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Tips to avoid late-night snacking

An important weight management tip is to eat when you we feel true, physiological hunger. Eating when not truly hungry can lead to excess calories and weight gain. Excessive snacking before bedtime and/or late at night, in particular, can become a bad habit. It can be a ‘go to’ behavior to distract us when we are experiencing uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings, such as frustration, anger, fear and boredom. Even excess stress and exhaustion can play a role in night-time eating. Here are some tips to limit mindless eating at night:

Eat well during the day: Aim to consume regular, well balanced meals with a wide variety of foods. Take time to plan your meals and snacks. Listen to your body and stay fueled throughout the day, according to your hunger levels.

Include fiber-rich foods: Few Americans eat enough of fiber-rich foods. Fiber, found in plant foods, promotes digestive and heart health and keeps you feeling fuller longer. Whole grains, fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds and legumes are fiber-rich. The more fiber you eat, the more important it is to drink plenty of water.

Don’t skimp on protein and overdo processed carbs: Noshing on processed carbs all day, such as crackers, white bread, granola bars, sugary cereals, sweets, pastries, and chips, for example, doesn’t provide your body with what it needs for optimum performance. Stick with healthier carb choices, such as fruit, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Pair these foods with a source of protein, such as a hard-boiled egg, Greek yogurt, nut butter, cottage cheese, hummus, tuna, etc.

Think twice before taking a bite: what are you really feeling? Is it true hunger or are you anxious, bored, frustrated or tired? What other activities and behaviors would satisfy you? Consider calling a friend to chat, playing a game, going for a walk, taking a relaxing shower or bath, reading, etc.

Go to bed earlier: if you are eating out of boredom or as a compliment to late-night television, consider an earlier bedtime. Sleep is important for weight control. Inadequate sleep can interfere with efficient carbohydrate metabolism, increase fat storage and hunger.

If you are truly hungry, eat a healthy balanced snack, such as yogurt with fruit, oatmeal with raisins and nuts, 1/2 small turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread or a slice of whole wheat toast spread with peanut butter or low-fat ricotta cheese and a dab of honey or jam. Keep your portions small and avoid distractions while eating.

Nutrition Month: Get Your Plate in Shape

National Nutrition Month Tips

March is National Nutrition Month. The theme, created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for 2012, is to ‘get your plate in shape.’ These days it is all about your ‘plate.’ Take the traditional food guide pyramid for example. It is a part of our nutrition history – a thing of the past, having been replaced by the ‘choose my plate‘ graphic.

So, how can ‘A Perfect Plate’ help you to “get your plate in shape?” Try these National Nutrition Month tips this week. Look forward to more helpful ‘good nutrition‘ suggestions this month!

Devote half of your plate to fruits and vegetables

This is particularly important for your lunch and dinner meals. For optimal health benefits and weight management, choose more vegetables (from all five subgroups: orange, dark green, starchy, beans and ‘other’) than fruits. recommends consuming 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits on a 2000-calorie diet. Don’t forget bright colors such as red (think red bell peppers) and purple/blue (blueberries and beets). Look for what is in season and/or try frozen produce for quick smoothies and side dishes. For each meal, aim to consume at least one piece of fruit, one serving of vegetables, or both.

Vary your protein choices

Think your only options are beef, pork or chicken? Think again. It could be time to update your plate! You have varied nutrition needs. Therefore, you should choose from a variety of foods every week from the ‘protein’ food group. Options include seafood, legumes (starchy beans and peas), eggs and less common plant-based proteins, such as whole soy foods. Examples include edamame, or whole green soybeans, which can be purchased in the frozen food section for ultimate convenience, and quinoa. Quinoa is an iron-rich, high-quality whole grain which also happens to be a ‘complete’ protein food. Complete proteins contain all of the amino acids, like meats, dairy, poultry and fish. Because fish is generally low in total and saturated fat, make it your protein choice at least twice weekly. How much space should lean protein foods take up on your plate? No more than 1/4 of your plate, roughly 3 to 5 oz.

These tips may be publicized during National Nutrition Month throughout March, but you should aim for ‘optimal nutrition’ year-round.