When is the healthiest time to eat?

In most cases, daytime is the best time for us to eat, says Dr. Venuka Wick, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

“From what the science is telling us right now, it's better to eat with our circadian rhythm, which is the sleep and waking up cycle, so it's the light and the darkness. Our bodies are under the impression that light is the time that we are active,” said Wick, who practices at Primary Care at Northgate. “Ideally, an 8-to-10-hour window during daytime is the best time for us to eat.”

On the other hand, Wick says making a routine out of eating late in the evening or at night doesn’t give our body ample time to use the energy it gets from the food we eat.

“When we eat at night, it increases the amount of sugar in our blood, and that sugar usually gets used up when we're active,” said Wick. “There's no opportunity to use it. So, it saves it as a form of fat, and fat itself leads to obesity and weight gain. Then, that itself is a risk factor for developing lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.”

But, with ceremonious meals on the way during the holiday season, Wick says you’re in the clear to stick with your traditions with a bit of planning ahead of time, no matter when they occur.

“We understand that Thanksgiving and holiday meals are traditions, and you might have a set time to eat your feast,” said Wick. “As long as this is not your everyday practice that you eat during the nighttime, it's okay to make exceptions for special occasions.”

“To kind of mitigate that risk of eating a big meal towards the end of the day, try not to go to these meals really hungry,” said Wick. She encourages having a light breakfast if your holiday meals occur later in the day or the evening.

Download broadcast-ready soundbites on healthy eating times and strategies.

UW Medicine