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Want a happy tummy? Timing is everything

Have you heard rules about when you should eat? Maybe you’ve been told you shouldn’t eat after 5 p.m., or not to eat right when you wake up. While the best times to eat are when you feel physically hungry, there is some merit to the rules you may have heard, particularly for digestion.

If you suffer from acid reflux, heartburn or other digestive issues, eating late at night can be a big problem. When you lie flat on your back, your digestion slows down and food is more likely to backup into your esophagus, causing reflux. This horizontal position also can keep you feeling full and uncomfortable, leading to restless sleep or feeling lousy in the morning.

If the food you eat right before bed is greasy or high in fat, your problems will be even worse, as fat takes the longest to digest. Don’t follow a rule saying you can’t eat past a specific time, but consider cutting back on what you eat at least two hours before you go to bed, especially if it’s a large meal.

Eating soon after you get out of bed is a great way to start waking up your body, including your digestive system and metabolism. Don’t feel hungry in the morning? Reduce how much you’re eating at night so you’re not still processing it when you wake up. To make it easier to think about eating early, try a smaller morning snack if a large meal is too much. A piece of fruit, boiled egg, cup of yogurt or glass of milk are healthy and convenient ideas.

During the day, the best times to eat for digestion are about every two to four hours. This is how long it takes for the average meal or snack to wear off, so refueling your body will keep everything working more fluidly. If you eat large meals, you won’t feel hungry enough to eat this often. Eat smaller meals to promote easier digestion, to help you manage your appetite so you don’t overeat and to increase your metabolism.


  • Avoid eating a large amount of food and/or something high in fat at least two hours before bedtime to keep your stomach settled while you sleep.
  • Get your body primed for the day by eating soon after you wake up, even if it’s something small.
  • Aim to eat smaller meals every two to four hours for optimal digestion and highest metabolism.

Ashmore of Passionate Portions Nutrition & Wellness is a registered dietitian nutritionist, author, speaker and nutrition therapist. She can be reached at alyssa@alyssaashmore. com. Visit to learn more.

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