How to Stop Food Cravings at Night

Four Parts:Changing Your DietTreating Food Cravings as an AddictionTaking Other Steps to Prevent Night CravingsResponding to a Craving

Most food cravings can be subsided with a healthy, filling snack. Other times, we just want to eat for the pleasure of eating. In these cases, focus on helping yourself sleep, distracting yourself, or training yourself to resist triggers that cause this desire. In many cases, both of these factors are involved, and you can take steps to combat them on both fronts.

Part 1
Changing Your Diet

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    Eat healthy protein for dinner. Often, food cravings are due to an energy "crash", due to not eating a substantial meal or one high in simple carbohydrates (as discussed more below). Protein gives you long-term energy and can keep you full for a long time. While not all cravings are caused directly by hunger, a full belly can make them easier to resist. Include a healthy protein in your evening meal, such as:
    • Lean poultry or fish
    • Nuts or seeds
    • Peas, lentils or beans.
    • Yogurt
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    Include fiber in your diet. Dietary fiber takes a long time to digest and has few calories by volume. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruit can keep you full for longer without compromising your healthy diet. High-fiber cereals low in sugar are also a good option.
    • Try incorporating two vegetable dishes on your dinner plate instead of just one.
    • Swap a sugary dessert with fresh fruit. Or at least try a yogurt parfait with berries, strawberries and cream, or pineapple fool instead of less nutritious options.
    • Fiber bars are often helpful. While these often have a lot of sugar, they add fiber to the diet, and a good option for a "dessert" that actually has benefits.
    • Some people benefit from fiber supplements. Give it a try — it is not just for your great aunt!
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    Reduce sugar and simple carbohydrates. High-sugar foods cause a sudden rise in your blood sugar, followed by a sudden crash. This crash can leave you feeling tired and hungry, causing food cravings or making them more difficult to resist. Simple carbohydrates found in white rice, white bread, white pasta, and most pizza crusts quickly break down into sugar after they are eaten, and have a similar effect.
    • Replace these with complex carbohydrates, found in whole grain bread or pasta, brown rice, and green vegetables.
    • Remember that sugary foods and beverages are also simple carbohydrates. Having a sugary cola with dinner can actually trigger more cravings later at night!
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    Consider eating small meals throughout the day. If you find yourself hungry between meals, it is difficult to stick to healthy food. Instead of three meals, try six! Reduce the size of your lunch and dinner, and add healthy snack times between meals and after dinner to make up for it. Some people eat as many as six small meals a day, making it difficult for hunger to take hold and lead to bad decisions.

Part 2
Treating Food Cravings as an Addiction

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    Recognize the nature of food addiction. Similar to addiction to tobacco or gambling, one can have an unhealthy relationship when it comes to food. Your food cravings may not be as severe as an addiction to cigarettes, but some of the same tactics many people find useful in conquering addictions can be helpful in breaking this pattern.
    • Food cravings can happen because your mind and/or body are used to a pattern that has become unhealthy. If you are used to having a cookie every day after work, your body learns to anticipate that pastry.
    • Use of food may tend to happen when you are not really hungry, but when you are bored, frustrated, or tired. Food becomes a comforter and soother, rather than because you are actually hungry. If you find yourself reaching for potato chips when you feed lonely, this is using food as a comforter.
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    Think of the mental components to your night cravings. However, more typically, night cravings are because a person is in a state of mind that is negative. What are you feeling when you get a night craving? (The section on keeping a journal is very helpful in narrowing this down.) Such as:
    • Bored
    • Tired
    • Lonely
    • Angry
    • Worried
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    Consider the physical components of your food cravings. It is possible to get night cravings purely from physical reasons, and that needs to be addressed.
    • Are you eating an unhealthy diet?
    • Are you staying up very late? (A longer discussion is below)
    • Is your workout timed poorly? While working out is a good idea, if you are doing so close to bedtime and on an empty stomach, this can contribute to cravings.
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    Distract yourself from cravings. Cravings tend to happen when one is at a low energy point in the day, and often when you are not active. But cravings are often surprisingly easy to avoid if you re-focus on something more positive. When you find a craving creeping up, if at all possible stop what you are doing and re-direct yourself to something else. Try:
    • Getting up and taking a 10 minute walk.
    • Call or text a friend.
    • Do a quick chore: hang up laundry, wash the dishes, wipe down the bathroom counters.
    • Just do something different. Just recognizing that you need to go do something different to head off the impulse can help.

Part 3
Taking Other Steps to Prevent Night Cravings

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    Get to sleep earlier. The earlier you get to sleep, the less time you will have to get hungry after dinner. Also, if you stay awake until you are exhausted, it can be difficult to make wise decisions. If you are having trouble adjusting to an earlier schedule, try these tips:
    • Purchase a red light bulb, since red light increases the production of sleep hormones.
    • Avoid evening caffeine, cigarettes, or blue light from computer or television screens.
    • Take melatonin pills nightly to help set your bedtime earlier.
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    Keep a cravings journal. When you have a craving, write down what you want to eat, and what caused it. If you're not sure what caused the craving, write down whether you smelled or saw a particular food, what your mood is, and whether you feel stressed or tired. After a few cravings, you might start to notice a pattern. This helps you recognize tempting situations and stay vigilant about preventing them and dealing with them.
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    Rehearse yourself through triggers. If you know what sets off your cravings, prepare yourself for the trigger in advance. Repeat to yourself what you'll do to avoid giving in, and picture yourself walking past the food without eating it, or going to bed without stopping by the kitchen. Imagining this process in advance can build up your willpower when it comes time to actually turning down the food.
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    Ban your worst culprits. If your junk food is easy to get, it is easy to mindlessly devour it. The best solution is simply not keeping the food in the house. For instance, you might crave ice cream at 10 p.m.--but not actually want badly enough to make the effort to actually drive to the store.
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    Make your craved food more difficult to obtain. Maybe you cannot remove them from your house entirely. And maybe an outright ban is not the best approach for you. The next best thing is to make the food something that means you have to put some effort and thought into partaking of your midnight snack.
    • Food should be stored in the kitchen — not bedrooms, on the coffee table, or next to the computer. The combination of sedentary behavior and mindless eating promotes unhealthy behaviors.
    • Make your favorite foods from scratch. It is easy to dig into a bag of snickerdoodle cookies, but baking a homemade batch takes more effort. You will probably make them less often if you make them...and the results are usually tastier and more satisfying than store-bought treats!
    • Store treats in a difficult to reach area. For instance, your ice cream should be kept in the storage freezer in the garage under pounds of frozen peas...not in the kitchen within easy reach.

Part 4
Responding to a Craving

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    Try some liquids. When food cravings hit, try drinking some liquids. Drink a large glass of water, caffeine-free tea, or low-fat milk or milk substitute when you have a craving, instead of eating a snack. These relatively low-calorie liquids will fill up your stomach but not fatten you.
    • Drinking a glass of water will also delay you from heading to the pantry and give your mouth an oral fix, instead of potato chips.
    • Some people mistake dehydration or thirst for hunger; water is especially effective in these cases.
    • Hot beverages also help your stomach feel fuller. A cup of herbal tea, for instance, can curb the munchies. It is particularly good for those who eat when nervous or stressed, as it relaxes the stomach.
    • Avoid sugary drinks — and drinks you make sugary. A cup of peppermint tea is a terrific choice for an evening beverage to avoid snacking...but not so much if supercharged with sugar. A tablespoon in your tea (15 calories) is one thing, but an American Southern-style sweet tea is far too sugar-filled to be considered a real alternative to a sugary snack.
    • Keep a glass of water by your bed so you do not need to visit the kitchen at night.
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    Have healthy snacks available. If your food craving is caused by legitimate hunger, keep a small plate in your bedroom with a healthy option. A piece of whole wheat bread, a small apple, four or five unsalted nuts, a few cherry tomatoes, or a small square of dark chocolate are all examples of a small snack you could eat instead of visiting the kitchen.
    • If your cravings are more psychological than physical (which admittedly can be difficult to figure out), try reducing the size of this snack each night over the course of a week or two, until you no longer need it.
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    Chew sugar-free gum. Keep a pack of sugar-free gum, and chew it until the craving passes. This likely will not eliminate your cravings, but it may make them less intense than they would otherwise get.[1]
    • A strong flavor such as peppermint may help satisfy some of your craving.
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    Use flavored toothpaste or mouthwash. When you are kept up by a late night craving, get out of bed and brush your teeth with a strongly flavored toothpaste, or rinse with mouthwash. The taste may help you deal with the craving, and the "clean teeth" feeling may make you less willing to eat directly afterward.
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    Think of something disgusting. If you're sensitive to unpleasant images or thoughts, disgust yourself too much to eat. This is not the most pleasant way to deal with a craving, but it works for some people.
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    Find a distracting activity. If the craving continues for more than 10 minutes and shows no sign of stopping, distract yourself. Any busy activity can accomplish this, from chores to dog walking to reading a book. Avoid activities that take you to the kitchen or near places you can buy food.


  • Drinking a glass of water with each meal, and whenever you feel thirsty, can help keep you full without adding to your diet.


  • Extreme diet plans that involve skipping meals are more likely to backfire, since they can make you very hungry. When trying to lose weight, instead focus on eating healthier food in slightly smaller portions.

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