days, juggling meetings, appointments, and mile-long to-do lists without stopping to take a breath. We’re so accustomed to being busy that when the evening finally brings an opportunity to slow down, we can’t. In order to keep doing something, we reach for food.

Conquer it: Find a way to unwind that doesn’t involve the cookie jar. Lose yourself in the pages of a novel, take an unhurried stroll through the neighborhood, or call a close friend to chat. You’ll feel more rejuvenated than if you just munched your way to bedtime.

2. It’s a habit. If you’ve always been a nighttime snacker, it probably just feels natural to reach for a bite (or two…or three..) even if you aren’t actually hungry.

Conquer it: The best way to get rid of an undesirable habit is to replace it with a better one. Some people perform a “close down the kitchen” ritual after dinner — do the dishes, clean up, turn off the lights, walk away — to signify that the time for food has passed. Others create a new habit of brushing their teeth after they’re finished eating for the night. You’re less likely to grab another handful when your breath is already minty-fresh.

3. You’re not eating enough during the day. Maybe you skipped breakfast to make an early morning meeting. Or rushed through lunch to get the kids to an appointment. When we skimp on meals and snacks throughout the day, our bodies try to make up for lost energy at night, making that carton of ice cream simply irresistible.

Conquer it:
Take a close look at your diet. Could bulking up your daytime meals and snacks — especially with healthy choices like fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats and whole grains — help keep nighttime snacking at bay?

4. You’re distracted. Your hand reaches for the pretzels but your eyes — and your attention — are stuck on “America’s Got Talent.” When we don’t focus on our food, we don’t feel like we’ve eaten, regardless of how many servings we’ve consumed. So, not surprisingly, we want more.

Conquer it: End mindless munching by banning multitasking. When you eat, give your food your full attention, savoring every bite. You’ll feel more satisfied and defeat the urge to keep snacking.


Do you struggle with nighttime snacking? If so, do you think any of these strategies would work for you? Share your favorite way to stay out of the cookie jar after dinner!

About Katie Markey McLaughlin

Katie Markey McLaughlin, M.S., is a freelance journalist and blogger who’s passionate about all things healthy living. Learn more about her writing at KatieMcLcom.
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