How to Outsmart Late-Night Dessert Cravings

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Hi Hungry Girl,

I have a major weakness for sweets -- especially late at night. I try to resist, but I almost always find myself reaching for cookies or ice cream in the evening hours. I'm so good at following my diet during the day, but nighttime desserts are my downfall! Any advice?

Sweet Tooth after Dark

Outsmart Late-Night Dessert Cravings

Hi Sweet Tooth,

You've come to the right place! It can be tough to avoid eating sweets at night, when your day is done and there’s not much to distract you from the call of cookies and ice cream. But there are things you can do to combat those nighttime cravings...

Eat breakfast. Wondering what a morning meal has to do with your nighttime snack habit? Think about it: Breakfast is basically the foundation of your entire day. It jump-starts your metabolism and gives you the fuel you need. Bypass b-fast, and you'll be running on fumes all day. I totally get that some people just aren't hungry first thing in the a.m., and that's okay. But definitely plan ahead and have a smart meal ready when hunger hits midmorning. Stash staples like fat-free Greek yogurt at your workplace, or pack something for your commute. Is the issue a lack of time in the morning? Check out these easy recipes that'll have you out the door in minutes.

Prioritize exercise. Here's another seemingly unrelated yet essential activity if you want to outsmart those dessert cravings. For one thing, a good workout will motivate you for the rest of the day: Why derail all that hard work with a late-night chocolate bar? Plus, the calories you burn will allow you some extra calories throughout the day, which should help you feel satisfied as day turns into night.

Plan a smart sweet treat for right after dinner. There are three key words in that last sentence: plan, smart, and rightafterdinner. (Okay, that last one's not a word, but you get where I'm going here.) By planning your indulgence, you'll be less likely to just go wild on whatever's available -- jot down what you plan to have, and how much of it. By keeping it smart, you'll do much less damage in the calorie department. (Keep reading for sensible picks.) And by having it right after dinner, you'll be more mindful about your mini splurge. Heard the expression "Nothing good happens after 2 a.m."? That applies to food too!

Keep guilt-free sweets on hand. If it's ice cream and cookies you crave, stock up on some single-serve treats with reasonable calorie counts, like low-fat fudge bars (with 100 calories or less) and portion-controlled packs of crispy biscotti (like Nonni’s THINaddictives). Need some more sweet suggestions? Some of my recent favorites are Enlightened ice cream bars, Matt’s Munchies, Dole Banana/Strawberry Dippers, Element Sweet Orange Rice Cakes, and frozen grapes!

Make a post-dinner plan. If you have something to do at night other than watch TV, you’ll be far less likely to mindlessly munch. Head to bed with a book in hand, or Skype with a friend. Better yet, put on some tunes and get Housewalking! You’ll be burning calories and avoiding extra calorie intake.

Have an emergency sweet-tooth-fix available. If you still can't resist the call of your late-night cravings, turn to treats that are practically calorie-free and take a while to consume. Try dessert-flavored tea (Bigelow Salted Caramel Tea is out of this world), a hard candy or mini lollipop, or dessert-inspired sugar-free gum (like Extra Dessert Delights or Project 7). Then brush your teeth! Your waistline and your dentist will thank you.

Keep in touch, and let me know how it goes!

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Today, April 15th, is Tax Day. If ever there's a day we need a dessert strategy, it's today...

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