Ah yes, the time when sweet, savory, crunchy, tasty junk foods shine brightly and are oh soooo satisfying. Here is where we separate nutrient dense from calorie dense.
There seems to be this hard wired rule that one should stop eating after 7 p.m. Dieters from all walks of life have drawn the line in the sand and forbid consuming food after 7 p.m. There are equal amounts of “Never eat after 7p” articles as there are “Timing of food doesn’t matter”. The truth of it all is there isn’t enough research to totally refute either claim. There may be a variety of reasons why someone would rule against eating after a certain time in the evening, perhaps they stop eating 2 hours or so before bedtime for health reasons, however, if we take a closer look at the timing of when food is consumed, it may be more about what your particular schedule is AND the type and quality of foods were are consuming: Nutrient Dense v Energy Dense.
Energy density is the amount of energy (represented by calories) in the specific food that is being consumed. Energy-dense foods have a large number of calories per serving: Cakes, cookies, soda, fried foods, sugary drinks, that Wendy’s 4 for $4 for example. These all give us “empty calories”, or foods that are comprised primarily of sugars, fats or oils, or yes…even alcoholic beverages.
Nutrient density is measured the same as Energy density, however, we are looking at the amount of beneficial nutrients in proportion to total energy content of these foods. Types of Nutrient dense foods include: Fruits and Vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, seafood, beans, nuts, low-fat or fat free milk products for example. These all give us the essential nutrients are bodies need to function like a well oiled machine. So what does all of this have to do with what time of day we stop eating?
There is no “one size fits all” hard and fast rule when it comes to nutrition. Lots of people have schedules that get their days started with breakfast at 5 a.m. others at 7 a.m. and still others at 10 a.m. Borrowing some theory from intermittent fasting, 12 hours on – 12 hours off is a good rule of thumb to have. So if you’re eating breakfast at 5 a.m., 5 p.m. should be your last substantial meal. If 10 a.m. is your first meal, 10 p.m. could be your last substantial meal. We tend to get lost when AFTER our “last substantial meal” with SNACKING.
While there are good reasons to be cautious about eating at night, the key is NOT to overdo it. There’s nothing wrong with eating a light healthy snack as long as it is planned as part of your total daily calorie count.