Do the fridge, freezer and pantry call your name even though you had a big dinner? Many of us snack at night, but do we do it because we are hungry?  

According to a new study published in the journal Obesity, our body’s circadian system – or internal clock – may the reason we crave something sweet, starchy or salty in the evening.  Back when people hunted and foraged for food, they instinctively piled on calories at night for survival.  Today, food is plentiful and there’s no reason for us to keep eating when our energy needs are low.  Those extra calories we consume (but barely burn) while watching TV are destined to pad our waistline.

I’m not suggesting a ban on after dinner snacks.  Just snack wisely.

Avoid late night sweets

Sugary snacks perpetuate sweet cravings. Eat some lean protein instead because it digests slowly, so you’ll stay satisfied longer.  Turkey is a great choice because it contains tryptophan, an essential amino acid shown to promote sleepiness.

Eat light at night

I tell my clients to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.  Start with a hearty breakfast followed by a satisfying lunch, a healthy snack and then end the day with a light and filling meal consisting of lean protein like fish or poultry and vegetables.  

Fill up on fiber and protein

This combo fills you up without loading you up on fat and calories. Think veggies dipped in fat-free dressing, Greek yogurt topped with raspberries, half an apple with peanut butter, or whole grain crackers with low-fat string cheese.

Sip something warm and soothing

A steamy cup of fruity or spiced herbal tea is a carefree way to wind down with little to no fat, calories or caffeine.  You can’t gulp a hot beverage, so kick back and savor its deliciousness.

Indulge healthier

If your late-night weakness is ice cream, say no to the full-fat kind and say yes to a cool, creamy sugar-free pop. Opt out of deep-fried chips and get your salty crunch fix with baked whole wheat pita chips you make yourself.

For more tips, delicious high fiber meal plans, recipes, and proven ways to lose weight and look great, check out my new book The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber!

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a registered dietitian in New York City and author of the Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with fiber  Follow Tanya on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website