While most of the world sits down for dinner in the evening after work, most urban Indians reach home and have a snack, with tea or drinks, between 6 and 8 pm. Most people report peak hunger at this time, and then consume unhealthy food and extra calories, ending up creating dietary disasters.
This is largely due to easy availability of oily, starchy and processed snacks, as well as poor planning. Often, most people grab the first food item they can find. Typical snacks include fried namkeens, chips, biscuits, samosas, kachoris, pakoras, pizzas, noodles and sandwiches. Worse, this may be followed by a round of alcoholic drinks and snacks, ending with a hearty dinner and rounded off with a favourite dessert close to midnight.
Evening is certainly the time when hunger strikes the hardest and self-control is at its weakest. Whether these pangs are physiological or psychological is hard to tell. Perhaps, it is both. Irrespective of the amount of food consumed at lunch, this time coincides with the greatest need to eat, when the day’s stress and pressure eases, whether at home or at work. Food certainly is a source of great comfort and perfect partner to de-stress with, thereby triggering an internal stimulus to eat.
Eating inappropriate snacks in the evening and having dinner late in the night worsens the dietary mess. Not only does it increase the caloric intake, it also loads up the system at the wrong time.
No wonder almost every other urbanite complains of hyper-acidity, gastritis, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fatigue, sleeping disturbances and expanding waistlines. Unchecked, this eventually results in dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), high blood pressure, increased uric acid, diabetes and even cardio-vascular disease.
According to research, eating late in the night can disturb hormonal balance and predispose to developing obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Circadian rhythms are regular mental and physical changes that occur in the course of a day and influence hormones, including insulin and leptin, associated with diabetes and obesity.
Disturbed circadian rhythms also adversely affect blood pressure, gastro-intestinal function, immunity, mental alertness and concentration. According to recent studies, even the obesity gene exhibits day-night variation, increasing during night, after a meal.
Coupled with altered circadian rhythms, consuming high-calorie, oil-laden, salty, sugary and dangerous trans-fats, along with sedentary lifestyles and stress, is a lethal cocktail.
Why is it that we cannot change our snack time into meal times? For those at home, this should be a simple solution. And for those who cannot because of work constraints, eating healthy snacks only requires a bit of planning ahead. For people who consume alcohol regularly, an option could be to pre-pone drinking, or else drink after meals. For those who work till late in the night, breaking up the meals and dividing calories between office and home would help prevent loading up calories late at night.
Changing meal times and eating the last meal three or four hours before bed-time helps improve energy levels and resolves several digestive complaints.
When you dine out, eating a light home-cooked meal or snacks like vegetables, yogurt, nuts, seeds, dal or salad, before leaving for a party can prevent excessive hunger pangs by the time you reach the party. Decrease your food intake as you progress into the night. Simply eating a healthy meal when you are hungriest will do great service not only to your waistline and your gut, but also prevent several serious degenerative diseases.