Q: How late at night is it safe to eat without having all the food turn to fat?
A: The problem with gaining fat is not the time at which eating occurs, it’s how the total amount of calories you eat all day compares to the total amount of calories you burn up. Studies have shown that people who eat in the evening do not gain weight if their total calories balance out. Even though you may be less active at night, you are still burning calories. However, when evening eating is not related to hunger, but is used to relieve boredom or stress, that often means eating more than is needed, and that will cause weight gain. For many people, evening eating also means high-calorie “junk food” rather than fruit or other foods low in calories and high in nutrients. But these situations pose trouble at any time of day – the problem is inappropriate eating behavior, not the time at which it occurs.
Bottom line: Eat the amount of calories you need for a healthy weight at times that are best for you.
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research