Six tips for handling after-dinner snack cravings.
You are not alone in having them…
Do you find, after dinner, even though you’ve just eaten a full meal, your fridge and pantry seem to whisper your name and pull you in as if you’ve been hypnotised?
I’ve been there too and I’ve devoted time to researching, thinking and experimenting with strategies to take back control of the post-dinner cravings and compulsive snacking.
Let’s make something clear though before we go on: You are not weak or ill disciplined for craving something sweet after dinner.
In fact, eating carbs or sugar is one of the body’s natural methods to take us out of a stressed state. We are actually hardwired to eat carbs in times of stress!
Having said that there are strategies we can put in place to ensure that this natural craving doesn’t hijack our efforts to achieve our health, fitness and body composition goals:
1. Shop wisely for better options
If all else fails and the strategies below don’t work make sure you have healthy carbs sources to turn to on ‘those nights’ when your body is calling out for ‘sweetness’.
Stock your fridge with fresh berries instead of chocolate or junk. Berries will sate your need for something sweet with much less calories and more nutrition than other fruits or chocolate/ junk.
Read our article on nutrient-dense food swaps for healthy food substitutes.
2. Don’t bring your stress home with you
Snacking provides comfort from any unresolved stress and anxiety we’ve faced during the day.
The reflect, rest and re-set method is a simple strategy that you can use to successfully transition from one aspect of your life (i.e. work) to another (i.e. your personal life).
I highly recommend this method to enable you to leave work at work and to enter your evenings at home in a more balanced and relaxed state. Let’s lighten the load on your adrenals.
3. Eat your dinner mindfully
This one is HUGE! If you hoover down your food mindlessly while distracted by the TV or while you’re on your smartphone then you are denying yourself the pleasurable experience of eating your evening meal.
If you don’t have that pleasurable eating experience at dinner you are far more likely to go looking for it later in the evening.
If that sounds familiar, make a concerted effort to eat your dinner at the table, digital devices off, and really savour the colours, smells and flavours of your evening meals. Eat it slowly and make a point of enjoying every mouthful and the company you’re in!
Beating the snack cravings requires focus and awareness.
And if you’d like to know more about the health benefits of avoiding the snack attack, please see here.
4. Substitute snacking with equally enjoyable, enriching and indulgent shutdown rituals
He notes that sometimes we make eating choices for emotional nourishment more so than physical nourishment, i.e. something sweet after dinner to cheer us up.
Rather than eliminating evening snacks through willpower and suffering through the cravings, have a think about what your evening snacking is giving you?
Perhaps it is comfort or pleasure you could be getting in other ways: i.e. by listening to or playing some music, reading a good book, journalling, meditating, drawing, arts and crafts, playing, cuddling up to a partner or having a hot bath or shower.
This will look a little different for everyone but the idea is to explore other avenues to provide yourself with the comfort and emotional nourishment we all need at times.
5. Brush your teeth when you’re done eating
Brushing your teeth is something you’ve been doing when you’re done eating for the day your whole life.
Tap into this relationship by brushing your teeth after dinner and telling yourself you’re done for the night with this action.
6. Have a cup of herbal tea
There are many herbal tea options out there (ensure it’s not caffeinated), though my favourite option for this is ‘Sleep Tight’ by T2 which has several calming and sleep promoting qualities. It’s enjoyable, it warms you up, is relaxing to drink and compliments the rest of my evening shutdown ritual nicely.
I hope this helps you to understand your post-dinner snack cravings and gives you some tools to make to make this a healthier part of your day.