Do you get the after-dinner munchies? Claire Turnbull helps you curb the urge.
Let’s set the scene: You’ve finished dinner, and, let’s be honest, you’ve probably eaten an ample amount and now feel full. But then you get that uncontrollable urge for a little something extra, and it’s usually something sweet.
This may not happen right away; you could feel like eating again an hour or so after dinner. You might start off with some yoghurt or fruit, but that can lead to a biscuit or three, some chocolate, or whatever else you can lay your hands on.
Nine times out of 10, most people (including me) get an attack of the munchies because they’ve become used to enjoying a sweet treat in the evening, not because they’re actually hungry. It’s just a bad habit, and nothing more than a big mind game.
But for some people, nibbling on extras at night can really add up. If you aren’t hungry, even a healthy tub of yoghurt, a handful of cereal and a piece of fruit will be more food than you need. And if you’re grazing on biscuits, you can end up consuming more fat and kilojoules than if you’d eaten a full meal, which you have! Mindless snacking, which people often do without even enjoying their food, is both wasteful and frustrating. More important, this self-destructive behaviour stops you from being the happiest, healthiest version of you.
So when the munchies set in, ask yourself: Am I really hungry? There’s a big difference between fancying a piece of chocolate or a scoop of ice cream and truly feeling hungry.
If you are hungry, you might have needed more vegies or some healthy carbs at dinner. As a result, you’re now craving sugar for a fast energy fix. It would have been better to have had a few healthy carbs at dinner than to tell yourself ‘no carbs at night’ and then reach for chocolate!
If you are going to eat after dinner, choose food that provides some good nutrition: a small tub of yoghurt, a cup of vegetable soup or a frozen banana (which tastes like ice cream!). If you’re genuinely hungry, these kinds of choices will be enough; if not, you’re simply feeding a sweet-fix habit, in which case you can at least start to acknowledge that it’s time to break it!
Break the habit!
Try some of these smart snack-free strategies.
Sip herbal tea after dinner to cleanse your palate. Then you can brush your teeth.
Store tempting foods in an opaque container at the back of your fridge or pantry. You could even put a sticky note saying Do you really need to eat me? on the container.
Do something else. When you’re craving a snack that you know you don’t need, read a book, phone a friend or make a pot of tea. You could even write down your thoughts and feelings. If it’s still light, go outside for 10 minutes or take a walk around the block.
Manage the thoughts behind your behaviour. When you’re in the kitchen, are you thinking I deserve a treat? I haven’t eaten well all day, so why start now? or If I eat, I’ll feel better? An awareness of your thoughts will help you interrupt this unhelpful thought pattern.