There is a bit of confusion about whether eating in the evenings or later at night is healthy. This is a question we frequently get from guests, and there is a lot of misinformation out there. Many people think they need to stop eating after 8:00 pm. But this is not necessarily the case.
I was happy to recently came across an article titled, ‘What time should I stop eating?‘ (click the link). It’s written by a registered dietitian and contains some great information. I wanted to share the main points of the article, as I think they are informative and valid.
The problem with eating late is not the lateness of the hour, but the quantity and quality of the calories consumed. It’s better for the body if we spread our calories throughout the day rather than eat them all in one sitting. Our bodies and brains need to be fuelled on a regular, consistent basis. But because people have busy lives, they often skip meals or eat very little during the day, and by the time they finally sit down to eat their evening meal, they are ravenous. As a result of this, they tend to eat larger than normal quantities of very high calorie, high fat, or high sugar foods. This is not healthy for the body and can lead to weight gain.
Eating after 8:00 or 9:00 pm is not a problem, as long as you have spread your calories throughout the day and you are not overeating at this time.
In general, it is better for our bodies if we consume the bulk of our calories when we are most active (i.e. physically or mentally active). Many people are most active during the morning and afternoon hours. But some people may work swing shifts or work over nights. In this case, it would be better for the body to consume calories during these working hours when the calories are more likely to be burned off.
The article talks about the ’70 percent rule,’ which means that you consume 70 percent of your calories during the day and leave the remaining 30 percent for the evening meal. The timing of this meal doesn’t matter, as long as you finish eating at least 90 minutes before you go to bed.
I have found that my body works best when I eat 3 meals and 2 snacks throughout the day. My second snack is eaten after dinner, usually around 9:00 pm. This works for me, as it satisfies my hunger until I go to bed a few hours later. But everyone is unique. I realize that what works for me may not work for others. The best thing you can do is eat regular meals and snacks, spreading your calories throughout the day and providing your body with energy on a consistent basis.
So, don’t feel bad if your schedule is such that you eat your evening meal a bit later in the day or if you need an evening snack. This is perfectly acceptable. Just plan for it, try and make sure it’s balanced and healthy, and ensure you are eating consistently throughout the day so you aren’t ravenous in the evening.
Rachel Andrew MPH, RD, CD