Nutritionists often stress the importance of avoiding food late at night, when a hearty meal or even an unhealthy snack can make it hard to get a good’s night sleep. Dining late at night also may make it harder for the body to break down food, which then is likely to be stored as fat and cause unwanted weight gain.
But sometimes a late meal is inevitable. Whether you caught an early movie before getting dinner or simply want to grab something on the way home from a late night at the office, there are ways to make a late night of dining out more healthy.
• Avoid fatty foods. The body will have a hard time burning fat right before bed. Though it’s always best to avoid fatty foods, eating them late at night especially is damaging. When you eat them earlier in the day, your body will have plenty of time to burn the fat before bed. When dining out late at night, look for items on the menu that are low in fat.
• Avoid sugar. Sugar can make your body feel energized, but it’s just temporary. That spike in energy can make it hard to fall asleep. In addition, sugar will be stored as fat overnight. So while that ice-cream cone might hit the spot while you’re out on the town, chances are it’s not worth the resulting loss of sleep or weight gain.
• Pass on the pasta. When eating late at night, it’s best to avoid refined carbohydrates like pasta. Carbs are likely to be stored as fat if the body is not given ample time to burn them off. Whole-grain pastas are healthier than traditional enriched pastas, but neither are ideal.
• Choose lean proteins. When including protein as part of your late-night meal, opt for small portions of lean protein instead of red meats and larger portions. Yogurt, tuna fish or deli-sliced turkey is a better source of late-night protein than a juicy steak because they won’t make the body work as hard overnight as a steak, which will be hard for your body to digest as you attempt to rest.
• Say no to spices. Even if spicy foods are your favorite, it’s best to ignore them when dining out late at night. That’s because spicy foods can upset the stomach and stimulate your senses, making it harder to get a good night’s rest.
• Steer clear of alcohol. A late-night drink with dinner might not be very harmful. But several late-night drinks can have a considerable impact on the quality of your sleep. Alcohol negatively affects the body’s ability to sleep deeply, so while men and women who drink heavily before bed likely won’t have trouble falling asleep, the sleep they end up getting will be shallow and less restorative than what the body needs to function optimally the following day.