A review of the research indicates that eating late dinners or snacking at night will not lead you to gain weight faster. Rather, it's the total number of calories you eat in a day that matters... it makes no difference when those calories are eaten.
A 2006 study published in Obesity Research observed rhesus monkeys (supposedly an excellent model for humans) fed a typical North American diet for a year. The monkeys' eating patterns varied greatly- they ate between 6-64% of their calories at night. The monkeys that ate the majority of their calories at night did not gain more weight than those that ate more during the day.
Human studies have found the same thing.
That said, we do recommend you spread your calories throughout the day:
Eat breakfast to rev up your metabolism and break that fast and eat every 4-6 hours to keep your body and brain fueled and to regulate your appetite. If you do get hungry at night, stick with portion-controlled snacks of less than 200 calories- ie. small bowl of cereal, fruit, air-popped popcorn, yogourt, whole grain toast with peanut butter etc.
If you find yourself restricting your food intake all day and eating the majority of your calories at night, talk to your doctor. Night-Eating Syndrome, although not officially defined as an eating disorder yet, is a form of binge eating and is becoming more understood by the medical community.
- Little or no appetite for breakfast.
- Eating more than half of one's daily food intake after dinner. This behaviour continues over a period of at least three months.
- Feeling tense, anxious, upset or guilty while eating.
- Having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
- Eating continually in the evening rather than bingeing in relatively short episodes.
- Experiencing guilt and shame from eating rather than enjoyment.