I am the healthiest eater during the day. I never snack between breakfast and lunch and usually only have a light snack between lunch and dinner. After dinner, I allow myself some sugar-free (stevia sweetened chocolate) as a treat but for some reason, I sometimes struggle with wanting to eat more. This happens when I am not even hungry. It is almost as if I feel I have ‘earned it’ for being so good throughout the day.
I know I am not alone when it comes to this issue. People tend to snack mindlessly during evening activities such as watching TV or reading a book. This, in fact, is the worst time to eat, as we are generally not even conscious of what is going into our mouths or whether we feel like it. It is also heavily behavioural – we have come to crave dessert or something sweet after dinner because that is what our normal pattern of behaviour tells us to do.
We can break this bad habit however. Follow the tips below to break the cycle.
Only serve yourself what you will eat and don’t go back for seconds
Buffet dining or putting food on the table and serving yourself from there are the worst things you can do to control portions. Serve yourself and others from the kitchen where you prepared your meal, then take your plate to the table. When finished eating, pack up the leftovers (if any) and immediately clear the dishes. This will signal to your body that you have had your evening meal and you don’t need any more food. Constantly picking at leftover food or going back for a second serving will only pile on the calories consumed at your nightly meal more than likely leave you feeling fuller than you should.
Brush your teeth after eating
Brushing your teeth can help you break the behavioural pattern than tells you to keep eating. It will also send a signal to your body that it is time to start winding down for the night and will thus help you to enter relaxation mode.
Drink a glass (or two) of water
Hunger is often confused with thirst and this may be the case if you find yourself still hungry after dinner. Down a big glass of water instead of heading to the snack cupboard and then reassess your hunger levels after half an hour. If you are still truly hungry, have a small treat or a piece of cheese.
Time it right
While eating too long before bed can leave you with a rumbling tummy when you fall asleep, eating too close to bed time can also interrupt the digestive process and leave you with less time to burn off the calories consumed at dinner. Try to consume your evening meal at least three hours before bedtime.
If all of the above fail and you are still pottering around the kitchen for a snack, distract yourself. Get out of the house and go for a walk or call a friend. Do something that gets your mind off food and focus instead of something more productive. Try writing down your goals for the next day, or planning a new breakfast recipe to try. The options are endless.