Susie Burrell

‘your food, your body, your life’

The eating times ruining your diet

Who would have thought that the clock would have so much to do with what we eat and when? A recent survey commissioned by a UK supplement company has reported three danger times when it comes to eating, or overeating – 11:01am, 3:14pm and 9:31pm as the times we are at highest risk of consuming a complete calorie overload. Specifically the survey found that dieters consumed an extra 750 calories per day during these high risk feeding periods which were associated with a morning trip to the coffee shop, the afternoon tea run and a regular after dinner binge.

So if you fall victim to coffee shop treats or sweet cravings after dinner, here is how to take control and slash your calorie intake during these times.  

The 11am hunger

Chances are that by 11am it has been several hours since you have consumed breakfast and it is still an hour or two before lunch. Eating too few calories during the first half of the day is not only a trigger for late morning hunger and cravings but also can leave you vulnerable to overeating later in the day.

Late morning hunger is also associated with a quick trip to the coffee shop when we are more likely to indulge in high calorie muffins, cakes and other high carb treats which often contain more calories than an entire meal. The closeness to lunchtime also means that if we do snack at 11am, we push lunch back to 2 or 3pm, which is not ideal either.

Take control of this high risk feeding time by scheduling a small snack 3-4 hours after breakfast and before 10:30am to avoid feeling hungry too close to lunchtime. Ideally this snack will contain just 100-200 calories and 5-10g of protein to keep the hunger pangs at bay until lunchtime. Good options include a small coffee, 100g Greek yoghurt and berries or a couple of wholegrain crackers and cheese.

The afternoon munchies

It is normal that we will feel hungry 2-3 hours after a meal, once our blood glucose levels drop. This tends to correspond to 3-4pm each workday when the lure of the vending machine or box of office fundraising chocolates becomes too much and we seek out sweet food to boost our glucose levels.

Unfortunately the types of foods we associate with snacking at this time of day again tend to be sweet, treat style foods – biscuits, chocolates, snack bars which leave us feeling unsatisfied and more likely to snack until dinner time. The key step in taking control of overeating at this time of day is to again plan a protein rich snack 3-4 hours after lunch. Good options include portion controlled, nutrient rich nut based snack bars, crackers with a savoury topping or vegetables with cottage cheese or hommus.

Scheduling a filling snack before extreme hunger hits late afternoon will also help to prevent binge eating when you arrive home from work late, tired and prone to demolishing an entire packet of rice crackers and dip before dinner. 

The 9:30pm hit

You know the drill, it is a couple of hours after dinner, you are relaxing in front of the TV and the thought of a cup of tea and something sweet is just what you feel like to round out a long day. Biscuit and chocolate manufacturers are not silly, they know the evening is the time to advertise treat style foods that we routinely overeat in the evenings on a regular basis. Eating sweet foods in front of the television is a bad habit, and a habit that can be exceptionally difficult to break, especially when you have done it for many years.

A couple of strategies that can work well in controlling overeating at this time of day include planning to enjoy a single calorie controlled treat at this time of day. Good options include a small individual ice cream, a few squares of dark chocolate or a biscuit or two with a cup of tea. Having an eating cut off each day at say 8 or 9pm also can work well as can ensuring you do not keep tempting foods in the house, as if they are there, you will eat them.

If though you have difficulty in controlling yourself at this time of day, going cold turkey on all food after dinner may be the key to breaking this bad food habits which is causing you to eat a significant number of extra calories each day.