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How to avoid nighttime snacking

Eating breakfast is something people hear over and over. It starts your body up and keeps you energized and focused. However, eating more in the first half of the day is an even better strategy, as it helps you avoid the nighttime munchies. What to eat and when is the big question, and of course I have suggestions!

Combining your breakfast and morning snack, eat at least 30 grams of protein. Protein in the morning has been proven to reduce the amount of food you eat when your metabolism would normally stall, around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. You have to eat enough of it though. Here are some ideas for how to get 30 grams of protein:

Jill Koegel is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer based in Omaha. She blogs every Wednesday. Read more from Jill.

- High protein/whole grain tortilla such as Santa Fe Homestyle Whole Grain Tortillas with 3 egg whites (or use 1 whole egg and 2 whites) and 1 slice of 2% cheese.

- For breakfast, have a serving of cereal with protein such as Special K Plus Protein or Kashi, with 1 cup skim or light soy milk. Follow that with a morning snack of string cheese and cup almonds or walnuts.

- Have a bowl of oatmeal made with cup milk for breakfast. Try Quaker Weight Control Oatmeal, and you'll get 11 grams of protein in your bowl when you make it with 4 ounces of milk. Follow that with a morning snack of a protein shake such as an 11-ounce bottle of Muscle milk light.

- For a non-dairy protein morning, have a high protein cereal with almond milk for breakfast, and follow it with a snack of 2 ounces sliced chicken in a whole grain tortilla with a few slices of avocado or a tablespoon of hummus.

In addition to eating protein in the morning, it is also helpful to eat more calories overall in the first half of your day. This means between breakfast, a snack, and lunch, you should eat more than half of what your calorie needs are. I tell many females to aim for at least 1,000 calories by the time they finish lunch. It's a great strategy to avoid hunger in the afternoon and cravings at night.

Many people comment that they restrict food in the morning because they are afraid of “over-doing” it later in the day, but typically, "saving” calories turns into an afternoon catastrophe.

Remember, it is easier to stay in control when your hunger and stress hormones are kept level by eating more in the early part of your day.

In addition, your body knows better how to utilize calories that you eat early, versus how to utilize them in the evening and while you sleep. You are more likely to store the calories that you eat later in the day. Keep those to a smaller portion of your total intake and you will have better results!

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