You know the guilty feeling you have after raiding the refrigerator late at night? It can feel as though someone is smacking your hand for being sneaky. It has been drilled into our heads that late-night eating is bad and contributes to weight gain. There is a validity of truth to this.

Research has found that people who eat their meals or snacks at night have a higher body fat and it has an impact on weight. U.S. News reported that “participants who ate between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. gained more weight than those who did not eat during those hours.” An estimated 12 percent of night eaters also ingested 10 percent more calories than people who did not eat at night, the story suggested. There are also more binge eaters at night. The flip side to this point is that it is your overall eating habits that dictate weight gain and eating at night is just part of the problem.

Dr. Caroline Cederquist has studied the matter and shared with that it is not just eating at night that matters. It is the overall calorie intake during the course of the day. She could be right. You do burn less calories when you sleep than when you are active during the day. If you eat four pieces of pizza at night instead of one, in addition to maxing calories during the day you will gain weight. Binge eating, and emotionally eating are also factors. These psychological issues can drive people to overeat and snack more at night. And yet, hormones could be another driving force for eating late, the University of Maryland School of Medicine discovered. When circadian rhythms start to tank after 3 p.m., it causes us to snack later in the day since energy tappers off. The positive spin on snacking is that many believe that eating before bed keeps protein in the blood. This repairs muscles during the night. Meaning, some snacking is good.

Eating most of your food at night when you have not been active, will turn into fat. To stop this, treat food as fuel not a tool to cure boredom. Eat quality foods if snacking is something you need to do, but watch your intake. Your body does a ton of work at night. It does repair work while you sleep, "so the quality of the food you eat close to bedtime is key. Processed junk won’t provide the building blocks that go to work to build muscle tissue, maintain a healthy immune system, and keep your skin looking radiant," reported. There are two sides to late-night snacking, and no one study is 100 percent correct. However, we will offer 5 tips to do it right when you get an attack of hunger.

Eat oatmeal.

Snacking does not need to be a dirty word anymore. Snacking at night can be positive if it is done correctly. Try instant oatmeal. It is tasty and low in calories. Additionally, oatmeal has soluble fibers that help to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood glucose levels, making it healthy overall. Buy oatmeal that is organic and without a lot if sugar. Also, avoid high-fat foods and eat protein like walnuts, almonds, or tuna without a ton of mayo on a piece of whole-grain toast, if oatmeal is not your thing.

Try to eat food that is low in calories.

Whole wheat crackers and peanut butter is another idea for a good snack. Try this snack when you are hungry. All you need is a half bagel toasted, 2 tbsp. of peanut butter, 1 banana, sliced, and ½ tbsp chia seeds.  Make sure there are enough vegetables available to nosh on. Keep carrots, broccoli florets, peppers and celery on hand and dip them into Greek yogurt or hummus for a treat. Vegetables are low in calories and they have fiber to help keep you full.

Have a bowl of cereal.

Do not eat sugared cereal, but have a bowl of cereal that has fiber and that has whole grain. Add some almond milk, fruit, and dust it with flax seeds for a healthy snack. Cereals like Kashi, Cheerios, Fiber One Original, Barbara’s Original Puffins, Cascadian Farm's Hearty Morning, and Lydia’s Organics Berry Good are good cereals to snack on beyond breakfast. However, still pay attention to the serving size as this still counts with healthier foods. A calorie is still a calorie.

Eat some eggs.

If you are feeling adventurous make a quick frittata with egg whites for a healthy snack. Scramble egg whites with salt, pepper, parsley, and a dollop of sour cream. Mix it and add it to the skillet until it sets. Try boiled eggs and having it with a piece of whole-wheat toast or when you are on the go. Add salsa for more zest. Eggs can be enjoyed for more than breakfast. Have them for dinner and it could help keep you satisfied enough so you don’t snack later that night. If there are any leftovers you can always enjoy them in the morning on a bagel.

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