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How Late Should You Eat Dinner?

by Kate Bradley

If you or family members don't get around to eating dinner until late on some nights, don't worry. It doesn't really matter how late you eat as long as the rest of your day's calories and activity are properly adjusted to compensate for it. If you do eat dinner late, however, make smart choices that positively affect the amount and quality of sleep you or your children get.

Complex Carbohydrates

If you eat dinner late, you need foods to keep you full so you won't keep snacking afterward. A bowl of whole-wheat pasta, especially if served with lean, filling protein like chicken, can fill you up and keep you satisfied all evening. If you have a salad for dinner, pair it with whole-grain bread or a bowl of couscous. If your main course is meat or fish, have long-grain brown rice and green vegetables on the side. If you want a fast, tasty meal that will keep you full, try a large whole-wheat tortilla with baked black beans, chunks of lean beef, onions and a low-fat honey mustard dressing. Or, spread tomato sauce on a whole-wheat pita and cover it with chopped chicken and low-fat shredded cheese. Bake it until the cheese is melted and enjoy.

Soup & Salad

The liquid in soup and the water in vegetables and fruits will fill you up quickly for few calories and keep you feeling full until bedtime. Pair a mixed-green salad with a traditional, hearty chicken noodle soup. Go with low-sodium soup to stay extra hydrated. Or, go Italian for the evening -- try Italian wedding or minestrone soup paired with a bowl of romaine lettuce, shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese, shredded grilled chicken and Caesar dressing. If you love vegetables, make a spicy vegetable soup. Mix a quart of tomato juice with water and add potatoes, zucchini, carrots, onions and cabbage. Add paprika and red pepper seasoning to give it kick. Have a slice of wheat toast for dipping.

No-Cook Meals

If you're concerned about consuming extra calories at night, eat no-cook meals. It will help you be more conscious of the calories you're eating and control hard-to-measure calories like cooking oil or butter. Make yourself a light, tasty tray of cheese slices, wheat crackers, fruit slices and soy nut butter. Add a cup of yogurt with berries for a sweet finish. Or, have "breakfast" at night. Eat a big bowl (three servings maximum) of high-fiber, low-sugar cereal with 2 percent milk. Don't forget sandwiches -- toss some lunch meat on rye bread and add lettuce, tomato, onion and creamy ranch dressing for a filling, flavorful finish to the day.

Protein

Eat protein for dinner and you will literally burn calories while you sleep. Your body burns more calories breaking down protein than almost any other food. Plus, protein is extra-filling and helps build lean muscle. Enjoy a lean, 5-oz. portion of sirloin for dinner with a baked sweet potato and grilled vegetables. Or, stuff lettuce leaves with chopped grilled chicken and homemade salsa -- diced tomatoes, peppers, onions and celery are all you need. Don't forget about turkey -- not only is it full of protein, it's also a major source of sleep-inducing tryptophan. Have roast turkey over parboiled long-grain rice or turkey casserole (cream of mushroom soup, shredded turkey, green beans and French onion sticks).

About the Author

Kate Bradley began writing professionally in 2007. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a minor in German from Berry College in Rome, Ga; TEFL/TESOL certification from ITC International in Prague; and a Master of Arts in integrated global communication from Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga.

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