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Better binges: Late night diet-proof food swaps

Thursday, December 27, 2012
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Aside from Christmas dinner, there is one other meal that can derail your dieting efforts - the late-night binge. This alcohol-fuelled midnight meal can cost you a day's worth of calories if you're not careful.

Being hungry after hitting the dancefloor is understandable, but late at night you are more likely to crave fat and carbs and less likely to exercise reason.

Here are some food swaps to get you through the impending nights out.

Doner kebab

Swap for: Supreme pizza

Kebabs might look like a good choice thanks to their salad content but add in creamy sauces and fatty meat selections and you can go to bed with a hefty calorie count. In fact, it would take 70 minutes of rowing to bun off a doner kebab with garlic sauce.

Instead, Weight Watchers recommends two slices of thin-crust supreme pizza. "If you decide on pizza, ensure you choose wisely. Pass on a thick or cheese-stuffed crust base and opt for thin and crispy instead. Choose a topping with maximum vegetables and minimum cheese."

McDonald's Big Mac

Swap for: A peanut-butter sandwich

“Something with a lot of fat can take forever to digest and make you nauseated in the morning,” says dietician Sarah Krieger.

She says the best time to eat greasy foods is actually before you start drinking, not after, because they slow down the absorption of alcohol. But after a tipple it is actually more likely to stimulate your body and make you toss and turn throughout the night.

Potato chips

Swap for: A bowl of cereal

Cereal is actually one of the best choices for a night time snack, and let's be honest – sometimes they could be classified as breakfast anyway.

If it is crunch you crave, then munch on a bowl of cereal, preferably wholegrain without added sugars. The carbohydrates will help you get a good few hours' sleep and it doesn't contain the fat and salt of crisps.

"A light bowl of cereal with milk has fluids,” says Krieger, who suggests adding nuts if you don't think it will make the cut hunger-wise.

"Carbohydrate-based foods are ideal because they also produce serotonin. That’s important because alcohol disrupts sleep.”

Ice cream

Swap for: Left-over Christmas pudding

If you crave something sweet following a night out, the good news is you can indulge yourself while still reaping some great health benefits.

Christmas cakes and puddings may not be particularly low in fat, but a large proportion of their ingredients is dried fruit which counts towards your daily portions of fruit and veg and is high in nutrients and fibre.

On top of that, they are packed with health-boosting spices such as cinnamon, which can help control blood sugar levels and has anti-inflammatory properties, and nutmeg, which is good for digestion.

The morning-after fry-up

Swap for: Grainy toast with poached or scrambled egg

Don't be tempted by a bacon sandwich in the morning because it will do nothing for recovery. You need to replenish the vitamins and minerals you've lost through consuming alcohol, says Clare Evangelista of the Dietitians Association of Australia.

"Alcohol uses our body's store of B vitamins and zinc. If we don't get enough B vitamins we feel sluggish, and a zinc deficiency makes us more prone to mouth ulcers and cracked lips," she says.

Grainy bread is also rich in B vitamins and eggs are a rich source of zinc.

The 3am feast

Swap for: early snacks

Late-night snacking "is the epitome of mindless eating. You barely taste the food. You hardly look at it. It's just bite, chew, bite, chew, bite, chew until bedtime," says Heather Bauer, author of Bread is the Devil: Win the Weight Loss Battle by Taking Control of Your Diet Demons.

"Fatigue plays a big role in prompting the 'late-night shuffle'. You've been on the fast treadmill all day and now you're exhausted. When you're tired, your resistance is down and it's hard to make good decisions."

She recommends snacking on veggies and nuts at 5.30pm and eating a healthy dinner by 8pm.

If you just can't make it through the night without a snack, have a few slices of turkey or a hard-boiled egg waiting at home.


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