Major food myth BUSTED

It's often been said -- and I believed this myself before conducting further research -- that calories eaten at night are more fattening than those eaten early in the day. This seems logical given that we're closer to bedtime, and our bodies are mostly inactive during sleep. For this reason, many people are often advised to eat heavy breakfasts and very light dinners.

But this isn't the case.

Doctors and dietitians say that calories are calories, no matter what time you eat them. In reality, what matters are the total calories you take in. Weight gain is simply eating more calories than you burn; it doesn't matter whether it takes place at 7 a.m. or 11 p.m.

What and how much you eat, coupled with any physical activity over the course of the day, ultimately determine whether you gain, lose, or maintain your weight.

People eat at night for a host of reasons often unrelated to hunger, like coping with boredom or stress. And after-dinner snacks tend not to be controlled, often consisting of large portions of high-calorie foods (like candy, cookies, and chips), eaten while sitting in front of the television or computer. In this situation, it’s tempting to consume the entire bag, carton, or container before you notice it. What's more, eating too close to bedtime can lead to indigestion and sleeping problems.

There’s nothing wrong with eating a light, healthy snack after dinner so long as you plan for it as part of your daily calories. To prevent overeating, pay close attention to your food while eating, avoid eating in front of the TV or computer, and choose a portion-controlled snack. Some good options include packaged 100 calorie snacks, ice cream bars, small servings of popcorn, and low-fat yogurt.

Did you think that the later you eat, the more calories you consume and, thus, the fatter you get?

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