Food Bites with Dr. Hyman – Nighttime Snacking

Isla H asks:  I have been on The 10-Day Detox Diet for a few months now and I’m curious if and when I can have nighttime snacks.  If so, what?

Many people enjoy a good snack now and then. If the urge to nosh strikes at night, there are a few guidelines I want to share with you so you don’t sabotage your efforts to stay on track with your long-term goals for health and weight management.

To lose weight and decrease the inflammation triggering all those annoying symptoms, you need to keep insulin down.  Way, way down. Eating anything (but healthy fat) automatically increases insulin.  Keeping this hormone balanced in the evening hours becomes key to success and sustaining results.  Ideally, you don’t want to eat anything after dinnertime.

Having trouble with that?  See my two-step approach for managing your next snack-attack.

  1. Understand the reason why you want to snack.

Some of us want a snack because they are bored or they are socializing.   If we get together with family or friends in the evening, we often congregate around food.  And when you are catching up on your favorite shows (and watching all those commercials for fast food and snack foods), it’s totally understandable the urge will strike to snack.  But remember – you don’t have to eat just because everyone else is and the media is telling you to!  Before you reach for a treat, ask yourself these questions to help you decide if you should indulge:

  • Am I really hungry or am I bored (or perhaps I don’t want to disappoint my friends/family?)

HINT: Look for true hunger.  You might feel biological hunger deep in your abdomen and high within your upper chest, like a hollow sensation typically accompanied with belly growling, low energy, foggy thinking, and even shaking, sweating, and mood changes.  Boredom is more a mental “appetite” for food that stems from a lack of engagement in the moment.  You can change that!  Check in with your fellow Detoxers and see what variety of things work for each other.

  • Is eating a crutch to lean on instead of doing an activity with my friends/family? If so, what other ways can we feel like we are indulging or celebrating life that doesn’t include food?

HINT: Read or revisit Day 7: Nurture, of your 10-Day Detox Diet, for ways to nourish your whole body and mind.  Maintaining your center and sense of having control of your circumstances is important to fostering resilience.  Resilience helps us buffer the ups and downs of daily life and work that traditionally cause us to veer off our wellness paths, splurge on our favorite treats, skip our workouts, or toss our journaling aside.  To reap bigger and better results, come together in your local or virtual Detox community and participate in a group activity.  Feeling like you are a part of something bigger than yourself is healing and might just inspire to keep everyone motivated!

  • Have I missed meals throughout the day (or not balanced my meals with ample protein, fiber from veggies, and healthy fats) and want to eat treats because the thought of cooking a healthier, balanced meal sounds exhausting at this point in the evening?

HINT: Get into a rhythm of eating so your body goes on hormonal autopilot.  Our systems (and waistlines) really like this!  Eat a protein-based breakfast every day (lunch and dinner too) and include at least 1 serving (if not more) of healthy fats (avocado, olives, nuts, seeds, tahini, unrefined oils such as olive or coconut oil). Try to finish your last meal of the day at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed.

  • Are my hormones out of balance? If your ghrelin, insulin, leptin, and PPY hormones are imbalanced, you might feel a lack of control regarding your hunger. When these four hormones are not aligned, our brain and belly don’t communicate well, and we may feel the constant urge to snack.

HINT: The key to balancing these powerful appetite-regulating hormones is simple (yet sometimes easier said than done).  Go 100 percent cold turkey from all sugar (including artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, natural 0-calorie sweeteners such as stevia, organic and natural sugars such as sucanat, molasses, honey, or maple syrup).  You also must cut out all processed and junk food for at least 10 days, or as long as your particular body requires to reset your metabolism.  Certain supplements such as vitamin D, omega 3-fatty acids, chromium, B6 (and all B vitamins), magnesium, and a special super fiber called PGX have been studied and shown to be effective for balancing and regulating these hormones.

  • Was your day stressful and snacking feels comforting and familiar?

HINT: Stress increases cortisol, which increases your desire to eat, whereas relaxation cools inflammation, which helps you control your diet.  You might need a warm bath, a little exercise (or less – don’t overdo it, as this also increases cortisol), deep breathing, meditation, prayer, or time in nature.  Read this for more information on how stress impairs our wellness and what my recommendations are to squash stress before it squashes you!

Remember, there is a never a reason to replace a balanced meal with junky food or treats while committing to your health on The 10-Day Detox Diet.  Check in with yourself and be honest about why you want to eat.

  1. If a snack feels right for you, then make it count towards upgrading your nutrition status on your 10-Day Detox Diet. Here are some ideas to try. All of these are loaded with low-glycemic, protein, and healthy fat ingredients – keys to healthy snacking:
  • A small handful of melatonin-rich walnuts or almonds, raw and organic if possible
  • A spoonful of coconut butter (or almond, cashew, macadamia, or sunflower seed butter)
  • Avocado slices
  • A small handful of blackberries or raspberries
  • A small salad (the crunch is satisfying and lettuce actually contains sleep-inducing constituents that mimic melatonin)
  • Tahini spread on seed-based crackers such as Mary’s Gone Crackers
  • Truffles made with raw cacao, shredded, unsweetened coconut, and cashew butter
  • Canned salmon mixed with real mayo served on roasted seaweed snacks, crunchy celery, or in a butter lettuce leaf wrap
  • ½ Hyman’s Whole Foods Protein Shake
  • Small cup of one of my favorite soups
  • Kale chips
  • Roasted peppers or non-starchy vegetables of choice (summer squash, zucchini, cauliflower, etc.) dipped in tahini, baba ghanoush, or tapenade

For more delicious snack ideas to please both the savory and sweet palette, check out my new cookbook, The 10-Day Detox Diet Cookbook!

Do you love talking to fellow health warriors about all things 10-Day Detox Diet related?  Then join my 10-Day Detox Diet Challenge coming in June 2015.  Registration closes June 17, and prep for the challenge begins the next day – so be sure to sign up soon!

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

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Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 12-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.


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If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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