Q. What are the best foods to eat if I'm hungry late at night?
A: First off, let's dispel the myth that eating at night is somehow more fattening than consuming calories at any other time. Researchers looking into this misconception confirm: Late-night munching does not contribute to weight gain. So night eating is off the hook, assuming you are not eating more calories than your body needs.
Even so, there are potential pitfalls with after-dinner snacks. Eating and then going to bed (or just slouching on the couch) can trigger a bout of heartburn, because these positions increase stomach pressure. A good rule of thumb is to wait two hours after eating before going to bed.
It's also a good idea to ask yourself: Are these wee-hour cravings truly hunger? Might they be triggered by habit or boredom? If you're not really hungry, try to skip the snack and focus on doing something else.
If your stomach refuses to be denied, by all means, eat! Your best choices: low-calorie, easily digested fruits and vegetables. Or try slightly more indulgent options: berries or pretzels dipped in vanilla yogurt, air-popped popcorn sprinkled with brewer's yeast, baked tortilla chips with bean dip, and pumpkin seeds. To avoid late-night heartburn, steer clear of fatty foods (such as pizza, nachos, and potato chips), coffee, colas, tomato-based foods, and alcohol.
This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, author of the The Soy Sensation (McGraw-Hill, 2002) and The Green Tea Book (Avery, 1998).