Experts Share The Exact Time You Should Stop Snacking

I will listen, but I may not learn.
Grace Cary via Getty Images

Snacking accounts for about 20-25% of our energy intake, according to Kate Bermingham, a researcher at King’s College London – which feels about right to me as a serial (and cereal) grazer.

Whether or not snacking is good for you, however, is a whole different matter.

ZOE recently conducted a study on if, and when, snacking might harm your health. They found that what you snack on – and when you munch – can influence the outcome.

Snacking after 9pm can affect blood sugar levels

The study looked at what people snacked on, how often they snacked, how much they ate, and when they did it.

It also gathered information about how people’s bodies responded to food, through their blood fat and blood sugar levels.

This is because, while it’s normal to have blood and fat in your blood, if it’s heightened for too long, it can cause health issues.

Some good news that emerged was that how often people snacked, and how many calories the snacks contained, weren’t typically associated with negative outcomes.

However, the type of snacks did matter. “People who chose healthier snacks had lower levels of blood fat than those who ate less healthy snacks,” the research revealed.

And snackers who chowed down on their fave foods after 9pm had worse results.

Bermingham, who is ZOE’s senior nutrition science manager, said: “Late-evening snacking – after 9pm – was associated with poorer blood sugar levels. It was also linked to poorer blood sugar and fat responses after eating.”

OK, but... why?

“This might be because it lengthens your eating window and shortens the overnight fasting period – so your gut gets less time to rest and clear up debris during the night,” Bermingham shared.

Interestingly, there appeared to be little correlation between the type of foods people snacked on and their regular diets.

For example, those who ate healthier meals might still have chowed down on less healthy foods when searching for a quick fix.

“In other words, snacking is a separate diet behaviour we could target to improve health. After all, it’s probably easier to change your snacks than your entire diet,” she added.

So, what should I snack on?

Aside from keeping your snacking to pre-9pm hours, ZOE suggests “the quality of snacks is much more important than how often or how much you snack”.

Experts recommend eating satiating foods like natural yoghurt, nuts and fruit over your mindless munching go-tos like crisps and chocolate. “And avoiding late-night snacks may also help protect your health,” they said.

Well, at least I can keep my inter-meal habits alive...