Susie Burrell

‘your food, your body, your life’

What you should not do after 7pm.

While what we eat on a daily basis is frequently discussed, less often mentioned is the importance of the timing of our health habits. For most of us, our work and training is completed early in the day, while rest, relaxation and plenty of eating and drinking is done after work throughout the evening. Unfortunately when it comes to our health and our weight this can be the worst times to indulge. So here are just some of the things you should try and avoid doing after 7pm each night if you possibly can.

1. Eat large meals

Not only does consuming a significant number of calories late in the day when you are more likely to be sitting and moving very little lead to indigestion and abdominal discomfort but over time eating heavy carb rich foods at night can result in hormonal changes linked to weight gain long term.

Eating late at night is also bad for our heart. New research recently presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress reported that individuals who consumed a significant number of calories after 7pm each night had the highest increases in blood pressure overnight. High blood pressure is linked to an increased risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This finding suggests an early dinner or a light meal such as fish and vegetables is best if your final meal of the day is regularly consumed after 7pm.

2. Eat fatty food

The issue with eating later in evening is not limited to large meals. Indulging in high fat foods such as ice-cream, biscuits, cakes and chocolates aka known as the ‘treats’ we consume in front of the television is linked to increases in blood fats immediately after the high fat foods are consumed. High amounts of fat in the blood contribute to making the arteries ‘sticky’, increasing the risk of adverse heart events. So if you must indulge a little after dinner, look for lower fat options such as Greek yoghurt and fruit, a little gelato or a couple of crackers with nut spread or cottage cheese. 

3. Drink alcohol

It is commonly thought that alcohol, or the sugar in alcohol causes weight gain. This is not the case. Rather when alcohol is being consumed, the calories consumed via food are more likely to be stored. This means that is you are drinking a number of alcoholic drinks along with a heavy meal, chances are you will be on the weight gain cycle, which will be exacerbated the later into the evening you are eating and drinking. The solution? Eat your last meal of the day as early as you can in indulge in a 1-2 alcoholic drinks minus the extra food when you do enjoy an evening drink. 

4. Consume caffeine

While you may have ditched the coffee later in the day, it is important to remember that cola drinks, dark chocolate, cacao and tea (other than herbal tea) contains caffeine and it adds up. For example, a hearty serve of dark chocolate along with a hot chocolate made with cacao or cup of tea will give you close to 80mg of caffeine or a similar amount to that in a cup of coffee. The effects of caffeine including an inability to sleep, restlessness and heart palpitations which can be experienced for up to 4-6 hours after the caffeine is consumed so if you are having trouble getting to sleep, caffeine that is slipping into your diet may be the reason. For this reason, avoiding chocolate late and night and swapping to herbal tea is the way to go.

5. Eat MSG

MSG or monosodium glutamate (621) is found in many sauces including soy and hoisin sauce, flavoured snacks such as 2 minute noodles, potato chips and rice crackers and many Asian dishes in which salty sauces tend to be added. MSG in foods can cause skin irritation, increased heart rate, rashes and headaches in those sensitive to it and as it slips into our diet via many of these commonly consumed foods, we often do not identify it as the cause. So if you suffer from these symptoms or regularly indulge in Asian foods, it may be worthwhile consuming them earlier in the day or seeking out MSG free options.