Even when you’re snuggled in bed, awaiting a peaceful sleep are you tossing and turning contemplating raiding the fridge to soothe your cravings? You’re not hungry, so why is it that you feel the desire to have ‘just a little bedtime snack’ – when in reality it’s likely to be a calorific treat? We’ve asked our experts for some hidden causes of late night snacking.
1. Stop the salt cravings
‘If you crave salty food, it could mean that your sodium levels are too low, usually due to dehydration (after exercise, illness or drinking alcohol).’ Sodium is a very important mineral that helps to maintain water balance in our body and regulate blood pressure. ‘You can replenish sodium before bed by snacking on small amounts of this mineral in celery and carrots, which should help your craving,’ explains Nutritionist and Fitness Instructor, Cassandra Barns.
2. Opt out of emotional eating
If you’re feeling a bit low, are you more inclined to add extra cheese and have a few extra biscuits? “When you do get a craving, stop and think, are you really hungry or want to eat because you are feeling certain emotions? Recognising the difference is half the battle and if you are eating because you are lonely or angry then think of other ways to change that feeling rather than food, maybe a walk in the park or phoning a friend,” says Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist, author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar.
3. You’re sleep deprived
Sleep loss has been linked to nighttime snacking and junk food cravings, obesity and diabetes, according to new research. Researchers at University of Arizona Health Sciences found that two-thirds of participants reported that lack of sleep led them to crave more junk food and about 60 per cent of participants admitted to regular night time snacking.
Cassandra explains how you can improve your sleep pattern with magnesium, to help deter late night snack binges. ‘Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquiliser’ and is needed to relax our muscles. It is also vital for the function of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter that your brain requires to switch off. Include plenty of magnesium-rich foods in your diet, such as leafy green vegetables, fish and sunflower seeds. You can also try taking a supplement, such NHP Tranquil Woman Support (£24.77, www.naturalhealthpractice.com), which includes magnesium to help you feel more relaxed and ready for sleep.’
4. Forgo cravings with fats
If you’re still in the mind-set that all fats are bad for you then you must have been under a rock for the last five years and by skipping fats you could be causing yourself unnecessary cravings. “Foods high in ‘good’ fats – such as oily fish, avocados, raw nuts, seeds and cold-pressed oils made from seeds can help slow the release of sugars into the blood and make us feel fuller, preventing cravings,” says Marilyn.
5. Write your way to being accountable
Struggling to keep track of your eating habits? Try logging what you eat. This can help you monitor what food groups you may be over indulging in and can make it easier to control your portion size. It’ll help you stay accountable for what you’ve eaten.
6. Switch chocolate cake for an oatcake
To help prevent you from gauging on left over birthday cake, or soothing sugar cravings with a slice of victoria sponge late at night Cassandra recommends that you, “Prevent the blood sugar lows from happening in the first place. Make sure you have a good serving of protein with every meal, and swap refined carbs such as bread, typical breakfast cereals or pastries for complex carbohydrates such as whole grain oats, rye bread or whole grain rice; and preferably get some green or low-starch vegetables into each meal too. Don’t skip breakfast, and make it protein-rich – such as two eggs on a slice of toasted rye bread.”
Aid your appetite with avocados
“Avocados are a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat, which helps to satisfy hunger. They also contain an amino acid called L-carnitine that is used by the body when metabolising fat, so can benefit weight loss. Try having half an avocado on your evening salad, to help keep late night cravings at bay,” suggests Cassandra.