Why It’s Smart to Keep a ‘Kitchen Curfew,’ According to a Registered Dietitian

Photo: Getty Images/Caiai Images and Paul Bradbury ; Graphics: Well+Good Creative
I don't know about you, but my watch always reads snack o'clock. I research nutritious noshing options like it's my job (because... it kinda is); spoiling my dinner is just a given at this point. When Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, dietitian and founder BZ Nutrition shared a nugget of wisdom for how to make my evening routine a little bit healthier at the most recent Well+Good TALK in New York City, I leaned forward in my chair.

According to the dietitian, a simple way to do your digestive tract a solid in the evening is to set a "kitchen curfew," or a cutoff point where the refrigerator and pantry (un)officially become a no-go zones. "Ideally, you want to stop eating at least two hours before going to bed," said Zeitlin. "When you're sleeping, everything's slowing down, your body's going into rest mode. So is your digestive system." Eating too late gives your body a tight timeline between your last bite and sliding beneath your sheets. Your body may not digest your food as well as it could have.

"Ideally, you want to stop eating at least two hours before going to bed." —Brigitte Zeitlin, RD

At first, this may seem like no big deal, but Zeitlin explains that it starts a chain reaction. "You might not get the best night of sleep ever; you might wake up a couple of times at up with indigestion. And then, if you wake up in the morning and still feel full, you might not be hungry enough for breakfast. That will throw off the rest of your day because you skipped a meal," she said. (If you're keeping track, that means you will be both tired and hungry by noon the next day.)

The solution to this whole conundrum borrows from the timing used in intermittent fasting. "Personally, I like to encourage my clients to have 12 hours on, 12 hours off—so if breakfast is at 8 a.m., dinner's done at 8 p.m.," the dietitian said. "That way you're not giving yourself hours of mindless snacking."

Of course, no nutrition advice is universal. So take this intel for a test drive and see if it's right for you. After all, you're no longer a teenager sneaking in your window after midnight. The real thrill now comes from taking care of yourself.

When cooking is the last thing you want to do, these dinners will be on the table in 10 minutes or less. And if you have an air fryer on hand, make sure you make these dishes before summer comes to a close

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