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.
'Tis the season for all things cranberry, and a good time to try pork with cranberries. Here's a recipe from Better Homes and Gardens that marries the two. It's a great recipe for a preholiday dinner with family or friends.
PORK CHOPS WITH CRANBERRIES AND PEARS
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 (6-ounce) boneless pork chops, cut 1-inch thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large, ripe Bartlett pears, cored and cut into wedges
1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 cup hard cider or apple cider
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 425 F. For spice mix: In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, mustard, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Rub spice mix over both sides of chops. In a 12-inch cast-iron or heavy skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chops and cook 2-3 minutes per side or until browned. Remove chops from skillet. Add pears and onion to skillet. Cook and stir about 2 minutes or until browned. Return chops to skillet with pears and onions. Top with cranberries and rosemary. Bake about 15 minutes or until pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 F. Transfer chops and pear mixture to a platter. Cover and keep warm. For pan sauce, carefully add cider to hot skillet. Boil gently over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes or until reduced and slightly thickened, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Whisk in butter; cook and stir 1-2 minutes more to thicken. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Spoon pan sauce over pork chops and pear mixture. Serves 4.
Per serving: 391 calories; 35 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrate; 14 grams fat (5 grams saturated); 95 milligrams cholesterol; 5 grams fiber; 18 grams sugars; 552 milligrams sodium.
Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.