Nighttime cravings? What you can do about it
Food cravings are nothing unusual. Especially for people who normally stay awake for a long time, the feeling of hunger usually returns a few hours after dinner. Evening hunger pangs often lead to problems falling asleep. However, feelings of loss of control or shame can be much more stressful in this context. Our tips should help you prevent nighttime cravings and find a better way to deal with them.
***DISCLAIMER: Food cravings are not always “only” related to the factors mentioned here. For example, they can also be a symptom of an eating disorder and have more fundamental psychological causes. If you feel a lot of distress due to the cravings or if you are generally not feeling well with the issue, please seek medical or psychotherapeutic help. A first step can be a visit to your family doctor.***
How to deal with (nighttime) food cravings
Plan for cravings and take precautions
If you eat dinner at 6 or 7 p.m. but don't go to bed until midnight, it's no wonder you'll get hungry again at some point. After all, it's a period of 5-6 hours! So it's important and right to acknowledge this hunger, for example by having another snack. Hunger is not a feeling that we should be ashamed of or suppressed .
No matter how many hours there are between your dinner and bedtime - 2, 4 or 6 hours - when hunger strikes, we should eat something. Of course, there is a difference between a “real” feeling of hunger and the pure desire to eat. It may take some time and practice to distinguish between these two sensations. However, intuitive eating is a topic in itself, which unfortunately goes beyond the scope here. Either way, there's no shame in grabbing a snack after dinner.
But what we can influence is what this snack looks like. Because if we prepare for a possible food craving during the day, the probability is significantly higher that our evening snack will not be chips or chocolate. With a little planning and foresight, we can then reach for healthier and more wholesome snacks that still satisfy our cravings. Some examples of such “nutritious” snacks are vegetable sticks with hummus, granola with yogurt, or even a handful of nuts.
Think about what type of snack you usually crave: Sweet? Salty? Hearty? Warm? Crispy? Each of us has different preferences . Therefore, it is important to equip yourself with snacks that suit your taste. How about homemade popcorn, an energy bar or healthy cookies? You can find more savory and sweet snack ideas here .
Eat enough dinner
Sometimes we tend to eat as little as possible in the evening so as not to consume “too many” calories. The problem with this is that after a few hours we feel hungry again and then eat even more high-calorie snacks.
A sufficient portion of dinner is important to keep us satisfied and at the same time prevent hunger pangs. The goal at dinner should always be to feel pleasantly full .
In addition, our evening meals are in most cases more nutritious and balanced than the snacks that follow. That's why it's more beneficial to eat a good portion of dinner than to skimp on dinner and then compensate later with unhealthy, high-calorie snacks.
Drink enough fluids
Did you know that we sometimes confuse hunger and thirst ? Crazy, right? So if you think you're hungry, it could simply be because your body doesn't have enough fluids and is therefore craving it. So if you think you're hungry again in the evening, first ask yourself whether it's possible that you just haven't drunk enough. Drinking a glass of water or tea can help us better assess whether the feeling of hunger is actually hunger or “just” thirst.
If you're looking for something to keep you hydrated and a little full at the same time, soups, smoothies or even a cup of golden milk are a good option.
If you still feel hungry afterwards, it's totally legitimate to follow up with a healthy snack. Then we make sure we are hydrated and full! :-)
Make sure you get enough sleep
Lack of sleep has many consequences - too many to mention here. An important point, however, is that when we don't get enough sleep, we have little energy available. It makes sense that our bodies increasingly crave food - because food gives us energy. At such times our cravings for high-calorie food are particularly high.
In order to prevent these types of hunger attacks, we should not allow our body to lack energy in the first place. By getting enough sleep. However, this can be a big task and requires patience. To make it easier for yourself to get used to more sleep, you should do it gradually . Continue extending your bedtime by 10-15 minutes until you reach your goal. This makes it easier for our bodies to get used to the change.
Be careful and loving with yourself
At this point I'm taking a small turn towards intuitive nutrition. A very important component is that we learn to perceive our body's signals and interpret them appropriately. It's about differentiating the feeling of hunger from the pure “desire to eat”. Sometimes it happens that we resort to sweets and unhealthy snacks out of boredom.
Listening to our body is the least we can do in return. For everything he does for us every day. And if we choose to eat food, we should be able to enjoy it. We shouldn't feel bad or guilty. So it's important to develop a healthy relationship with your own eating habits . A mindful approach to food can be a helpful approach here.
Part of mindful eating includes being as present as possible and concentrating fully on the food. Too often we allow ourselves to be distracted and overwhelmed by videos, newspapers, television or even audio books. Mindful eating means taking your time , eating slowly and appreciating every bite. This reduces the likelihood that we will simply “shovel” the food into ourselves and eat much more than we actually have to or need. Eating carelessly leads to nighttime cravings more often.
In summary this means:
Developing a loving approach to hunger attacks can take some time. At the same time, there are things we can do to prevent these cravings.
By planning hearty meals or healthy snacks , we are prepared when hunger strikes. In addition, sleep and lack of fluids should not be underestimated as factors that can cause or promote hunger attacks. If we are hungry, we should acknowledge this hunger and appease it with a hearty snack, for example. A careful approach to food can also help us not to eat too much and to be able to enjoy food more again.
If you would like to find out more about healthy eating, mindfulness, sustainability or family and pregnancy, check out more exciting blog articles on these topics here .
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