05/11/2010 11:28 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Weight Loss Tips: 8 Simple Tips to Avoid Late Night Snacking

Snacking can be a mixed blessing for anyone learning to eat healthy. On one hand, a small healthy snack after a workout or an hour or so before a late meal can help you avoid making bad, hunger-induced food decisions later. On the other hand, snacking can easily grow out of control and be a source of hundreds of excess calories.

Late night snacking almost never falls into the good snacking category and is usually driven by cravings or habit rather than legitimate hunger. Here are a few tips to help you make healthy post-dinner food decisions and break the habit of late night snacking.

Eight Simple Tips To Avoid Late Night Snacking

1. Eat a satisfying dinner

This may seem obvious, but is often overlooked by someone actively trying to lose weight. Though dinners shouldn't be excessively large, they should be balanced, nourishing and satisfying enough to keep you happy until bed time.

2. Eat fruit

Late night snacking is often fueled by a desire for sugar or dessert. A small piece of fruit can be a great way to satisfy this craving and help you make it to bedtime without indulging in unhealthy sweets.

3. Drink herbal tea

Often a desire to snack can be quenched by simply changing the flavor in your mouth. Warm mint or chamomile tea can substitute for dessert without actually contributing any calories.

4. Brush your teeth

Dentists will tell you it's good to brush your teeth as soon as possible after a meal to avoid tooth decay. An added bonus of this strategy is that toothpaste tends to make foods taste bad and sap your desire for late night snacks.

5. Drink some water

Water is often overlooked as a simple and effective way to avoid excessive eating. Not only is thirst often mistaken for hunger, water can also help fill your stomach during the extra time it takes for your brain to realize you are no longer hungry. Sparkling water flavored with a little citrus or cucumber is particularly effective at distracting your mouth from the desire to keep chewing.

6. Call a friend

Since late night snacking isn't a symptom of real hunger, psychological tactics can be effective at helping you make it to bed without extra calories. Eating and talking are not compatible, so calling a friend or family member can be a great way to occupy your mind and mouth until the cravings pass.

7. Get moving

Light exercise can be great for killing the desire to eat. Try burning a few calories instead of eating them by taking a walk or making a booty call instead.

8. Play video games

Though I do not consider the Nintendo Wii a particularly effective form of exercise, one bonus of playing video games is it occupies both of your hands and makes it difficult to eat. It also gets your mind off the kitchen and onto something more fun. I'd vote for video games over television any day of the week.

What are your favorite tricks to avoid late night snacking?

Darya is a scientist, foodie and advocate of local, seasonal foods. For more healthy eating tips visit her blog Summer Tomato. You can also connect with Darya on Twitter @summertomato and Facebook.