Lay­ing off the late-night snacks

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It’s frus­trat­ing to eat well all day but yet get stuck in this bad habit of snack­ing on un­healthy foods at night. Any sug­ges­tions? Thanks, Gemma.

Hi Gemma. If your evening rou­tine has started to in­volve eat­ing more than you’d like, it’s time to break up the pat­tern of your night. Sim­ply chang­ing the or­der of your evening can help, al­ter­ing the con­nec­tions be­tween cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties and eat­ing can help your brain let go of the no­tion that it doesn’t feel ‘‘right’’ not to fol­low through. Set­ting up new habits may feel a bit strange at first, but be­fore long, it will be­come your new nor­mal.

For many peo­ple, eat­ing in gen­eral, re­gard­less of what time – can tend to be mind­less. This is most often the case with late night snack­ing.

When you start think­ing about food as fuel for your body, it can help bring the im­por­tance of qual­ity and bal­ance into fo­cus. Snack foods tend to be more pro­cessed which are less likely to help pro­vide the build­ing blocks that go to work to build and re­pair mus­cle tis­sue, main­tain a healthy im­mune sys­tem and keep your skin nour­ished.

A good ques­tion to ask your­self be­fore snack­ing at night is: ‘‘Am I ac­tu­ally hun­gry?’’ If it was truly hunger driv­ing your snack­ing your de­sire to snack at night, your food choices would re­flect this. I don’t know too many peo­ple who snack on broc­coli!

Many peo­ple use food as a cop­ing mech­a­nism – to try and al­le­vi­ate feel­ings of bore­dom, frus­tra­tion, sad­ness, stress – or even eat to en­hance feel­ings of hap­pi­ness.

Snack­ing at night is ac­tu­ally re­ally com­mon often par­tic­u­larly with peo­ple fol­low­ing strict diet and ex­er­cise regimes. It is also gen­er­ally a time when peo­ple are alone and there­fore don’t feel as con­scious of their food choices.

Al­though there are cer­tainly emo­tional rea­sons why you may be snack­ing at night there can also be bio­chem­i­cal/nu­tri­tional rea­sons, too. These can in­clude ac­tu­ally be­ing hun­gry – this is par­tic­u­larly com­mon when you cut out a food group at night or have some­thing par­tic­u­larly light such as soup or salad.

It’s also more com­mon to snack at night if your food in­take over the day has been low and you’re one of those peo­ple who ‘‘for­gets to eat’’. Bring aware­ness to when you’re drawn to eat at night and ask your­self the ques­tion, what do I re­ally want? What is this re­ally about?

Is there a dif­fer­ence be­tween ca­cao and co­coa? With thanks – Sue G.

Yes there is al­though often this is mis­taken as a spell­ing er­ror. Raw ca­cao pow­der is typ­i­cally made by cold-press­ing un­roasted co­coa beans. The process keeps the liv­ing en­zymes in the co­coa and re­moves the fat (ca­cao but­ter).

Co­coa pow­der looks the same (al­though it can tend to be slightly lighter) as ca­cao pow­der but it’s not. Co­coa pow­der is raw ca­cao that’s been roasted, typ­i­cally at high tem­per­a­tures.

This process re­duces or de­stroys the en­zyme con­tent, which low­ers the over­all nu­tri­tional value. Ca­cao pow­der has a higher an­tiox­i­dant con­tent than co­coa and has been linked to a va­ri­ety of health ben­e­fits. As a re­sult, it’s best not to heat ca­cao pow­der. We do not know whether or not heat­ing raw ca­cao de­stroys its an­tiox­i­dant level, so it’s best to avoid heat­ing it if pos­si­ble.

Snack­ing at night is more com­mon often par­tic­u­larly with peo­ple fol­low­ing strict diet and ex­er­cise regimes.

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