Everybody has their favorite meal of the day. For some, it’s dinner, which often makes up most of our caloric intake. Unfortunately, this mindset means you may be practicing some unhealthy dinnertime habits that lead to more than a few extra pounds. Here are five evening eating habits that could be causing you to gain weight.
1. You’re eating way too early
Isn’t any time after lunch officially dinnertime? Perhaps not. We all have our own routines, but Amy Gorin, R.D., tells Self you should eat dinner three to five hours after you’ve had your afternoon snack. Also, consider the time you go to sleep. If you go to sleep several hours after you eat, you leave a large hunger window open that may leave you wanting to snack just before bed. In this case, you may end up overeating late at night simply because the gap between meal time and sleep time is too large.
2. Conversely, you’re eating way too late
While eating early might be a mistake, taking things too far in the other direction may be just as bad. There’s a reason why now most experts recommend not eating just before bedtime. “For years, we said a calorie is a calorie no matter when you consume it,” dietitian Joy Dubost told The Washington Post. “I don’t know if we can say that anymore, based on the emerging research. The timing of a meal may potentially have an impact.” The story goes on to mention a number of studies that have indicated a link between late-night eating and weight gain.
It’s important to allow your body at least a couple of hours between finishing dinner and hitting the sack to fully digest your meal.
3. You’re eating too fast
You’ve had a long day and you’re ravenous for dinner. We get it, we’ve all been there. But here’s where the unhealthy dinnertime habit comes in: You’re too fast for your brain to keep up with fullness signals from your body. According to Eat This, Not That!, it typically takes about 20 minutes for the two to sync. Eat more slowly, and you’ll almost certainly eat less.
4. You’re too lazy to cook
After a long day at work, it’s hard to work up the motivation to chop, blend, brown, or do any other type of meal prep. So what do you do? You reach for a few slices of bread, grab some turkey (or other cold cut of your choice), add tons of cheese, then finish the sandwich off with a huge glob of mayo. Or maybe you go the convenience route with a delivery pizza. Everyone needs a break from the kitchen now and then, but you can certainly make a smarter choice than an extra-large pepperoni pie. Instead, opt for thin crust with veggies.
5. You’re watching TV while eating
Another after-work blunder that we’re all very guilty of is devouring our dinner in front of the TV. While enjoyable, this unhealthy dinnertime habit may be expanding your waist. According to a study out of the University of Vermont, those who were overweight and cut their daily TV time in half expended nearly 120 calories more per day than their couch potato counterparts. There needs to be more research, but it’s not hard to see how this could really work in the long run. You can still enjoy your favorite shows, just save them for when you’re hitting the elliptical trainer or stationary bike.