The ideal time to have dinner is before 7 pm, say nutritionists. You’ve finally decided to give it a go and have a light and breezy meal at the designated hour. You even decide to hit the sack early, but try as you might, sleep eludes you, as you toss and turn around because of hunger pangs. You finally succumb to it and grab a bite quite late in the night. Midnight munching, as it is called, turns out to be quite a common phenomenon that college students and those with late work hours are all but familiar with. The problem with this is that the easily available snacks at that hour are often the most unhealthy, like instant noodles, chips (loaded with salt and other taste additives), aerated drinks and more, which not only affect the digestive system, but your sleep cycle as well. “Sticking to a 7 pm dinner time, refraining from eating anything thereafter and getting used to the long hours of fasting, until you break it in the morning, takes some time getting used to. Until then, the focus should be on switching to healthier options to snack on, until you can finally say no to midnight munching altogether,” says city-based nutritionist Ranjani Ranjan.
Here, experts tell you just what needs to go on your plate if you are peckish at night…
“Fruit popsicles can be a healthy midnight snack. While making these, avoid using sweeteners or sugar to ensure they are healthy. Although fruits are to be eaten during the day, having natural popsicles at night is a better alternative than a processed one that is loaded with sugar, artificial fruit flavours and preservatives,” says Ranjani.
“Bananas are a quick, lighter option for a midnight snack, which, apart from beating hunger, also helps in another body function — digestion. The fibre content of the plantain speeds up the process of digestion in your body, even helping you clear your bowels,” says Ranjani.
“In your free time, make and store chocolate at home. Up the cocoa content and cut down on sugar for a healthier version. You could also use jaggery as a substitute for sugar while making the chocolate,” suggests Tanuja.
Dietitian and nutritionist Tanuja Jain suggests oatmeal if you are terribly hungry. “Oatmeal soaked in milk is the heaviest option you have for a midnight snack. Depending on how hungry you are, decide the quantity of oatmeal, soak it in milk and add some fruits as a substitute to sugar,” she says.
BOWL OF MIXED DRY FRUITS
“Dry fruits work as any other kind of snack and are also good for building one’s metabolism, while helping in curbing one’s appetite. A mix of almonds, cashews, raisins, walnut and figs can be the basic constituents of the bowl,” adds Tanuja.
STILL CRAVING A BITE? HERE’S WHAT TO DO
1) Avoid using salt or sugar while making your snacks. Try to use natural substitutes for a flavour instead.
2) Avoid eating complex food, as it leads to indigestion.
3) Initially, fight the urge for as long as you can. Keep the snacking to a minimum and then, try to reduce the habit by reducing the intake of the snacks.
4) Eat all your meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) and the hunger pangs will reduce eventually.