It’s not when, but how much you eat that adds unwanted pounds. Eat too much at night and there might be a slight fat-storing effect compared to eating a big breakfast followed by a physically active day, but the effect is insignificant to total weight. However, dinner typically is our biggest meal, supplying almost half of a person’s daily calorie intake, and that’s not counting the late-night snack. People let their guard down at night and are more prone to overeating, especially comfort foods like ice cream and chips. It is the extra calories, not the time of day, that leads to weight gain.
Late-night noshing can be a sign of a general out-of-whack eating schedule that can lead to the Night Eating Syndrome, where you eat the bulk of your calories late in the day, wake up not hungry so skip breakfast, then pig out that night. The problem here is you are overeating at night, and skipping the most important meal of the day – breakfast. The morning meal – especially if it’s whole grain cereal, nonfat milk, and fruit – is one of the most nutritious and low-fat meals of the day, so it makes sense that breakfast eaters consume fewer total calories and have an easier time managing their weights than people who overate the night before then skipped breakfast.
In short, be watchful that you’re not overeating when you sit down to any meal. Or, rethink your eating schedule. There’s no reason to save the biggest meal of the day until the evening, when you are more apt to overeat. Try having dinner at lunchtime, then a light meal at night.