It's our nightly routine: sweatpants, Stranger Things on Netflix and a big bowl of whatever food we're craving before bed. But studies show that eating late at night can lead to weight gain, because your body is more likely to store these calories as fat instead of burning them for energy like your other meals. Here, six ways to avoid the after-hours hankerings once and for all. 

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Know Your Cravings

Instead of mindlessly reaching for the ice-cream pint every night, be aware of what time your hunger strikes post-dinner and which foods you usually crave. The more aware you are of the habit, the easier it is to anticipate—and eventually, break.

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Eat More Protein

Late-night snacking could be your body's way of saying you’re not eating enough. Consuming extra protein with your last meal can help curb the empty feeling in your stomach later on. Try adding protein-rich foods, like garbanzo beans or edamame, to your supper repertoire. 

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Drink Herbal Tea

If you usually eat a snack after dinner, replace it with a cup of herbal tea. The comforting ritual of holding the warm cup and sipping the tea is a great way to unwind before bed and keep your mind from wandering back to food.

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Go for a Walk

When that evening hunger starts to kick in, go outside (aka away from temptation). Fresh air and light exercise will aid digestion, clear your head and help you fall asleep faster when you’re ready for bed.

RELATED: What Might Happen If You Walk 30 Minutes a Day

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Get More Sleep

When you’re sleep deprived, your body might respond by triggering hunger. If you're up late, the "hungry hormone" (aka ghrelin) increases, while leptin, the hormone that signals you're full, decreases. Try getting more shut-eye to keep these hormones level. Studies also show that people who get less sleep are more likely to make poor eating choices, so win-win.

RELATED: What Might Happen If You Get Only 6 Hours of Sleep a Night

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...But If You Must Snack, Make It Healthy

If you absolutely have to gnaw on something after hours (hey, it happens), make sure you're stocked up with plenty of healthy options to satisfy the craving. Need something salty? Reach for a bag of popcorn. Itching for a bit of sugar? Go for a handful of berries. As long as you’re making good choices, a few bites won't hurt.

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