By Lauren Dia, MS, RDN, LDN
Will Eating at Night Make Me Gain Weight?
Eating at night does not inherently impact body weight. Despite the “rules” and myths you may have heard through diet culture, there is no specific time window in which one should eat meals or snacks. Consider those who work night shifts: they may experience increased hunger cues during nighttime hours because they primarily sleep during the day. If you feel hungry before bedtime or have a long gap between dinner and heading to bed, eating an evening snack may be quite beneficial. Eating at night or after a dinner meal is also appropriate if you wake up in the night due to feeling hungry or waking up in the morning and feeling overly hungry. Bottom line: Be intentional in fueling your body throughout your waking hours, trusting that bodies can utilize nutrition anytime during the day or night.
Should I Avoid Grains?
Grains and starches are important components of a balanced eating pattern as they contain carbohydrates, the body’s primary source of fuel or energy. Grains provide our bodies with the glucose necessary for our cells to thrive. In addition, grains are rich sources of B vitamins like riboflavin, thiamin, and folate and can also provide minerals, including iron, magnesium, and selenium. Grains like oatmeal, potatoes, rice, and bread add fiber, contributing to regular bowel movements and a healthy gut. In summary, avoiding grains not only compromises the fuel our bodies need to function, but can result in micronutrient deficiencies and contribute to compromised GI function.
Do I Need to Count Calories?
In short, the answer is “no.” You do not need to count calories. Our bodies are equipped with all they need to regulate energy intake without us having to rely on numbers as a guide. Nutrition requirements can change from day to day and depend on many factors such as activity level, stress, and stage of life. For example, children and adolescents require more nutrition during periods of rapid growth compared to other stages of childhood. Throughout adulthood, hunger and fullness cues remain intact, ensuring our bodies are equipped with the signals needed to regulate the type and amount of food necessary for each life stage. Counting calories often leads to working against our bodies instead of working with them, potentially contributing to disordered eating, including food restriction or excessive exercise based on estimated caloric intake or expenditure. Rather than counting calories or focusing on external factors to guide eating, focus on building awareness and acknowledgment of the body’s internal hunger cues, which could include thoughts shifting to food, low energy, and an empty, growling stomach, to changes in mood or the ability to concentrate. Set yourself up for success by planning meals and snacks every 3-5 hours as a rule of thumb, using fullness or satiety as a stopping point. With the principles of Intuitive Eating as the foundation of our philosophy, the Registered Dietitians at Memphis Nutrition Group can help to empower you to break free from a dependence on numbers and dieting, rebuild your relationship with food, and reconnect with your body.