Breaking free from the midnight munchies

A local dietitian shares tips for avoiding the pitfalls of late-night feasting.

Story by Sheila Paz

We’ve all been there. It’s the witching hour, and suddenly, that oh-so-innocent-looking pint of ice cream starts whispering your name. It’s all too easy to succumb to the siren call of late-night treats. Roxanne Davis-Cote, a registered dietitian and certified nutrition support clinician for Beaufort Memorial Hospital, shares a few well-calibrated tactics to outwit our inner midnight snack bandit. By heeding these tricks of the trade, you can have a date with a healthier lifestyle and bid adieu to those midnight munchies, guaranteeing you a peaceful and rejuvenating beauty sleep.

Roxanne Davis-Cote is the clinical nutrition manager of nutrition services at Beaufort Memorial Hospital. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Rhode Island and continued her education at the University of South Carolina for her master’s in public health. 

Roxanne Davis-Cote

The nighttime nosh conundrum

The timing of your twilight tuck-in can turn your dreamy night into a gastronomical horror show. Munching on late dinners or snacks can skyrocket acid levels in the esophagus, like a volcano ready to explode, disrupting your sleep and nudging heartburn into the picture. It’s a bad Netflix rerun you’d rather not binge on. Davis-Cote advises setting a food curfew a couple of hours before bedtime. She also counsels against the dark art of distracted dining, that can lead to overeating.

Indulging in calorie-laden or spicy foods before slumber can exacerbate the situation, causing longer digestion times and increasing discomfort. Prioritizing mindful eating and listening to your body is key. 

“All of those things distract us from listening to our body, how it communicates to us regarding whether we are satiated (feelings of fullness) and whether it is a good time to stop eating.” 

Young man is sitting on a sofa and eating popcorn while watching television

Conquering late-night hunger pangs

To stave off the haunting specter of midnight munchies, embrace a “feed me, Seymour” approach during daylight hours. Starting with a hearty breakfast, rich in protein, whole grains and fruits, will fuel you for the day and help keep nocturnal cravings at bay. Follow the same script for lunch, with a vegetable snack between lunch and dinner. Try to eat a lighter meal for dinner to minimize the amount of food you are sleeping on. Be mindful that your body’s energy comes from what you eat and how you eat for the activities you do throughout the day. 

“For example, I have a standing desk,” Davis-Cote explained. “The smoothie that I had for breakfast will digest slower because of the fiber, protein and fat in it. The energy that I am getting from that smoothie I am using to stand at my desk to do my work.” 

For those battling unusual schedules or moonlighting, Davis-Cote suggests more durable sustenance. Non-starchy veggies or whole foods such as avocados, nuts or seeds are your knights in shining armor against the midnight munchies. Also opt for healthier snacks, such as a salad with nuts and a light dressing or Greek yogurt with berries. 

Healthy breakfast on the kitchen table
Vegan sandwich wrap with Lavish bread made from flax, oats and whole wheat. Stuffed with fresh spinach, sprouts, mushrooms, red peppers and avocados for a healthy lunch.

Nourishing night bites

Wake up in the middle of the night with a rumbling stomach? Davis-Cote recommends having a Kefir cup. This fermented milk and kefir grain concoction is brimming with healthy fats, protein, carbohydrates and calcium. Other trusty snacks include cottage cheese or a spoonful of peanut butter. 

It’s best to avoid the sugar-laden sirens of cereal, cake, chips and cookies. These cunning snacks may seem delightful but are rapid-fire calorie bombs, turning into an unwanted souvenir around your waist. As for fruits, they are full of beneficial vitamins, minerals and fiber, but they digest quickly and will not keep you as full. Pairing them with a protein like a cheese stick or a hard-boiled egg can give you a more filling satisfaction.

Nut paste in female hands on a light background.
Kefir in a glass cup, fresh milky drink

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