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Nutrition News: Evening Calories

Charlyn Fargo on

I often get asked if eating after 8 p.m. makes you gain weight. The truth is, when you eat isn't nearly as important as what you eat after 8 p.m. -- and what you've eaten throughout the day.

Some 65% of us eat at least one snack in the evening, according to the 2021 Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

The studies on late-night eating have not been based on large numbers of participants. A study of 32 young women, published in the International Journal of Obesity, found that eating late was associated with a reduction in calories burned and reduced glucose tolerance. Another study of 11 Japanese young women suggested that nighttime snacking increased levels of total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (aka bad cholesterol) in the blood, suggesting nighttime eating changes fat metabolism.

And then there is a study on research done in mice, published in the Chronobiology International where researchers found timing of food intake could be more important than regular exercise for preventing obese mice. Mice are nocturnal, so in the study they were made to eat during the day.

The bottom line is if you eat your designated calories during the day and then snack in the evening, you're going to gain weight. Late-night snacking often occurs while watching television or even reading. An entire bag of chips or plate of cookies can be consumed without even knowing it: what we call mindless eating. And ask yourself what foods you typically eat late at night. Most of the time it's not an apple. It's more likely to be chips, cookies or ice cream -- high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie snacks. Those types of food aren't healthy anytime you eat them and should therefore be eaten in moderation.

Try keeping a journal or logging your calories in an app to see how many calories you're consuming in a day. If there's room in your calorie budget for a healthier snack, enjoy it, no matter the time of day.

 

Q and A

Q: Is an air fryer worth the money?

A: I like to think of an air fryer like a mini convection oven. Rapid air circulates at high heat to bake, fry or grill a variety of foods with little or no oil. Foods are cooked to perfection in a fraction of the time conventional ovens take, and with much less fat. Another benefit is food can be cooked directly from a frozen state and often without preheating the air fryer, which can be a timesaver. Air fryers turn out healthier versions of a wide range of foods while protecting texture and without sacrificing flavor. I'm a fan for all the reasons listed.

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