Weighing in on late night snacking

Ariel Silkett
Features Writer

Why is late-night snacking categorized as a bad habit? According to Fit Day (a free weight loss and diet journal website), the top three top reasons include weight gain, fluctuations in sleep cycles, and increased urination and excretion needs. During the day, your metabolism is relatively active. In contrast, your metabolism slows down during sleep. Food eaten close to bedtime is metabolized and digested at a slower rate, which contributes to weight gain. Sleep cycles can be disrupted by the digestive process by waking you often or making it difficult to fall asleep. According to LiveStrong.com, overeating late in the evening can cause insomnia. Regardless of what you eat, you can experience discomforts with sleeping well if your body does not get the chance to digest before lying in bed. Foods that contain sugar or caffeine contribute to this problem especially. Increased urination and excretion needs also disrupt your sleeping cycle. Waking up to use the restroom every so often makes it difficult to sleep or stay asleep. Try foods high in fiber if you need a night time snack because they take a longer time to digest and will not need to be excreted for at least eight hours.

Starbucks’ Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream contains 660 calories and 22 grams of fat.
Starbucks’ Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream contains 660 calories and 22 grams of fat.

Foods high in fat will make you gain weight and impede your sleep. For example, pizza contains cheese and oil. This kind of fat sits in your digestive tract longer than any other foods. The fat requires more energy for your body to dispose of, making it difficult for you to feel tired. Spicy foods create an endorphin rush, also making it difficult for you to feel tired, according to Lynn Smithson, a San Diego-based nutritionist. It is best to save those spicy urges for that day class you tend to snooze during.
Ramen, heavy and deep-fried foods, and cheap Chinese take-out all contain MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), which is used to enhance flavor and contain high levels of sodium. It takes your body longer to break down MSG and makes it hard to sleep through the night. Many breakfast cereals contain sugar, which also makes it difficult for you to fall asleep. Normally soup sounds like a healthy choice. However, canned soups contain preservatives, high levels of salt, and additives. When you have a difficult night sleeping and wake up the next day, you feel dehydrated due to all of the sodium.
The college lifestyle sometimes makes it difficult to eat regularly throughout the day and select the healthiest choices, but there are always alternatives to the least healthy choices. Instead of pizza, choose a grilled cheese sandwich on whole-wheat bread. A grilled cheese does not contain as much cheese and will be easier on your digestive system. Your body digests the whole-wheat easily and quickly. Instead of spicy foods or fatty chips, try pretzels instead (non-salted pretzels are best). If you need flavor, dip the pretzels in mild chipotle salsa.
If you crave sweets at night, try spreading a bit of natural jam or peanut butter on graham crackers. It still contains a bit of sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth, but does not keep you awake like cookies and chocolate do. According to Allie Firestone, a writer for DivineCaroline.com, the makers of frozen meals have made healthy improvements lately. Instead of Chinese food, try a good frozen meal such as Amy’s Organics frozen foods. Avoid cereals high in sugar at night and try wholesome ones instead. Kashi cereals contain low levels of sugar and higher levels of protein and contain a bit of fruit for sweetness too. If you are in the mood for soup, try buying canned soups that are organic and preservative-free. Making your own soup is always the healthiest option of course.

Surprisingly, many drinks are loaded with hidden calories or fats equivalent to heaping portions of snack foods.
Surprisingly, many drinks are loaded with hidden calories or fats equivalent to heaping portions of snack foods.

Kimberly Snyder, a New York Times bestselling author and nutritionist to many top celebrities, has established a list comprised of the least healthy junk food items. This list totals twenty-five items. Number one on her list is soda. Soda contains a high content of artificial sweeteners. Second place is fried chicken. Fried chicken is made from chicken packed with hormones and antibiotics. The pieces are covered with gluten breading and chemicals such as MSG and salt. They are fried in cheap oil that gets reused several times before being thrown out. Egg and sausage sandwich is number three on the list. These sandwiches contain hormones, salt, and antibiotics. Number four on the list is the bacon cheeseburger. It contains fat, calories, and cholesterol along with other unhealthy hormones and antibiotics. Number five on the list is the French fry. With high levels of salt and fried in the worst kind of oil, they are full of fat. For the entire list, you can go to, KimberlySnyder.net.
For a great site on the worst bottled drinks in America and healthier alternatives, go to EatThis.MensHealth.com and search for the 20 worst drinks in America. For example, a drink called Arizona Kiwi Strawberry contains 345 calories and 81 grams of sugars. This drink is equivalent to eating seven bowls of Froot Loops. Drinking a Fuze Slenderize Strawberry Melon is a good alternative because it contains only 20 calories and 2 grams of sugar. Another astonishing example is the Starbucks’ Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream. This drink contains 660 calories, 22 grams of fat (15 grams of saturated fats) and 95 grams of sugars. Drinking this is equivalent to eating eight and a half scoops of Edy’s Slow Churned Rich and Creamy Coffee Ice cream. Instead, drink the Cinnamon Dolce Latte with Sugar-free Syrup.
Alternatives are always out there, even if you’re a busy student. One of the biggest resources out there, the Internet, can help you to find those alternatives. Being mindful of what you are eating, especially late at night, can help you maintain the youth and health you will not always have and perhaps begin to break your late night eating habits as well.