As we discuss food this month, I just brought to you a different theory to the age-old saying that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” It won’t work for everyone, but the idea is that a fasting time of 16-18 hours is not only okay, but beneficial if you are trying to burn fat as opposed to sugar. However, what if you get home late and need a snack before bed? Are you doomed to gain weight with late-night snacking?

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no. In general, late-night snacking means that you are adding more calories to your day shortly before going to sleep. This can spike blood sugar levels and cause the body to react by producing more insulin. This should mean that overall, eating late is not ideal. For the most part it is suggested to end eating around 7 or 8 each evening. As my kids get older and activities start invading our evenings, I see this just isn’t going to be followed every night. Life gets busy and meals aren’t as scheduled as they were in years past. There are nights when I am actually hungry before bed. I find it very challenging to fall asleep when my stomach is growling. Here is my suggestion to this occurrence. First, I check myself (before I wreck myself―I just couldn’t resist.) Am I really hungry? Sometimes hunger and thirst feel the same. I try to drink a cup of water first. Lots of times by the end of the day, I am just plain thirsty. If I am craving something sweet, a little lemon water will satisfy the urge―and ruin my pallet for other things.  Secondly, I try to remember the last time I ate. I may be feeling the need to munch because I am bored since I recall that I just ate an hour ago. Lastly, if it has been a decent amount of time and the hunger is legit, I allow myself a snack. Here is where it can be a win or loss: choosing the right snack.

If you are truly needing a snack to satisfy hunger, make a smart choice. Look for a carb protein combo. The carb should be a whole food―think fruit or a veggie. The protein can be small and still take care of the hunger. For example: a nut butter, yogurt or cheese, seeds, or beans. Again, small portion is the goal here since you are about to go to sleep―a sedentary activity.

In conclusion, the mainstream idea that eating late is not ideal is correct. However, it can be done right and serve the body when controlled. So the next time hunger strikes after 8, evaluate whether its real, drink some water, and choose wisely!