When it comes to dinnertime, you want to make sure you’re eating a meal that’s nutrient-dense and the right portion size so you can have a happier and easier slumber.
Of course, since dinner is closer to bedtime, it’s going to have an impact on your quality of sleep and how you wake up the next day—where you will feel either more energized and recharged or suffer from more fatigue or crankiness, for example.
There are a few common mistakes you might be making without realizing, and they could be the culprits as to why you wake up feeling groggier, irritated, hungrier and less productive the following day. Watch out for these red flags, which could be negatively impacting your next morning.
You’re Eating Too Large a Meal
If you’re eating too much food for that last meal of the day, it may cause indigestion or make you feel too full close to bedtime, whereby falling asleep could become trickier.
You can go by the quantities of food as a good measurement for what’s too large in terms of volume. And also consider calorie intake on the plate—the former being more relevant for that next day “icky” feeling, and the latter with regard to long-term effects, like potential weight gain and an increase in stomach capacity and appetite.
Depending on your personal daily calorie needs and whether or not you’ve had a workout that day, dinner may differ in terms of quantity. Yet, a good rule of thumb is for dinner to be roughly 400-700 calories. So, if you’re eating something that’s in the 1,000 range, that’s definitely too much and you’ll likely get stomach upset afterwards too.
You’re Not Eating Too Much
While eating too much is a problem, under fueling is also an issue and you might wake up hungrier than usual or have more muscle pain and fatigue. Aim for that calorie range and foods that are high in nutrition, as well as lower in sugars and refined carbs.
Both of these don’t offer nutritional value and can keep you stimulated at night (that sugar high) as well as lead to that dreaded crash afterwards. And that crash will likely cause you to wake up feeling cranky and tired!
Go for wholesome sources of protein and good fats, found in foods like tofu, beans and legumes, soy (like edamame), high-protein and fibrous grains like quinoa and buckwheat, as well as other plant protein substitutes on the market. Combining a few can get you the right set of fuel you need to stay full throughout the night and to wake up feeling rejuvenated. For instance, pair quinoa with black beans or lentils and stuff inside a lettuce wrap with some creamy avocado and tofu.
Or make a tofu scramble with an egg substitute (or just keep it as just tofu alone for the “egg” element) and add green veggies, bell peppers and sweet potato, as well as a few slices of avocado on top for an easy meal that works for both dinner and breakfast.
You’re Eating Too Close to Bedtime
Another potential mistake is eating dinner too close to when you’re getting into bed, as the food will stimulate the mind and body and make it harder to get drowsy in time for your desired bedtime.
And staying up longer will cause you to miss out on those zzz’s, which can make your energy levels lower as well as appetite higher come morning. Plus, you’ll likely crave sugar! Cravings appear more often when you’ve missed out on sleep and are hungrier than usual.
You’re Not Taking the Chance to Meal Prep your Morning
Dinner is a good time to make a meal prep effort that’ll make your next day and morning a bit smoother. For example, if you didn’t finish your veggie and tofu stir-fry for dinner, you can save it for morning and use it for that easy scramble as described above.
Or you package up leftover greens, grains or proteins to then use in the morning as a base for breakfast or lunch. Think: leftover grains or cauliflower rice as a base for a lunchtime protein bowl or leftover veggies from dinner as a stuffing for a breakfast burrito or lunchtime sandwich.
These shortcuts will make your whole day better, and you can even meal prep once (like Sunday!) to have ready-to-eat meals and snacks all week long. This will save time in the kitchen and you can make sure you’re eating healthy meals for dinner, instead of ordering takeout or picking up fast-food after a long, draining day of work.