Late-Night Snacks

Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 01, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Q: Is it true that eating too late at night can make you gain weight? I've been told to avoid any snacking after 8 p.m. because whatever I eat will turn directly into fat.

A: "This is a myth," says Barbara Rolls, PhD, a professor of nutrition at Penn State University and author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. "In a large survey of 1,800 Americans, there was no association between the extent of evening eating and weight change over a 10-year period."

In another study, she says, overweight women who ate 70% of their calories either before noon or after 7:30 in the evening had no difference in their amount of body fat. So this notion, which a surprising number of people believe to be an easy weight-loss fix, is FALSE. You don't have to put a padlock on the fridge just because the sun went down.

Rather than watching the clock, focus on your food choices. "It's what you eat, not when you eat it," says Rolls. The only exception: There's a pretty strong consensus that you shouldn't skip breakfast when trying to lose weight -- or ever, really.

Fill your menu with what Rolls calls "low-calorie-dense" foods, such as fruits, vegetables, soups, and other choices that pack minimal calories per bite.