If the evening hours are your favorite time to raid the refrigerator, you’ve got lots of company. But if you consume more than 50 percent of your daily calories after dinner and sometimes wake up during the night to snack, you may have night eating syndrome, a disorder most often seen in overweight people.
According to new research from the University of Tromso in Norway, this type of uncontrolled eating may be due to your body’s failure to respond properly to stress, not to an insatiable appetite.
“Night eating syndrome may soon be recognized as a true eating disorder,” says Lola O’Rourke, M.S., R.D., a nutrition consultant in Seattle and an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. “If you suspect you have it, you should contact a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders.”
Whether or not you actually have the syndrome, ORourke says, these strategies can help you get a handle on nighttime nibbling:
1. Never skip breakfast. Even if you just have a slice of whole-wheat toast and a piece of fruit, or a low-fat yogurt and a bran muffin, you’ll be less likely to overeat at night.
2. Have an afternoon snack that includes carbohydrate and protein. Something like a handful of almonds with raisins or a slice of cheese on whole-wheat bread will provide staying power.
3. If you must have an after-dinner snack, keep it to 200 calories or less. Choose foods with a set portion size, such as a cereal bar or an individual packet of instant oatmeal. – Amy Beim