How to stop snacking at night. Hutton Health

How to stop snacking at night

7th December 2022

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It is easy to be committed to a healthy and balanced diet during the day, but then to mindlessly succumb to cravings in the evening. Regularly snacking at night can make it difficult to reach your weight loss, health and fitness goals. 


Reasons you may be snacking at night

  • You are not eating enough food during the day. It is easy to stick to a healthy eating plan and also not to notice hunger signals when you are busy during the day. If you are not eating enough food during the day, it can leave you feeling hungry and craving snacks in the evening. 
  • Alone with your thoughts and feelings. Evenings can mean quiet time on your own with your thoughts and feelings. Food can offer a welcome reprieve and distraction from these thoughts and feelings and a way to unwind after a stressful day. Allowing yourself to deal with your emotions in alternative ways and finding healthier coping mechanisms will help reduce your eating in the evenings. 
  • A bedtime ‘treat’. An overly stressful schedule or a lack of free time during the day can mean that the evening is the chance for you to have ‘you time’. We often view sugary foods as a way to ‘treat’ ourselves, disregarding the negative effect that the cumulative night-time snacking can have on our health. 
Reasons why you may be snacking at night
  • Boredom. If you are feeling bored in the evening, food can serve as a form of entertainment and a source of joy. 
  • Habit. If you are used to having food in the evening, you may start reaching for a snack out of habit rather than out of hunger. Perhaps you attach evenings as your chance to snuggle under a blanket on the sofa with a snack, or if you watch a show at a specific time in the evening with snacks in hand, you may attach the time, location or show with snacking. 
  • Private space. If certain foods leave you feeling guilty or ashamed, the peaceful space that an evening at home offers can allow you the freedom to indulge without feeling like others will judge you. 
  • Mindless eating. When you have busy days, evenings allow you the chance to switch off, zoning out to your favourite TV shows. Switching your mind off can also mean that you are enabling yourself to eat mindlessly, oblivious to the amount that you are consuming and unaware of your body’s signals that it is full. 

Why is snacking at night a problem?

Snacking at night often gets slated as a way to sabotage weight loss goals or fitness gains. Snacking at night is not always bad, however it is a time when many people snack even though they are not truly hungry. 

Factors such as eating out of boredom, being overly tired or stressed, socialising, or as a habit can make snacking at night an issue. 

Why is snacking at night a problem?

Often the foods that we reach for when we snack at night are full of empty calories and sugar which can make snacking at night a problem. When you snack in front of the television, or while you are scrolling social media or other distractions, portion control becomes more difficult as you aren’t concentrating or aware of the amount of food that you are consuming. 

Night-time snacking can lead to disrupted sleep and digestive problems. Eating in the evening does not give your body the chance to digest food effectively before lying horizontally for an extended time which doesn’t allow for your body to break down and digest foods efficiently.  

If you continue to snack at night, over time your increased calorie consumption will likely lead to unwanted weight gain and difficulty reaching your health and fitness goals. 

Tips to stop night-time snacking

  • Make sure you are giving yourself ‘you time’ during the day so you don’t feel like evenings are your only time to switch off
  • Replace your evening snack with something different: a piece of fruit or a warm drink (Caffeine free tea, spiced apple and hot chocolate can be great sources of comfort in the evening)
  • Make evening plans to keep you entertained and occupied. Consider taking a class or start a new hobby
  • Try to create a different evening routine to change your habit. Try an after-dinner walk, reading a book, phoning a friend, doing an online yoga class, writing in a journal, doing a jigsaw puzzle – anything that can occupy the time when you normally reach for your evening snack
  • Control your environment to limit the unhealthy snacks that are easily accessible and in view. Providing barriers or ‘work’ that you need to do to reach the snacks can deter you from reaching for them. 
  • Eat regularly during the day to ensure that you aren’t too hungry in the evening
Tips to stop snacking at night

When is it okay to snack at night

Snacking at night isn’t always a problem. Evening snacking can be a part of a healthy lifestyle, particularly when:

  • Your evening snacking is occasional
  • You choose nutritious options
  • You are eating as part of a balanced diet in response to hunger signals rather than out of habit
  • Your evening snacking does not result in you exceeding the calories that you need in a day
  • You eat mindfully and stop snacking when you are satisfied
When is it okay to snack at night?

Evening snacking can become a problem when it leads to unhealthy habits such as emotional or mindless eating. Understanding why you are snacking in the evening can help you develop different eating routines and healthier habits.  

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