Taming evening food cravings and the after-dinner munchies

Eat breakfast like a queen*, lunch like a princess*, and dinner like a pauper.

*With apologies to Adelle Davis

taming evening food cravings

Recent studies have shown that eating the lioness’s share of your daily calories early in the day is a sound strategy for weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Turns out that the body’s circadian rhythms (the biological processes that the body follows over a 24-hour period) influence hormone release, which has implications for fat burning, fat storage and perceived hunger levels.

Not only do big breakfast eaters have an easier time losing and maintaining their weight, they also exhibit  lower levels of insulin, glucose, and fat in their blood, which may help reduce their risk of diabetes and heart disease.

I’m a strong advocate of this ‘inverted’ approach to meals and often suggest it to weight-loss clients whose food journals reveal that they typically consume most of their calories after 5 pm.

Their biggest challenge in making the switch? Evening food cravings and the feeling that they’re going to bed hungry.

Tips for taming evening food cravings and the after-dinner munchies

1. Spend a day or two tracking your food. Compare your total caloric intake to your goal (remembering that cutting calories by more than 500 per day below maintenance can, counterintuitively, undermine weight loss). If you’re not eating enough, you’ll be hungry in the evening, regardless of when, during the day, you’re consuming the bulk of your calories. Add those extra calories in at breakfast and lunch.

2. Increase your protein intake. Because protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, a few ounces of roast chicken breast will satisfy you longer than a cup of rice or sweet potatoes. In addition, protein has less of an effect on your body’s blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the likelihood that you’ll crave starchy carbs later in the evening. Pretend you’re a lucky pauper who’s just come across a chicken in the road.

3. Drink more water. Sometimes our brains mix up our body’s hydration and hunger signals. Try increasing your water intake throughout the day. Don’t wait until the after-dinner munchies strike to grab an extra glass or two; chances are your sleep will be interrupted by a middle-of-the-night trip to the loo.

4. Make TV-time, veggie-time. It’s easy to fall into the mindless eating trap when you’re marathoning through Game of Thrones. Swap cold, crunchy, raw veggies for your usual TV snack. In addition to helping you increase your daily water intake, the fibre they provide will fill you up without adding extra calories.

5. Sip on flavoured, decaffeinated tea. Sometimes all we’re really craving is flavour. I keep a stash of flavoured herbal teas on hand to satisfy flavour cravings and give my hands something to do when I’m not really hungry, but thinking about food, none-the-less (knitting helps with this too). My current favourite? A black, decaf chocolate mint tea; particularly helpful with PMS chocolate cravings!

6. Go to bed earlier. If you eat dinner at 6, but don’t go to bed until midnight, chances are you’ll end up hungry before bed. Six hours is a long time to go without eating. Try hitting the sack an hour or two earlier. Not only will it prevent you from heading to the pantry, studies have shown that chronic, short-duration sleep is linked to sugar cravings and middle-of-the-body fat deposition. If you can’t possibly go to sleep any earlier, consider shifting your dinner hour closer to bedtime.

What’s your favourite tip for taming the after-dinner munchies?  



  1. Great tips Tamara! I am a big fan of the decaf tea trick. The only trouble is I like a little stevia in it. So if it is late, I do hot water and lemon. It is soothing and gives me something to do.

    For me my biggest trick for not snacking is not having temptation in the house. I find I eat during the day as a way to take a break from work. if I don’t have it in the house, I will do something else instead
    Stephanie Robbins recently posted…Interview with Karen Hoxmeier from FMTCMy Profile

    • So true. Out of sight (or cupboards) out of mind! That’s one of the reasons I prefer to do all of the grocery shopping. I have complete control about the food that’s brought into the house!

  2. Drinking water and sipping tea help me avoid overeating late at night. I’d rather skip to the loo/Lou in the middle of the night than overstuff! Popcorn sure is tempting around 10pm though!
    KymberlyFunFit recently posted…Reverse Curls: An Unusual Abs ExerciseMy Profile

  3. #6! Emphatically!

  4. Wonderful tips. I always experience dramatic weight loss when I cut my evening munching. Thanks for the reminder!!
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Citrus Dressing on Goat Cheese Beet SaladMy Profile

  5. Great post Tamara. I like to eat more earlier & less later too… with you there! 🙂

    I am not on board with some that say we can’t eat after 6.. well, for many it is more that their choices are poor.

    My post tomorrow explains what I do BUT it is a have an after dinner healthy snack that is right for me – portion controlled – then I brush my teeth right after that. I spent a lot of time on the teeth now so I don’t want to have to do it again.. 🙂 I sip on water too.
    Jody – Fit at 57 recently posted…Gratitude Monday, Family, TheFitExpo, Happy Bday!My Profile

  6. Tamara, I’m so glad you addressed this because I asked something similar on your FB feed! I have started drinking tea, which you suggested, and that helps a lot! I have been playing around with shortening my eating window and intermittent fasting. I prefer to eat more later in the day and have my dinner to look forward to. So I haven’t been eating breakfast. But I also don’t like to eat dinner past 5:30 (that makes me feel old at 44!). After dinner I might have air popped popcorn in a brown paper bag in the microwave (2 cups) and sugar free Popsicles. The Popsicles aren’t the healthiest because they have artificial sweeteners, but they are only 15 calories each and prevent me from eating ice cream or other sweet stuff that I like!

    • Surprise! Ali, it was your question that triggered this post! I often take questions that come up in the Facebook thread and expand them here.
      Your post about dinner time and age made me feel really old; we eat at 5:00 pm and have done so ever since I was a kid. It works, because lights are out by 9:30 here!

      • I love it, Tamara! Thanks for expanding my question! And we can be old together! Trust me, I am totally with you on going to bed early. I have been known to get in bed at 8 on a work night!

  7. you know me.
    Im a misfit.
    a rebel 😉
    Im committed to my nightly snacking and it all goes back to what you say too:
    CARLA recently posted…Stop hacking life.My Profile

  8. Great ideas! I often have a chocolate craving and tame it with a diet hot cocoa (25 calories). It takes care of it and I’m not blowing my calorie budget.
    Kay Lynn recently posted…Four Things FridayMy Profile

  9. A high protein meal holds me over… But if I ever do need something else, NORI SHEETS! The crunch is the BOMB! ha ha! I am adoring SEASNAX right now too. I usually just eat plain nori but those things (made with olive oil) are the BEST THING EVER!!
    GiGi Eats recently posted…Britney Spears is Drenched!My Profile

  10. I try not to drink too much water in the evening, so I don’t risk getting up in the middle of the night to pee!

    For myself, the most important thing has simply been having good choices easily available and not being afraid to eat. A apple and almond butter is a great snack 🙂
    Kyle recently posted…Food CravingsMy Profile

    • I hear you. My 47-year old bladder doesn’t like to be over-full at bedtime. It’s hard enough to get a good sleep these days as it is!
      And I completely agree. Fear of eating is a bad thing. Learning how to eat for your body is the best lesson!