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Does Late-Night Eating Cause Weight Gain?

If your before-bed snack habit has you worried that you'll gain weight, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) says to put your mind at ease. According to the NIDDK, it doesn't matter what time of day you eat - it's how much you eat during the whole day and how much exercise you get that make you gain or lose weight.

However, some research has shown that those people who regularly eat breakfast are more likely to lose weight and keep it off long-term, so there's evidence that eating earlier in the day - as opposed to later - may help you make better food choices and eat fewer calories.

Here are a few tips from the NIDDK for controlling calories in the evening:

  • Avoid snacking while doing other tasks, such as watching television or using the computer. Instead, eat at the dining room or kitchen table so you are less likely to be distracted and more likely to be aware of what and how much you are eating.
  • If you want a snack before bedtime, consider how many calories you've had overall that day. If you've eaten lightly, your desire for a snack may be your body’s way of telling you it needs more calories.
  • Add exercise to your evening by doing squats or crunches while watching television or by taking an evening walk or bike ride.

Related information: Weight Management Center | Food choices

Sources:  National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Weight-control Information Network, Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths, NIH Publication No. 01-4561, October 2000; Wyatt HR, Grunwald GK, Mosca CL, Klem ML, Wing RR, Hill JO. Long-term weight loss and breakfast in subjects in the national weight control registry. Obesity Research 2002 Feb;10(2):78-82.

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