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What you should or shouldn’t eat at night, Experts advise

Nutrition: experts advise on what you should eat and what you shouldn’t in the night. The secret lies in what you eat and how much.

Nutrition: What you should or shouldn't eat at night, Experts advise

Nutrition is center and vital to the health of any human being. Consuming most of your calories during the day, in the form of balanced meals or snacks, promotes positive energy levels, appetite control and overall wellness. When you do resort to late-night eating, choose nutritious foods, such as whole grains, fruits or vegetables.

According to experts, there is nothing wrong with eating a light, healthy snack at suppertime as long as you plan for it as part of your total daily calories.

“Going to bed hungry can also disrupt sleep, so there is a fine line here,’’ Daniel Muwanguzi, a team leader at NutriTherapy Uganda says.

The problem comes when people eat at night for variety of reasons that often have little to do with hunger, from satisfying cravings to relieving boredom which leads to careless consumption of huge amounts of food. 

What to have for a late snack 

Muwanguzi says usually carbohydrates in foods such as warm milk, fruit, or crackers can help to drift one off to sleep because these sugars hit the serotonin in the brain and can aid sleep.

According to, serotonin is the key hormone that stabilises moods, feelings of well-being and happiness.  This hormone impacts the entire body. It enables brain cells and other nervous system cells to communicate with each other and helps with sleeping, eating, and digestion.

Foods not good to eat late at night

“Eating a full meal late at night right before going to bed can be harmful, as it can cause heartburn, weight gain, and may even disrupt sleep,” says Muwanguzi.

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All insoluble fiber such as whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans, and healthy vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower should be avoided because they force the body to undergo a rigorous digestion process that may make it difficult to even fall asleep yet peaceful sleep is a major component of a healthy lifestyle.

“These are also food that cause a morning fatigue due to the energy input of the body to breakdown the supper,” Muwanguzi says.

Nutrition affect sleeping patterns. Heavy meals with beans, dairy products, and other foods that cause gas and bloating can contribute to a restless sleep.

According to Muwanguzi, beans are a major foundation of a healthy diet in Uganda, yet they often leave discomfort through our digestive systems.

For many people, eating a lot of chili or rice and beans before sleep is asking for a night of indigestion and gas pains.

“Consuming a spicy bowl of curry or any hot sauce will awaken your taste buds, but it will also keep you awake into your sleeping time and may cause indigestion, heartburn, and elevated body temperature, these physical qualities that impair sleep,” the nutritionist warns.

The common assumption that any form of late night eating causes obesity does not apply for individuals that do not eat carelessly for the sake of the routine. It does not really matter what time of day one eats. 

“It is what and how much you eat and how much physical activity you do during the whole day that determines whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight,” says Muwanguzi.

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Acid reflux
Acid reflux is a common condition in which stomach acid moves back up into your esophagus after eating. According to several experts, it often accompanies heartburn, or a burning or tight pain in your lower or mid-chest. Overeating or eating high-fat, greasy or acidic foods, such as tomato products, at night heighten these risks. It is therefore very important to monitor one nutrition in the late hours of the day.

For children 

According to Dr Michael Tindikahwa a paediatrician at Nakasero Hospital, Infants, children below the age of 1 year especially those under the age of 6 months, should not be limited to feeding only during the day. Breastfeeding / formula milk feeds should be readily available round the clock. 

“With regards to children above the age of one year: ideally, the last meal of the day should be 2 to 3 hours before bedtime; at least earlier than an hour to bedtime. This helps minimise the risk of acid reflux, ‘heartburn’, and of being overweight. It also aids digestion of the ingested food.” says Tindikahwa. 

Dr Toko Mansur, a nutritionist, if you feel hungry after 8pm, a healthy or modest-size snack may help you sleep. He advises that when you are hungry at night, eat healthy snacks, such as oatmeal with low-fat milk. Avoid large meals and spicy foods, which can cause discomfort and disrupt sleep.

Improper nutrition practices like taking in caffeinated foods and beverages, such as chocolate, coffee and energy drinks can make it difficult to fall asleep and lead to daytime tiredness the following day.

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