Q: Is it bad to eat past 7 or 8pm?And will eating late at night ruin my diet?

Maybe you worked late last night and needed extra fuel. Or you had a dinner date across town that didn’t start until 8:30 p.m. Or you had 10 errands to run before you made it home to whip up dinner.

Whatever your reason for eating late at night, (whether it’s your actual dinner or an after-dinner snack) the good news is that your body does not have a built in calorie clock. The bad news is, this doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want whenever you want. But, you knew the bad news already so no surprise there. 

Your body processes and manages caloric consumption over many days, weeks and months. It’s not the exact time you stop eating that’s most important. It’s about not eating more calories than you need. I don’t advocate counting calories. Keeping your calories in check is going to be a result of eating whole real foods, consistently through the day and listening to your body. 

If you are a late sleeper, you may start your day at 10:00 a.m. and have dinner later than 8:00 p.m.—that’s potentially okay. If you eat breakfast within and hour and a half of rising and eat consistently through the day your lateish dinner may be perfectly acceptable. And if you’re an early riser, your dinner may be at 5:00 p.m. and and an 8:00 p.m. nutrient-dense snack may be just what your bod needs. 

The problem isn’t necessarily what time you’re eating dinner, it’s that most calories eaten after dinner are additional calories that you don’t need and they’re usually the wrong types of calories. Cheese fries sound familiar? Nibbling post dinner or eating late at night is commonly mindless eating from habit, boredom or other emotional eating

If you eat your dinner at a normal time, but find yourself still hungry later on, you need to look be aware of the why you’re hungry. Did you not eat consistently throughout the day? Was your dinner well balanced and proportioned? Is your stress level off the charts? Are you eating healthy foods and an overall healthy diet or are you shoveling in processed foods?

Reflect on your day, and as a rule of thumb, you should fuel your body with healthy snacks or meals every three to five hours. It’s a better guideline than the time on the clock. If you find yourself walking to the kitchen but you shouldn’t really be hungry, check in with your emotions, tweak that night time routine and go for a cup of herbal tea instead. If you’re starving because it’s 3:00 a.m.? Go to bed! 

About Nutritious Life Editors

The Nutritious Life Editors are a team of healthy lifestyle enthusiasts who not only subscribe to — and live! — the 8 Pillars of a Nutritious Life, but also have access to some of the savviest thought leaders in the health and wellness space — including our founder and resident dietitian, Keri Glassman. From the hottest trends in wellness to the latest medical science, we stay on top of it all in order to deliver the info YOU need to live your most nutritious life.

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