Do you feel out of control around food at night? Like you can’t stop snacking, or like you’re eating more than you think you should? Read these tips from a Registered Dietitian on how to stop overeating at night.

Dietitian eating a cookie. Text reads "How to Stop Overeating at Night - Tips from a Registered Dietitian"

Do you Overeat at Night?

As a dietitian, a common concern that I hear from my clients and community is their struggle with eating at night. And by night, I mean any time between dinnertime and bedtime. Whether it’s eating past fullness at the dinner table, or feeling like they can’t keep their hand out of the snack bowl while watching nighttime television.

The most common concern about nighttime eating I hear is: “I can’t control my nighttime snacking! One moment I have a reasonable portioned snack, and the next minute I’m eating everything that looks good!”

If this is you, you’re not alone. There are a few reasons why this may be happening to you, and with those reasons come a few simple fixes you can make to stop feeling like this at night.

What Does it Mean to Overeat?

Before we talk about how to stop overeating at night, I want to discuss the term ‘overeating’ with you. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of the term, and it’s not actually one I like to use often.

The reason why I don’t like to use this term is that it has such a negative connotation, thanks to diet culture. When we think about overeating, we associate it with doing something wrong or “bad”. And I don’t believe in assigning moral value to food and eating. I don’t believe that what or how much you eat makes you right or wrong, or good or bad.

Now, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary, to overeat means to eat more food than your body needs, especially so that you feel uncomfortably full. Now, a more neutral term that I like to use for overeating is to eat past fullness. So I’m going to try and use that instead.

Man and woman eating on the couch

How to Stop Overeating at Night:

As I mentioned, eating past fullness at night can happen for a variety of reasons. Common reasons why someone may eat past comfortable fullness at night include:

  • Not eating enough during the daytime
  • Feeling unsatisfied by their dinner/nighttime snack
  • Not eating filling meals and snacks

We can address these issues with three simple fixes, outlined below.

Eat More During the Day to Stop Overeating at Night:

Many times, feeling over-hungry at night is a result of not eating enough during the day. Whether the act of under-eating during the day is intentional (by physically restricting food intake) or not, it can definitely affect our hunger levels at night.

Often times, when we skip meals or simply eat less calories than our bodies need throughout the day, we pay for it at night via a seemingly insatiable hunger. If you’re someone who arrives home from work feeling absolutely ravenous and proceeds to snack up until dinner, eats dinner, and then snacks more after dinner, you may want to try eating more throughout the day.

In order to make sure we’re eating enough during the day, it’s important to practice getting in touch with your hunger and fullness cues, and to aim to eat filling, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Keep on reading to find out how.

Learn how to Build Balanced Meals and Snacks:

One key to feeling satisfied and more in-control around food any time of the day is to enjoy filling, balanced meals and snacks that you enjoy.

Generally, a balanced meal consists of adequate carbohydrates and protein, as well as some healthy fats and fibre (which is found in plant foods like fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and legumes).

To learn more about how to build a balanced meal, check out my detailed blog post here.

Box filled with snack foods like fruit, pretzels, dips, cheese and meat

Honour Your Hunger to Stop Overeating at Night:

Another common reason why you may feel like you can’t stop snacking at night (despite feeling physically full) is that you’re not feeling satisfied.

Satisfaction is different from physical fullness in that it comes from actually enjoying the food that you eat, and eating the food that you want, no just what you think you should.

So in order to feel physically full and satisfied after your night time snack, it’s important that you aim to eat a snack that is both balanced (as discussed above) and consisting of what you’re craving. Craving ice cream? Have it! Cookies? Have them! Popcorn? Have it!

It’s more productive in the long run to ditch the food rules and allow yourself to have the snack you want in the amount that you want. You may be surprised to read this advice coming from a dietitian, but I believe in the importance of listening to your body and having a positive relationship with food.

Besides, all foods can fit into a balanced eating pattern, and restricting yourself from your favourite foods when you want them will only lead to feeling out of control around them (and probably overeating) later on.

One Last Reminder:

The last thing that I want to mention in this post is how important it is to ditch the idea that eating at night, or after dinner or a certain time of night is ‘bad’ for you. It’s not. If you’re hungry at any time, the best thing you can do about it is eat.

It’s time that we say goodbye to the restrictive diet mentality and focus on eating enough food, nourishing our bodies, and feeling good. And yes, a bowl of ice cream after dinner can be a part of that. 🙂

If you enjoyed this post or learned something new, I’d love if you could let me know in the comments! Make sure to follow along on Instagram and TikTok so you don’t miss a thing from me. Til’ next time!

Registered Dietitian Hannah Magee gives tips on how to stop overeating at night.