Does this sound familiar? Breakfast: protein smoothie with a small avocado toast; Lunch: kale salad with a side of lentil soup; Dinner: three slices of pizza, french fries, a beer, and half a pan of brownies with three scoops of ice cream.
Uh, whoops. Eating healthy all day long is hard, so we don't blame you for letting go when you get home and wanting to eat everything. It's the equivalent of going to work in your fancy clothes and then instantly throwing off your heels and bra as soon as you walk through your front door. We get it.
If you have an issue with overeating at dinnertime, and aren't OK with the weight gain, bloating, and trouble sleeping that it's causing, here are some tips from certified dietitian Leslie Langevin, MS, RD, CD, of Whole Health Nutrition to get your ravenous need for copious amounts of food under control.
Indulge Before Dinner
Like a kid in a museum, we can't expect you to be good 24 hours a day. In order to satiate your cravings and prevent them from becoming so overwhelming that you eat your entire fridge at night, eat a little of the foods you love throughout the day. Whether it's chips or chocolate, bread or cheese, indulge at some point during the day so you're not suffering by dinnertime.
Sometimes the need to overeat happens because you're not getting enough food the rest of the day. This can happen if you're strictly counting calories or so busy with work that you don't have time for lunch. Or maybe it's just too long for you to go from lunch to dinner without a snack. Keep your hunger in check all day by eating 300 to 400 calories at breakfast and lunch, and throw in an afternoon snack at 3 p.m. so you're not famished by dinner.
3's the Magic Number
For breakfast and lunch, it's essential to include these three things: protein, carbs, and fats. If you skip your macros, hunger and low energy will drive you to make up for it at night and overeat. No need to go overboard on the protein. Leslie recommends 20 to 30 grams per meal. And carbs are good for giving you energy; just make sure to go for complex carbs, like whole grains and fruit, so they offer fiber to keep hunger at bay. Healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil will also add to that "I'm full" feeling, so when you get home for dinner, you're not feeling completely depleted. Include these three in your dinner, too.
How you eat dinner also helps prevent you from overeating. Leslie says to eat slowly and stay focused on how your stomach feels after each bite. You can even take a 10-minute break halfway through your meal to assess whether you should continue eating more or be done. And then stop eating when you are 80 percent full. That means putting the rest of your food in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch so it's not sitting in front of you, tempting you.