Woman Looking into FridgeAn interesting program on TV, a comfortable couch, and a bowl of ice cream, bag of potato chips, or a bar of chocolate. Most of us have found ourselves at the mercy of just this delicious combination, only to be ridden with guilt the next morning.

But while late-night snacking is tainted by images of obesity, the severity of the health danger depends on what you are eating, how often, and why. If you are eating consciously while remaining within your calorie limits and because you are hungry, late-night snacking is no worse than snacking during the day.

However, if you indulging in late-night eating on a regular basis because you are bored and you are eating high-calorie foods with lots of carbohydrates, sugars, and fats, then you are endangering your health.

The Impact of Late Night Snacking

According to a report on The New York Times website, late-night eating causes weight gain.

Recent studies indicate that our body’s internal clock regulates the use of energy. This means that the time of the meal makes a difference on how the body expends and stores the calories consumed.

Frequent late-night snacking has been shown to throw off the body’s metabolic rate, causing such eaters to gain weight. As the country faces an obesity epidemic, late-night snacking is being seen as one controllable factor for those who want to lose weight.

Additionally, late-night snacking can impact your sleep and keep you awake. And if you sleep less than five hours for a prolonged period of time, you are more likely to gain abdominal fat in addition to raising your chances of having a heart attack or a stroke.

The Causes of Late Night Bingeing

Besides boredom, there are other reasons why some people can’t stop eating at night. While such eating has varied underlying causes, the symptom is late-night eating.

One such reason is night eating syndrome, which is associated with lack of appetite in the morning. While there is no specific cause for this syndrome, it is commonly seen in obese patients, those suffering from tumors that impact the pituitary region that controls satiation, or those patients suffering from depression and anxiety.

Late-night bingeing also occurs if you have poor eating habits. People who do not consume enough healthy calories during the day are urged by their bodies to consume at night.

Researchers have also found that people who work late shifts tend to indulge in nighttime snacking since their bodies’ circadian rhythm is altered.

Healthy Late Night Snacks

While it is difficult for those who tend to snack at night to head for the bag of pre-washed salad greens or a stick of celery, it is possible to plan ahead and arrange for a snack that won’t throw a gigantic calorie bomb into your system. Just try to budget for them during the day so that you remain within your recommended calorie limit.

Needless to say, most sweet treats and high-fat foods are out. Additionally, stay away from packaged and processed foods. However, healthy snacks under 300 calories are good choices.

Now let’s talk about the biggest culprits sitting on our pantry or refrigerator shelves, waiting to enter our system and thwart our weight loss or weight maintenance plans.

The biggest saboteur is potato chips. So try to stay away from this salty treat at night and instead choose a whole grain snack such as popcorn. Avoid buttery, movie-style, packaged popcorn and opt for a bag of air-popped corn instead. It will fill you up and won’t make you gain weight.

If chocolate is your bête noire, head for the dark kind that is made up of at least 60% of antioxidant-rich cocoa. Not only will it satisfy you faster, it is also known to raise your metabolic rate and reduce your risk of heart disease.

While granola is touted as a healthy breakfast snack, most store-bought granola is full of sugar. So put it away and grab a handful of fiber-rich pistachios. Filled with protein and healthy fats, pistachios make you feel full faster.

Stay away from the ice cream carton at night. As beguiling as the flavors can be, ice cream is full of sugar, fat, and carbohydrates. Instead, freeze some fruits. Grapes, strawberries, and blueberries are great options. Full of vitamins and minerals, these sweet treats are a great option for sweet cravings.

And finally, face off with the cookie jars that beckon! If you are lusting for a bite of a chocolate chip cookie or a rich, buttery shortbread cookie, head for the whole-grain waffle in your freezer. A fiber-rich treat, it can be dressed up with some peanut butter or a banana for a wholesome late-night snack.

Some other options for late-night snacks include yogurt, cottage cheese, any fruits, low-calorie shakes, and tea, among others.