It’s nearly two years into the pandemic and while some aspects of life are starting to feel slightly ‘normal’, we’re still a long way from the days of 2019 when we felt safe on a crowded rush hour train. , in mask- free in the crowd and dine indoors with friends.
As a result, we have adjusted many of our habits, including our eating habits. For those who used to eat three meals a day, they may now be more into the grazing lifestyle. And 7 p.m. used to feel like “official” dinner time, but since many of us are still working from home, it’s now more like 6 p.m.…or even earlier, if we’re being honest.
Alisa Vitti, functional nutritionist and CEO of Flo Living, said that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and that 7 p.m. still feels like “official” dinner time because of “corporate culture, happy hour culture, and commuter reality – not because it’s biologically aligned.”
So that begs the question: East Is there an “ideal” time for dinner? We spoke with experts on the subject to find out. Here’s everything you need to know.
The perfect dinner time is…
The answer to this question is unclear and, as with most things, there will be a range.
“Any time between 6 and 8 p.m. is an ‘ideal’ dinner time,” dietitian Tracy Lockwood Beckerman told HuffPost.. “That’s because it gives the average person plenty of time to digest before hitting the hay around 10 or 11 p.m.”
That being said, your ideal dinner time will vary depending on your circadian rhythm – or more specifically, if you’re an early riser or a night owl.
“It’s different for early risers versus night owls because the longer night owls are up, the more likely they are to come back for a late-night snack,” Beckerman said. “Night owls should dine later than early risers to reduce the risk of mindless snacking, empty calories, and unnecessary late-night snacking.”
Why you should be wary of eating dinner too late
There are nothing wrong with a bedtime snackbut eating a big dinner too late could affect your sleep — and not in a good way.
“Being too full could negatively impact our sleep by possibly leading to acid reflux,” Beckerman said. “If there’s too much digested food in your stomach and you lie down, it could potentially put pressure on your esophageal sphincter, leading to unpleasant reflux.”
In addition, “Eating too close to bedtime can decrease your quality of sleep, increase inflammation and can absolutely make weight management more difficult as well as increase the likelihood that you will have night sweats or hot flashes” , Vitti said.
In other words, if you tend to go to bed early, it may also be in your best interest to eat dinner earlier..
How Lunch Factors Into The Equation
Yes, the pandemic (and working from home) has made a difference in when we eat dinner – but it has also changed our lunch times. And according to Beckerman, we should take this into account when thinking about the last meal of the day.
“The later you eat breakfast, the later your body will be ready for dinner,” she said. “The sooner you eat breakfast, the sooner your body will wait for dinner.”
If you find yourself eating lunch at 11 a.m. (it happens), a simple solution to avoiding a 4 p.m. dinner is to add a balanced snack.
“This in-between snack will also keep you from going to dinner hungry, so you’re less likely to unexpectedly overeat,” Beckerman says. “The snack will allow you to make a rational and balanced dinner decision because you will be making a choice with a nourished and satisfied brain rather than a hungry, impulsive or tired brain.”
Does the ideal dinner time differ by gender?
It’s no secret that hormones affect just about everything, including our eating habits. For women of childbearing age, being flexible might be more beneficial than being rigid with their meal times.
“Women of childbearing age, especially during the luteal phase of their cycle [the phase after ovulation, or about two weeks in]need more calories and slow burning macros [nutrients like protein, carbs and fat] to keep blood sugar stable, keep PMS at bay, maintain a healthy weight, and get quality sleep,” Vitti said.
This means that women should strive to listen to their bodies when deciding when to eat dinner, and even how much to eat.
It’s also important for men to listen to their bodies, but their hormones fluctuate less, which makes this less necessary.
“Men don’t have an infradian rhythm, so they can stick to the same meal schedule every 24 hours,” Vitti added, referring to the menstrual cycle, which is the most common type of infradian rhythm.
Ultimately, what time you dine really comes down to what works best for you.
“People should eat at a realistic time for their lifestyle and sleep patterns,” Beckerman said. “That may mean eating lunch later in the day if you know you won’t be sitting down for dinner until 9pm, which is totally fine!”