NORTH COUNTY – Nutritionists often recommend that men and women avoid eating late at night, when a hearty meal or even an unhealthy snack can make it harder to get a good’s night sleep.
Dining late at night may also make it harder for the body to break down food, which is then likely to be stored as fat and cause unwanted weight gain.
But sometimes a late meal is inevitable. Whether a person wants to catch an early movie before getting dinner, or simply wants to grab something on the way home from a late night at the office, there are ways to make a late night of dining out healthier.
• Avoid fatty foods. The body will have a hard time burning fat from fatty foods when they are eaten right before bed, so there’s a great chance the body will then just store those foods as fat. Though it’s always best to avoid fatty foods, eating them late at night is the worst time to eat them. When eaten earlier in the day, your body will have ample opportunities to burn the fat before bedtime. When dining out late at night, look for items on the menu that are low in fat.
• Avoid sugar. Sugar is another food to avoid when dining out late at night. Sugar can make one’s body feel energized, even if it’s just temporary. That spike in energy can make it hard to fall asleep. In addition, sugar will be stored as fat overnight. So while that bowl of ice cream might hit the spot when out on the town, chances are it’s not worth the resulting loss of sleep or weight gain.
• Pass on the pasta. When eating late at night, it’s best to avoid carbohydrates like pasta. That’s because carbs are likely to be stored as fat if the body is not given ample time to burn them off. Whole-grain pastas might be healthier than more traditional enriched pastas, but they should both be avoided when dining late at night.
• Choose lean proteins. When including protein as part of a late-night meal, opt for small portions of lean protein instead of red meats and larger portions. Yogurt or deli-sliced turkey is a better source of late-night protein than a juicy steak because neither will make the body work as hard overnight as a steak, which will be hard for the body to digest as one attempts to get a good night’s sleep.
• Say no to spices. Even if spicy foods are a favorite, it’s best to ignore them when dining out late at night. That’s because spicy foods can upset the stomach and stimulate one’s senses, making it harder to get a good night’s rest.
• Steer clear of alcohol. A late-night drink with dinner might not be very harmful, but several late-night drinks can have a considerable impact on the quality of one’s sleep. Alcohol negatively affects the body’s ability to get a deep sleep, so while men and women who drink heavily before bed likely won’t have trouble falling asleep, the sleep they end up getting will be shallow and less restorative than the body needs it to be to function optimally the following day.