Always hungry at night. How to minimize the damage?
February 1, 2006 9:46 AM   Subscribe

I'm pretty much always hungry at night. I work at home, mostly at night. What's the least bad, most filling thing I can eat? I'm not fat, just a little squishy. Trying to focus on eating fruit but it doesn't always work out that way.
posted by clango to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Go for a combination of protein and complex carbohydrate earlier in the evening. This will take longer to burn off and you'll be less likely to be hungry at night. You could also do the same thing at night, so you don't wake up hungry or nauseated in the morning, if that's a problem. Fruit may be lower in calories, but it is a quick sugar rush and not really the solution to your problems. Maybe try eating slightly smaller lunch and supper, then shifting a snack to the evening.
posted by acoutu at 9:54 AM on February 1, 2006

Plain popcorn. Yogurt with wheat germ. Kefir (I like Helios brand.) Carrot sticks. Dried fruit.
posted by desuetude at 9:55 AM on February 1, 2006

Rice cakes!
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:06 AM on February 1, 2006

bake some sweet potatoes. Actually, overbake them till they start leaking a little onto the pan. Then refrigerate. Eaten cold they are sweet, definitely filling, and low calorie. Plus sweet potatoes are incredibly nutritious.
posted by konolia at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2006

Celery sticks with salt on them.
Watermelon or Honeydew.
How 'bout just chewing gum and drinking tea? Warm liquids help satiate you.
posted by Radio7 at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2006

Big glass of V8 with a shot of worcestershire sauce and all the celery sticks you can eat. (No vodka.)
posted by Scram at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2006

Popcorn is the most obvious; bread is pretty much in the same vein, as something with a lot of volume but not a lot of calories. Surprisingly, something with some fat in it may give you a greater sense of satiety, so the occasional roast-beef sandwich might not be a bad thing.

If you work sitting at a desk with a bag of snack food next to it, stop. Don't snack: treat eating as its own thing. It's too easy to consume a huge amount of not-very-healthy snack food without thinking about it.

Also, if you're trying to de-squishify, exercise is more effective than diet, IMO.
posted by adamrice at 10:09 AM on February 1, 2006

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:20 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by Wild_Eep at 10:32 AM on February 1, 2006

I second sweet potatoes. A nutritionist friend of mine called them "the perfect food." Rich in vitamins, complex carbs, and low fat. And they taste good.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:36 AM on February 1, 2006

Depends on what kind of hunger you're experiencing. There are two kinds: physical stomach emptiness, and "craving" hunger.

The first is the product of not eating in a long time, and it just means you need to eat more. Eat things that will physically fill you up without being calorically rich. Slow-digesting protein (particularly casein) is the ideal, but carbs are fine too, in the right moderation. Good examples to try include roughage (lettuce, etc.), carrots, celery, yogurt, scrambled egg whites, lean poultry (plain or lightly seasoned), whole grain bread, oatmeal, cereal, and most definitely fruit. Keep in mind that if you're eating soon before bed, you shouldn't be eating to get full, just eating enough so you're not unpleasantly hungry. Overfilling yourself before you go to sleep is a surefire way to squishify.

The second kind of hunger, the craving kind, is a broader physiological hunger that comes from a desire for rich food, specifically junk carbs. It happens because you eat a lot of junk carbs (refined sugars and the like) earlier, and that spikes your blood sugar, so your insulin level spikes along with it. The problem is, your blood sugar normalizes a lot faster than your insulin level, so you're left with too much insulin in your blood that is slow to fade away. So your body tells you to eat more quick-digesting sugars and starches to match the insulin. That's why you can often feel hungry for candy or things like that even if your stomach is quite full.

If you have the first kind of hunger, just eat more and keep it lean. If possible, add this extra food earlier in the evening so you won't be hungry later (ex: eat two smaller dinners at 5 and 8 instead of one big one) so that you can make it through the last two hours before bedtime before eating. Midnight snacks are a prime cause of weight gain.

If you have the second kind of hunger, eat less rich food at earlier meals. Other than that, it's about willpower. Your body doesn't actually need more food, it just craves certain carbs, and if you gorge on them it will perpetuate that cycle, you need to wait it out until your insulin level drops. Eat vegetables or something else, the feeling of eating something will lessen the cravings. Other tips: drink tea, water, or diet soda (but be mindful of caffeine if you're sensitive to it). Chew gum. Brush your teeth and floss soon after dinner; that way, if you're going to bed in a half hour, you'll have something mitigating the temptation - your laziness about brushing your teeth again.

I didn't mean to make my advice this long, sorry for rambling, but if you want more info, e-mail is in profile.
posted by TunnelArmr at 10:40 AM on February 1, 2006 [1 favorite]

Cottage cheese and an apple. Slow digesting, nutritious, and you'll be full by the time you eat any decent amount of calories.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:54 AM on February 1, 2006

I'm a big fan of edamame for night snacking. These are fresh soybeans; you can find them in the frozen veggies at the grocery store. They're kind of like soft peanuts, and they come either in a pod or shelled. I boil a half cup of 'em, and then sprinkle them with kosher salt and red pepper flakes. They're hot, tasty, high in protein and fiber, and low in fat.

I also have dark chocolate for dessert. It's hard to overeat dark chocolate; the intensity is very satisfying.

I've really had to manage my tendency to snack in the evenings. I've even learned there's a stress-related phenomenon called "Night Eating Syndrome", which might help account for some of the reasons I do this. Try googling that some more for some new strategies.
posted by Miko at 10:57 AM on February 1, 2006

I find an ounce of peanuts effective to stave off the hungries.
posted by cairnish at 10:57 AM on February 1, 2006

This might be a bit of a derail, but I felt similarly, and it turned out to be mostly the result of skipping breakfast. Nowadays I try and eat a really big breakfast, and my evenings are satiated.
posted by ori at 11:00 AM on February 1, 2006

If you take the advice about popcorn you should have it be air-popped or as close to fat-free as possible. Standard off the shelf microwave stuff has a lot of fat. Even the 'light' stuff can be as much as 25% fat calories.

Instructions for your own concoction can be found here.
posted by phearlez at 11:02 AM on February 1, 2006

A bowl of soup is pretty filling and usually not many calories.
posted by knave at 11:07 AM on February 1, 2006

vegetable soup!
posted by sierra13 at 11:10 AM on February 1, 2006

Anything with lots of fibre, complex carbohydrates over simple ones, high moisture content (or drink more liquids).
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:46 AM on February 1, 2006

If you have time and want to eat so you can feel like taking a break, make egg whites. Boiled, fried/scrambled/omelets with cooking spray, anything -- egg whites are perfect. But make sure you don't include the yolk, or you'll be getting fat and cholesterol you don't want.

If you don't have time, and just want something to shove into your mouth mindlessly as you work (and hey, I do this too), go for the bag of baby carrots. Real carrots work, celery works, green peppers work -- but none of them are as simple and grab-from-the-bag chompable as baby carrots.
posted by booksandlibretti at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2006

As a snack, Oranges & Grapefruits are good because:

1. Very flavorful
2. Relatively small impact on blood sugar
3. Relatively high in fiber.

As a result they have a high satisfaction to calories ratio.
posted by Good Brain at 1:02 PM on February 1, 2006

Response by poster: These are some great answers. I'm starting tonight with a more balanced dinner and making some sweet potatoes for later. Thanks, all!
posted by clango at 4:25 PM on February 1, 2006

I posted this on a similar thread a couple of weeks ago but I'll repost it now:

Watch out for those peanuts! Each kernel (not whole nut) contains 4.3 calories! That adds up fast.

I suggest sauteing frozen vegetables in butter-flavored Pam. They come in (relatively) "exotic" blends now. When you cook them, season with real spices and add a sliced Roma tomato.

Now you have a largish hot snack that weighs in at a mere 50-60 calories!
posted by sourwookie at 4:43 PM on February 1, 2006

A glass of milk, a bowl of cereal.
posted by hooray at 4:56 PM on February 1, 2006

Hooray beat me to it. When I'm hungry I find it almost impossible to get to sleep. A glass of milk does the trick. Warm is best, but cold seems to work just as well. Be sure to brush your teeth afterwards!
posted by zardoz at 6:11 PM on February 1, 2006

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