Your health-conscious friend may urge you to have an early dinner, while your grandmother has her supper well into the night and is still fit as a fiddle. Exactly when people like to have their dinner varies over generations and across cultures. For example, in India, it is very common to have your dinner late into the evening, just before you sleep; however, in countries like Norway, people generally have their dinner at 5 PM. Safe to say, when Indians are still arranging their dinner plates, Norwegians are already snoring in their beds. This begs the question, how do such vastly different dinner patterns affect our overall health? Let’s explore what is the best time to eat dinner and what experts have to say about it.
The Ideal Time for Dinner: What Does Science Say?
On the overall, nutrition experts recommend that the best time to eat dinner is anywhere between three to four hours before going to sleep. While this is a generalized guideline, there is some truth to it, and there may also be some hidden caveats. According to the Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, people who eat dinner after 8:30 pm are more likely to have higher blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Moreover, eating a late dinner is also correlated with obesity and blood pressure problems.
However, it is also absolutely normal to have a cheat night every once in a while and give in to some midnight cravings without a side of guilt. Remember that sleeping on a hungry stomach can be just as detrimental as having dinner a little later than usual. Research has shown that sleeping on an empty stomach can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health problems. Therefore, it's important to eat a balanced diet throughout the day, including a healthy dinner before bed, even though you have it at an hour that’s not the best time to eat dinner.
Timing Your Dinner and Sleep Schedule
If you are someone who spends late nights at work or has an active social life that keeps you awake till late, then accurately timing your dinner before bedtime can be a difficult ordeal. Nonetheless, it is important to have a regular meal schedule that you can diligently follow. Eating your dinner at the same time every day, say for example, at 7 PM, will get your body into the habit of efficiently metabolizing the food before it is time to sleep.
You can also try to eat more sleep-inducing foods at dinner to experience a better quality of sleep. For instance, eating lean-protein, like cheese, or high-fiber foods, such as fruits and veggies, can help you sleep throughout the night without any interruptions. However, it is essential to avoid stuff like caffeine or spicy, inflammatory food before sleeping as they can disrupt your sleep, leading to grogginess throughout the day.
Set Your Ideal Time for Dinner
When it comes to diets and food habits, each person has unique needs and preferences. Even if you want to eat your dinner at 6 PM, if you are not hungry, there is simply no point to having your dinner so early. In fact, eating when you don't want to also comes with its own set of problems. Therefore, it is important that we all set our own best time to eat dinner based on what we like and want.
It can be difficult striking a balance between your hunger and sleep patterns. If you are in the habit of having a late dinner, try eating a little earlier than usual, for example, 15 minutes before your usual dinner time. Alternatively, you can adjust your lunch and teatime to ensure that you are hungry by the time the dinner starts cooking. Over time, by practicing restraint and disciplined consumption, you can craft a meal schedule that is perfect for you and not only preserves but promotes your health.