Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: If I had a dime for every time I was asked the “night time eating” question, I’d be rich. At some point, the “Food Police” made a rule that we shouldn’t eat past 7pm because we’d become overweight. That’s a myth. So you can sigh with relief now that you know that your bowl of cereal before bed isn’t making you fat:)
Contrary to popular belief, calories eaten in the evening are not automatically stored as fat. What matters is the total amount of calories consumed during the day. If you stay within your recommended calorie needs, it doesn’t really matter when you consume those calories. That being said, you will likely overeat at night (on calorie-rich foods) if you skimp during the day. That’s why it’s important to eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day.
If you are hungry after dinner, you should have a light snack before bed- even 30 minutes prior to bed is ok. Ignoring your hunger at any point isn’t good. The key is to eat something that is easily digested. Snacks such as low-fat yogurt, a piece of fruit or a small bowl of cereal are good options. To avoid sleep disruptions, you should avoid anything heavy with a lot of protein or fat, such as high-fat dairy products, or meats. Protein and fat are digested slowly and may cause stomach upset, cramping, bloating or heartburn if eaten too soon before lying down and in a large quantity. You should also avoid anything containing caffeine as it stimulates the nervous system, and anything carbonated because it can cause bloating and distention- something that may not help in the sleeping department.
My rule of thumb is to eat every 3-4 hours or thereabouts. If you tend to have an earlier dinner, an evening snack makes sense. If you usually eat dinner later (let’s say 2-3 hours before you go to bed), I wouldn’t advise having a snack unless you’re truly hungry.
What about toddlers and kids? Toddlers and small kids have smaller stomachs, therefore, they may need a bedtime snack to get them through the night. A banana with a bit of peanut butter, a glass of milk, a small bowl of cereal, or some fruit are good choices.
For easy, family-friendly recipes, check out my recipe page!
Did you know that we provide one on one nutrition counselling services for families? If this is something you’d like to learn more about, check out our The Centre For Family Nutrition page.