There’s nothing like sitting down to a delicious, home-cooked dinner after a long day of work. Yet while it’s relaxing to sit down and enjoy a meal—whether it be with a group of friends and family, or a night on your own—it can be incredibly easy to make a few dinner mistakes that make you gain weight.
But do not fret! Fixing these mistakes and eating healthy during your last big meal of the day is a lot easier than you think. That’s why we turned to a plethora of dietitians to teach us the best tricks on how to stop these dinner mistakes in their tracks. Here’s what they had to say, and when you’re ready to cook up a meal, be sure to check out our list of 100 Easiest Recipes You Can Make.
You’re waiting too long between dinner and lunch.
“I think it’s important to note that if you’re getting to dinner feeling ravenous and relying on your dinner to ‘extra-fill’ you, then you may want to consider eating more during the day,” says Lexy Penney, MS, RD, LDN, RYT, and owner of Lexy Penney Nutrition and Wellness. “If you’re going long periods of time without eating, you may feel a lot of pressure to have a super filling dinner which makes complete sense! If we under-eat during the day, we may overeat at night.”
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You’re not eating enough healthy foods.
“I know this sounds crazy, but eating more healthy foods at dinner will help keep you full so you don’t reach for unhealthy foods later in the evenings,” says Megan Byrd, RD from The Oregon Dietitian. “Eating plenty of protein, lots of fiber, and some healthy fats at dinnertime will ensure that you are full until breakfast the next morning. And if you’re still hungry after eating a healthy, filling meal, then just eat more dinner! Make sure to drink water during the day, but especially in the evenings with dinner. That will help prep your body for 8-10 hours of fasting while you sleep, and keep you hydrated. Staying hydrated increases your metabolism, and makes it easier to lose weight.”
Make sure to fill up your plate with these 13 Best Dinner Foods That Keep You Full, According to Dietitians.
You’re skimping on calories.
“Lots of people make this mistake! It can come in many forms, such as only eating a veggie-based salad for dinner, eating too small a portion of food or cutting carbs from your meal,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen. “All of these are variations on just not eating enough at dinner. Unfortunately, instead of contributing to weight loss, this can often backfire and lead you to grab a large snack before bed or even multiple snacks. It’s smarter to have a more balanced meal with protein, carbs, and some healthy fat. And salad can be satisfying if it includes enough protein and fiber to keep you feeling full. I like adding nuts, an ounce of cheese, some olives, and roasted veggies to my greens to make it more satisfying. You can also throw some canned tuna or a plant-based patty on top of your salad to make it more filling and nutritious.”
Here are 51 Easy Weeknight Dinners You Can Throw Together in Minutes.
You feel over hungry by dinner time.
“The worst dinner mistake is approaching the meal overly hungry so that you eat a very large meal quickly, then feel overly stuffed,” says MyNetDiary’s Registered Dietitian and MS, Brenda Braslow. “Eating a huge dinner can result in indigestion at night, causing poor sleep quality. Poor sleep is linked with weight gain.”
You’re enjoying comfort foods in large quantities.
“Many people are hungry, tired and worn out at night, which often lean towards what tastes good versus what’s good for them,” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook. “While all foods can fit in a healthy eating pattern, some foods need to be consumed in smaller portions. In the chilly winter months, many people crave warm, comfort foods, which often have more fat and calories. Eaten consistently, this can contribute to weight gain. But the good news is that you can still enjoy those foods by watching your portions. Try a small amount of the casserole, mac-n-cheese, or creamy pasta and pair it with healthy friends like veggies and lean protein. The protein and fiber will help you feel more satisfied and can help you from overdoing it on comfort food.”
Portion out healthier comfort foods with our list of 100+ Best-Ever Comfort Food Recipes!
You’re not eating a big enough lunch.
“The worst dinner mistake is getting to dinner starving since you did not consume enough food during the day, skipped lunch for example, and by the time dinner arrives, you are so hungry that you tend to eat fast and consume more food than you should do otherwise,” says Talia Segal Fidler, MS, HHC, AADP from The Lodge at Woodloch. “Balancing nutrition intake during the day, or having a bigger lunch, will help you manage hunger and as a result not eat as much during dinner!”
Here are The 11 Healthiest Lunches to Have, According to Dietitians.
You’re not portioning out your food.
“The worst dinner mistake that will make you gain weight is to pay no attention to your portion sizes,” says Lisa R Young, PhD, RDN and author of the book Finally Full, Finally Slim. “Big portions contain more calories than small portions and may be a contributor to weight gain. When we eat bigger portions, we also underestimate how much we just ate. With the exception of fruits and veggies, it’s important to pay attention not just to what you eat but to how much you eat. Even if the food is healthy!”
You’re not adding enough fiber and protein.
“Protein and fiber are two most important components for losing weight,” says Shannon Henry, RD from EZCare Clinic. “Not including them in your diet can slow down your metabolism. Protein is responsible for stimulating the thermic effect of food, which means that the body burns more energy processing dietary protein than it does in the case of carbohydrates and fats. Both the nutrients help keep you fuller for longer, thereby preventing you from overeating.”
You’re not adding vegetables.
“Vegetables are low calorie, nutrient-dense foods,” says Henry. “They are super nutritious and healthy; steam, boil, or roast them, but it is important to include them in your regular diet.” Especially these 12 Surprising Vegetables That Become Healthier When They’re Cooked!