A few nights ago, it hit 10 p.m. and I realized: oh no. I was hungry.
I try not to eat past 9 p.m. Many a midnight burrito in college taught me that late-night snacks just don’t work for me; inevitably I end up going to bed bloated and waking up either with a stomachache or, somehow, ravenously hungry. But at the same time, going to bed starving feels like I’m depriving myself, and sleep doesn’t exactly come easy when your stomach is actively rumbling. Finding that balance is hard, especially when you hear about how eating before bed has the potential to lead to weight gain, or can at least stand in the way of any weight loss goals you might have.
- Will Eating Before Bed Make Me Gain Weight?
- How Late Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
- What’s the Best Bedtime Snack For Weight Loss?
- 20+ Healthy Late-Night Snacks You’ll Crave
- Three Rules for Healthy Late-Night Snacking
- Healthy Alternatives to Cereal and Milk
- Healthy Alternatives to Pizza
- Healthy Alternatives to Chicken Wings
- Healthy Alternatives to French Fries
- Healthy Alternatives to Ice Cream
- Healthy Alternatives to Ramen
- Additional Resources:
- Our 6 Best Healthy Late-Night Snack Ideas
- Hard-boiled Egg
- Greek Yogurt
- 12 Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss
- Peanut Butter on Whole Grain Bread
- Protein Shake
- Cottage Cheese
- Chocolate Milk
- High-Fiber Cereal
- String Cheese
- 17 Healthy Late Night Snacks for When Midnight Cravings Hit
- 1. Blood Sugar Balancing Lemonade or Soda
- 2. Edamame
- 3. In-Shell Pistachios
- 4. Turkey
- 5. Tart Cherries
- 6. Berries
- 7. Berry Slushie
- 8. Veggies
- 9. Pumpkin Seeds
- 10. Plain Yogurt and Cinnamon
- 11. Protein Ice Cream
- 12. A Tablespoon of Almond Butter
- 13. Shiritake Noodles
- 14. Homemade Jello
- 15. Kale Chips
- 16. Bento Box
- 17. Peanut/Sunflower Butter and Carrot sticks/Jicama
- Bonus Tips
- More Healthy Snacks
- The 10 Best Midnight Snacks That Won’t Make You Gain Weight
- 1. Almonds
- 2. Homemade vegetable chips
- 3. Popcorn
- 4. String cheese
- 5. Yogurt with berries
- 6. Banana with nut butter
- 7. Carrots and guacamole
- 8. Dark chocolate
- 9. Pistachios
- 10. Blueberries
- 15 Healthy Late Night Snacks for When the Midnight Munchies Hit
- Why it’s ok to snack late at night.
- What are the best types of foods for healthy late-night snacks?
- The best healthy late-night snacks.
- 1. Edamame
- 2. Fresh vegetables
- 3. A banana with almond butter
- 4. Whole-grain crackers and cheese
- 5. Tart cherry juice
- 6. A small protein bar
- 7. Stove-top popcorn
- 8. Grapes
- 9. Tomatoes
- 10. Unsweetened, plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
- 11. Nuts or nut butter on a piece of whole-grain toast
- 12. Pistachios
- 13. Oat bites
- 14. Cheese
- 15. Goji Berries
- Choosing the Right Nighttime Snack
- Peanut Butter Protein Balls
- Greek Yogurt, Berries + Crumbled Walnuts
- Protein Ice Cream
- Cottage Cheese + Berries + Almonds
- Protein Fluff
- Late Night Omelette
- Protein Cheesecake
- Apple + Nut Butter
- Toasted Quest bar
- Home Popped or Healthier Store-Bought Popcorn
Will Eating Before Bed Make Me Gain Weight?
If you’re truly hungry — no matter the time of day, even if you’re trying to lose weight — you should eat something, said Erin Coates, a registered dietitian at Cleveland Clinic Wellness. “Your body is pretty good at gauging when you need nourishment,” she told POPSUGAR. The only problem with eating at night, she said, is that it’s a time when you might be more prone to eat out of habit, instead of out of hunger.
The solution to that is to investigate why you’re actually eating at night. “Be aware of where your emotions are in regard to night-time eating and where your hunger levels fall,” Erin said. Are you just reaching for a snack out of habit, or because you feel stressed or worried, or are you actually hungry?
It’s hard to figure out whether you’re really hungry, but doing so can help you fight overeating and weight gain. Erin’s trick is to do it at night, when treats abound: turn on a bright light overhead, put away or turn off all distractions (like your phone or TV), and sit at your table with your snack. Focus and ask yourself if you’re eating out of habit or out of true hunger. “This simple act can help keep you mindful of what and how much you’re eating,” Erin told POPSUGAR.
How Late Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
“I like to suggest closing the kitchen at least two hours before bed, if possible,” Erin said. You don’t want your digestive system to be working overdrive throughout the night, she explained; your body should be focused on rest, repair, and rejuvenation, not digestion. Eating right before bed, and especially eating something unhealthy (more on that later) can disrupt your sleep or leave you tired in the morning.
It’s fine to grab a small snack before bed every now and then, but if you have a hard time waiting two hours between eating and sleep, “it might be wise to re-evaluate how much you’re eating during the day,” Erin told POPSUGAR. You may need to add more fiber, lean protein, or healthy fats to make your daytime meals and snacks more filling. Try these quick, satisfying breakfast recipes or these healthy dinner ideas.
What’s the Best Bedtime Snack For Weight Loss?
If you’re really hungry before bed, Erin gave a couple of healthy snack suggestions to keep you on track with your weight loss goals.
- Dried apricots and an ounce of 70+ percent dark chocolate: Late-night sweet craving? Same. Dark chocolate can help satisfy that, Erin said, while providing healthy antioxidants like flavonoids. The apricots also contain antioxidants as well as tryptophan, which Erin said helps to provide your body with melatonin (a hormone that can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.)
- Six ounces of plain yogurt, half a banana, and cinnamon: Bananas give you potassium and magnesium, minerals that Erin said can relax your muscles and help you sleep. The yogurt, meanwhile, provides lean protein to help you stay satisfied.
- One-fourth cup mashed avocado: Avocado satisfies your hunger (healthy fats!) and provides nutrients like magnesium and tryptophan that help you sleep better, Erin told POPSUGAR.
- One tablespoon of almond butter: “Almonds are a natural source of the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin, as well as healthy fats to take the edge off your hunger,” Erin said.
You want to avoid eating greasy, high-fat foods, such as anything fried, heavily-processed meats, and rich desserts, Erin said. “These foods take a toll on your digestion and can actually cause you to feel more tired and sluggish in the morning,” she explained. Foods with lots of sugar can also mess with your sleep by causing dips and spikes in your blood sugar levels. And losing sleep translates to lower energy the next day, Erin added, leading you to crave sugary foods and setting you farther back in your weight loss goals.
“Eating a small snack that is 100-200 calories right before bed is likely not going to hinder your progress on the scale, if you have true stomach rumblings in the evening,” Erin said. Intense hunger might actually wake you up during the night, and remember that quality sleep is key for weight loss too. The key is to replace any old, less healthy nightly snack habits with new routines. If you realize you’re not actually hungry, Erin suggested, “try stretching or some gentle yoga, talking with your partner or housemate, journaling, or calling a friend instead.” You’ll get the same stress-relieving reward, minus the potential setback in your weight loss journey.
But if you are hungry? Grab a small, healthy snack and enjoy it. You don’t need to go to bed starving in the name of losing pounds.
Image Source: Getty / domoyega
20+ Healthy Late-Night Snacks You’ll Crave
Eating at night isn’t all that bad if you choose healthy late-night snacks. When you think about late-night snacks, you probably picture the stereotypical suspects: pizza, french fries, burgers, chicken wings, and ice cream. In some ways, the term “late-night snack” is almost synonymous with “junk food.”
Why do we tend to reach for unhealthy foods at night?
We have limited late-night options.
We often reach for the usual snacking suspects when we’re hungry at night because they’re available; we’re hungry, and the options we find everywhere all seem to be the same level of unhealthy. When we can’t find any good choices, we grow more likely to settle. Eventually, we give in and grab the tastiest, most convenient snack we can find.
We have powerful cravings.
We’ve all felt late-night cravings, so we don’t really need to prove they’re real. Yet somehow, knowing cravings might have a legitimate cause can be comforting. According to some research published in Obesity, our biological rhythms might inspire us to crave fatty or sweet foods at night. Our bodies know we’ll be asleep soon, and we won’t be able to “spend” the energy. Our bodies actually see this as a good thing; in terms of biological wiring, which favors survival, a wealth of stored energy looks like a major win.
To summarize, we have supply and biology potentially working against us as we try to choose healthy late-night snacks. So what’s the big deal? According to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Center for Weight and Eating Disorders, eating at night might cause your body to store calories as fat instead of burning them for energy.
Don’t worry! You can still satisfy all the cravings nature imposes on you while avoiding the weight gain associated with late-night eating.
Use this list of healthy late-night snacks to prepare for cravings before they strike. We’ve come up with healthy options to stand in for all the snacks that may have once filled your nights. You won’t miss the old snacks; the news ones taste just as good, and they’ll make your mornings feel much better.
Three Rules for Healthy Late-Night Snacking
Before we cover the specific snacks, let’s set some general ground rules for healthy late-night snacking. Keep these rules in mind any time you’re having post-dinner cravings.
A healthy late-night snack:
- Has less than 400 calories per serving. When you keep the calorie load of your snacks light, you can help prevent filling your body with the kind of excess calories it might immediately store as fat.
- Has fruits or vegetables. SInce you’ll soon be at rest, lounging or sleeping, you probably want to avoid snacks composed mostly of simple carbohydrates, fats, or protein; your body may not have time to properly break down these items.
- Is low in sugar. The short burst of energy sugar provides will do nothing to improve your sleep.
Healthy Alternatives to Cereal and Milk
Blueberries and Low-Fat Yogurt
Eat wholesome, nutrient-rich blueberries instead of sugar-laden cereal to get sweetness without too much sugar and preservatives. Low-fat yogurt fills your stomach better than milk, so you can satisfy your late-night hunger and move on with your life.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Instead of just empty sweetness, a mix of yogurt and blueberries provides fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and other good things.
Strawberries and Quinoa
Turn your favorite lunch-time grain into the base for a healthy late-night snack by skipping the savory oils and seasonings and stirring in a handful of fresh strawberries.
- Why it’s night-friendly: The calories you do get from eating juicy strawberries and fluffy quinoa come along with protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
You might think grapes could never fulfil a late-night cereal craving, but the sweet little packages taste better than any fruit-flavored flake you can get in a box.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Grapes provide about as much sweetness as you can get without added sugar, so they keep you from turning to syrupy cereal.
Peanut Butter Stuffed Dates
We’ve put peanut butter on pretty much everything else by now; dates seemed to be a natural next choice. To make this snack, use a no-sugar-added natural peanut butter to stuff your dates.
- Why it’s night-friendly: This snack tastes richer than a fruit-based snack should. It’s satisfying, full of nutrients, and fast to throw together.
Healthy Alternatives to Pizza
Mini Pepper Pizzas
Skip the heavy dough and put cheese and sauce on low-calorie bell peppers packed with vitamin C and B6.
- Why it’s night-friendly: The snack turns pizza into a veggie-based treat that won’t weigh you, or your belly, down before bedtime.
Polenta Pizza Bowl
Get your pizza fix with a bowl full of goodness that includes mushrooms, tomatoes, and polenta.
- Why it’s night-friendly: This bowl has all the flavor of pizza, but it provides tons of other nutrients that white dough and greasy cheese lack.
Quinoa Pizza Bowl
Whip up a tasty snack bowl made of quinoa, cottage cheese, sliced black olives, and sun-dried tomatoes. The bowl will be ready before you could get any pizza delivered, and in the long run, eating this bowl will make you feel much better than eating a slice of pizza.
- Why it’s night-friendly: This whole-food pizza bowl goes big on flavor, but it stays low in fat and calories.
If pizza bagels ruled your childhood snacking nights, then pizza salads might just rule your adult snacking nights.
- Why it’s night-friendly: With mixed greens instead of a crust, and a sprinkling of cheese instead of a sheet of mozzarella, pizza salad makes an ideal stand-in for a traditional pie.
Healthy Alternatives to Chicken Wings
Chicken wings have plenty of fat naturally, and frying them and dousing them in buttery sauce doesn’t exactly increase their nutrient content. When you’re craving that buffalo flavor, robust cauliflower serves as the perfect vessel for healthy, spicy sauce.
- Why it’s night-friendly: This veggie-based buffalo snack takes it easy on the fat and calories. Plus, cauliflower has vitamins, minerals, proteins, and tons of fiber, so you’ll wake up ready to take on your day.
Buffalo Chickpea Tortilla Bites
This late-night snack will save the diet of anyone who just can’t let go of those buffalo chicken cravings. Mild tasting alone, chickpeas take on the flavor of any sauce. This recipe calls for blending, but if it’s late and you don’t want to disturb your neighbors, then you can easily mash chickpeas with sauce using a potato masher.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Wholesome chickpeas have fiber and lean protein, so they’re easier on your stomach than any chicken-wing fat bomb. Plus, they have far fewer calories.
If barbecued wings, and not buffalo wings, are more your scene, then this tangy carrot recipe will keep you from giving in to your cravings. This recipe will make you praise the versatility of vegetables; it moves carrots to center stage instead of relegating them to the side. Adapt this recipe for an easy late-night snack by skipping the yogurt dressing. (Toasting the nuts for the dressing adds key time to your late-night snacking prep.)
Who knew the same carrots you snack on with hummus could also substitute for chicken wings?
- Why it’s night-friendly: Since this snack features wholesome carrots as the key ingredient, it’s just as healthy as munching on raw carrots, but it’s way more satisfying.
Baked Buffalo Tempeh Tenders
Tempeh makes another lovely substitute for fatty chicken. Eat this snack with veggie sticks to fulfill your late-night veggie requirement. Cut down your nightly snack wait time by preparing your “bread crumbs” and marinating your tempeh before you leave for the night.
- Why it’s night-friendly: This snack cuts most of the fat and calories from standard chicken wings, making it a healthy choice for night snacking.
Healthy Alternatives to French Fries
Crispy Avocado Fries
Bake avocados instead of frying potatoes to make a snack with more healthy fats and nutrients than french fries, especially the kind you find at fast-food joints.
- Why it’s night-friendly: This snack cuts out the grease and carbohydrates you would get from a regular batch of fries. (We’re not even going to talk about super-sized fries.)
Baked Carrot Fries
Carrots save the day again, this time, substituting for french fries instead of chicken wings.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Baked carrots win the healthy award over fried potatoes any day. And when it comes to late-night snacking, getting more nutrients while eating fewer calories is always a good choice.
Raw Jicama Sticks with Spicy Ketchup
When you don’t have time to fire up the oven to bake some healthy fries, jicama can fulfill your fry cravings. Slice up a jicama before night falls to save time, or splurge on the precut sticks you can find at the grocery store. Channel the whole “french fry” package by eating your sticks with some ketchup infused with hot sauce and cumin.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Naturally crispy and starchy in raw form, jicama has loads of filling fiber to satisfy late-night snackers.
Store-Bought Baked Potato Chips
Baked chips beat fast-food french fries any day, and you can easily keep some chips stashed around the house for emergency late-night hunger pangs.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Low in calories and fat, baked potato chips require zero prep time, so snackers can rely on them for a quick fix.
Harvest Snaps Wasabi Ranch Green Pea Crisps
These pea crisps have everything you love about french fries. They’re salty. They’re crispy. They’re even shaped like french fries.
- Why it’s night-friendly: These plant-based snacks have just over 100 calories. Try to find a serving of regular french fries that can boast those numbers.
Healthy Alternatives to Ice Cream
Banana Ice Cream
Whoever first had the idea to turn bananas into ice cream deserves a gold medal. So many of our nightly cravings can be tricked by healthy substitutes, and creamy bananas, frozen and blended, fill the void many of us think we want to fill with ice cream.
- Why it’s night-friendly: This fruit-based frozen treat has a fraction of the fat and calories you would get by eating traditional ice cream. Plus, the calories you do consume come along with other good things, including potassium, fiber, and vitamin C.
Fruit-based sorbet fills in for ice cream in even the most pressing snacking occasions. Mango makes an especially rich sorbet.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Opt for a no-sugar-added variety of mango sorbet to make this snack as night-friendly as sorbet can get. You can even make your own sorbet by pureeing frozen mango chunks and refreezing the puree for about five minutes.
Yogurt with Honey
Scoop some yogurt into a mug and drizzle it with honey. Pop it in the freezer and wait for about 10 minutes. Take it out and enjoy some not-quite-frozen yogurt that will satisfy your need for a creamy frozen treat. Try adding cinnamon, orange slices, and anything else that suits your fancy, except maybe hot fudge sauce.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Lighter than ice cream, this snack requires ingredients you might already have on hand. When a craving strikes, you’ll be all set.
Healthy Alternatives to Ramen
This late-snack will please eaters who believe ramen is really all about the broth. Swapping zucchini for carb-laden noodles makes this ramen a healthy option to eat after sunset. Make a big batch of zucchini ramen so it can do triple-duty as lunch, dinner, and snack.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Using veggies instead of noodles removes most of the heft from this dish, so you can eat it at night without feeling guilty…or waking up with a noodle hangover.
Quick Homemade Ramen
When you’ve just gotta have a fix of the real-deal ramen, make it yourself instead of settling for the packaged kind. This ramen recipe may have noodles, but it also has a healthy infusion of fresh kale, carrots, and shitake mushrooms.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Far fresher and less sodium dense than what you might get from a late-night delivery service or package, this recipe brings nutrients to the table along with a heavy helping of flavor.
Seaweed snacks have all the umami flavor that makes you crave ramen.
- Why it’s night-friendly: Most seaweed snacks have minimal calories and tons of flavor, so they satisfy late-night cravings without imposing many consequences.
Do you have a go-to late-night snack? Let us know below—if you’re willing to share, that is!
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Our 6 Best Healthy Late-Night Snack Ideas
Sometimes there will be nights when you just can’t resist your snack cravings. Or, maybe dinner was sparse and you know you won’t be able to make it until breakfast without stealing a bite from the fridge. We get it. But what can you eat without completely ruining your daytime calorie-conscious efforts?
Of course, there are the usual suspects:
- Airy popcorn (not the movie theater butter-drenched kind, mind)
- Rice cakes (popcorn’s seemingly healthier “cousin”)
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All of the above options are low in calories. They’re a healthy go-to because you can (sort of) throw portion control caution to the wind and serve yourself a heaping bowl of all three, and their airy nature makes them fairly filling.
Speaking of celery, most vegetables are lower in calories and can satisfy your crunchier cravings. So if you want to open the fridge at 10pm and sit down with a bowl of raw broccoli, asparagus, or a handful of sugar snap peas, go nuts. But if your go-to when late-night munchies strike isn’t a crisp radish, here are a few other healthy snack choices to keep on hand.
For ever more healthy late-night snack options, be sure to subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet! We’ll send you customizable meal plans with hundreds of delicious snacks to choose from.
Low in calories, high in fiber (which helps you with satiety), and just refreshing in general, berries are an easty, tasty snack. A cup of strawberries has 49 calories, a cup of raspberries has 64 calories, and a cup of blueberries has 84 calories.
Image zoom Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Surprisingly, yes, soup is a worthy choice. The reason? It’s filled with water, and water-heavy foods trick us into thinking we’re eating more. Just make sure you’re choosing a brothy soup and not a creamy one.
Image zoom Photo: Jennifer Causey
A single hard-boiled egg is only 70 calories, yet contains a filling 6 grams of protein. Plus, there are a few studies that suggest eating a protein-rich food as your nighttime snack benefits both your metabolism and muscle-building.
Image zoom Maximilian Stock Ltd./Photographer’s Choice/Getty
Another worthy protein-rich option. Just make sure you choose a lower- or zero-fat version and you’ll keep calories down, too. Dairy foods like yogurt also contain calcium and tryptophan—two nutrients that research has shown may promote a good night’s sleep.
Image zoom Getty Images
This is a low-calorie fruit with a sneaky benefit inherent in its packaging. It takes effort to section or peel these, and that mindfulness can promote satisfaction. And if you pop a halved grapefruit under your oven’s broiler, some of the natural sugars will caramelize and make this snack feel extra special.
Image zoom Sean Gallup/Getty Images
At first glance you might expect this Italian dessert to be off the late-night menu. But it’s traditionally just espresso—which has zero calories—with a little bit of vanilla gelato. Choose a light or lower calorie ice cream and then pour your favorite espresso over top for a decadent tasting treat that’s less than 200 calories.
Image zoom Randy Mayor
Want to take all the guesswork out of snacking? Sign up for the Cooking Light Diet today and we’ll send you customizable weekly menus with your soon-to-be favorite snacks.
You’ve probably heard by now that having a late dinner and indulging in midnight snacking is a one-way ticket to insomnia, weight gain and poor eating habits.
But for night owls who veg out in the wee hours watching sports or Netflix marathons, the reality isn’t all that dire.
“There’s no magical time of day when you suddenly stop burning calories and store them away as fat,” says accredited practising dietitian Georgia Bevan.
“Your metabolism is the fire that continues to slowly burn away calories throughout the day and night, even when you’re sleeping.”
Consequently, late-night snacking doesn’t automatically get turned to fat. “We simply digest the nutrients and use them as we need to, which suggests that the calories we consume in the evening don’t have any more impact on our weight than they do during the day,” she says.
That said, it’s still wise to watch those cravings for sugary, salty and starchy junk foods.
If you love to snack on chips, opt for baked chips or ones cooked in healthier oils rather than greasy fried chips.
Tracie Connor, nutritionist
“When you’re so intent on the game, you’re just reaching for the snack table and not being mindful of what you’re eating or your satiety cues,” says Brisbane nutritionist Tracie Connor.
“You also require energy boosts and stimulants to stay awake, and that’s what naturally propels you to reach for those sugary and starchy carbs,” she says.
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Watching high-energy action sports with friends may also drive you to pick up that extra slice of pizza or a second beer, even though you’re full.
“While such behaviours short-term won’t be as harmful towards your health – although you may experience the odd sleepless night or acid reflux – it’s still important to maintain a balance that allows you to enjoy your time and indulgences but safeguards your health long-term,” Connor says.
Pack the table with healthy snacks. Photo: iStock
The best TV-watching snacks are low in energy and loaded with vitamins, minerals, fibre, healthy fats and complex carbs, which naturally and steadily release energy to keep us awake without the need for caffeine.
If friends are coming around to watch a game, pack your table with healthy snacks alongside a couple of treats for everyone to pick at.
Victorian naturopath Chantelle Bell suggests keeping an eye on portions so you don’t end up eating too much.
“A smart way to minimise your calories is to place high-calorie snacks, those rich in saturated fat, salt and sugars, into smaller bowls and serve healthier snacks in larger bowls,” Bell says.
“If you stick to eating only what you have in front of you, this will protect your health and prevent you from overeating too many unhealthy items.”
And if you’re visiting friends, take along your own healthy snacks so you know there’s something nutritious to nibble on.
Foods containing tyramine
“Tyramine is an amino acid that’s known to naturally stimulate brain activity, and helps you remain awake at night for quite a long time,” Connor says.
“Fermented foods like sourdough bread, aged cheeses, cured meat, sauerkraut and sour cream contain tyramine.”
Get your hummus on. Photo: Marina Oliphant
Raw vegies and dips
Munching on plant-based snacks packed with iron and other nutrients is a great way to fill up naturally, especially if they have high fibre content.
Try avocado on sourdough, vegetable sticks such as carrots and celery, and legume-based dips such as hummus, which are high in protein and fibre.
Popcorn is a satisfying high-fibre PM crunch. Photo: iStock
Better chips and crackers
“If you love to snack on chips, opt for baked chips or ones cooked in healthier oils rather than greasy fried chips,” Connor says. Serve with fresh salsa or homemade guacamole for a healthier yet delicious snack.
Popcorn is a satisfying high-fibre PM crunch – as long as you give the butter a swerve. Instead, add extra kick with dried spices, cinnamon, black pepper or a light sprinkle of grated cheese.
Wholegrain crackers are a high-fibre option and can be combined with cheese, peanut butter or tahini for extra protein.
Roasted chickpeas, broad beans and edamame are an easy and satisfying pick-me-up that tend to be high in iron and protein, too.
Make your own trail mix. Photo: iStock
Fresh fruits and nuts
When hunger pangs set in, grab seasonal fruits packed with vitamin C, such as oranges and pineapple.
Snack on handfuls of unsalted raw almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios and pecans. Or make your own high-fibre trail mix by mixing nuts with raisins and goji berries.
“For the more savoury options, pour a small serving of peanuts cooked in coconut oil, as they can be quite addictive and are high in calories,” Connor says.
Dark chocolate is a natural pick-me-up, perhaps due to the caffeine it contains, but don’t use this as an excuse to overindulge. Like anything dessert-worthy, consume in moderation during the early hours and keep it to two pieces.
“The amount of alcohol that a person can tolerate is individual, but it’s recommended that men have no more than two drinks per hour and women no more than one-and-a-half drinks per hour,” Connor says.
“Mixing non-alcoholic drinks throughout the night has many health benefits and having at least two alcohol-free nights a week is optimal,” she says.
“Finally, drinking water throughout the day, and an extra glass for each drink of alcohol consumed, will help maintain hydration for good health.”
Eat healthier in your day
“Have a healthier breakfast and lunch on the days you know you’ll stay up late and snack,” Bell says.
“If you usually have dinner around 6 or 7pm you may want to move it to 9pm, knowing that you’re going to be snacking later on. This way you’ll possibly snack less and won’t essentially be having a second dinner.”
But don’t skip meals in favour of snacking – instead, try to eat when hungry.
“Therefore, if you’re hungry at your usual dinner time then eat dinner, perhaps a smaller portion compared to normal, because if you skip dinner or any meal when you’re hungry it’s more likely you’ll overeat snacks,” Connor says.
On a night when you’re up late watching a game, drinking and snacking, the best dinner option is one with plenty of vegies and salad, and a serve of protein with healthy fats, Connor says.
“Most snacks are high carbohydrate, including alcohol, therefore leaving carbs out dinner will balance your intake,” she says.
Refrain from eating anything at least two hours before bedtime to allow for proper digestion.
Be aware of fast-food commercials that can trigger cravings for burgers and other takeaway food.
“If food ads make you hungry, don’t watch them,” Connor says.
“It’s about willpower … walk away when the ads are on and if you’re feeling the craving ask yourself if it’s something you really and truly want.
“If it is, and you reach for your phone to order home delivery, then just allow yourself to have it guilt-free.”
When it comes to fast food generally, try to avoid relying on takeaway as much as possible.
“Once a week is plenty and think about saving these temptations for during the finals if you want to celebrate in that way,” Connor says.
12 Best Bedtime Foods for Weight Loss
It’s a conundrum most people face when they’re trying to eat healthy: You’re starving right before bed, but you don’t want to eat something that will derail your diet. Turns out, going to bed hungry could actually hurt your weight-loss efforts. A rumbling tummy means an unrestful sleep, and a likelihood that you’ll wake up so starving, you’ll make unhealthy breakfast choices.
Plus, sleeping is an essential key to slimming down; researchers have found that sleeping five or fewer hours a night increases your chances of gaining weight! Making matters worse, sleep deprivation stimulates the hormones that regulate hunger, meaning you crave high-calorie junk food the next day. It’s better to get a good night’s rest and go to bed on a satisfied stomach.
So check out Eat This, Not That!’s favorite foods that help you sleep, build lean protein while you snooze, or keep you satisfied all night long to avoid those morning hunger pangs.
RELATED VIDEO: Why Using Your Phone at Bedtime Can Hinder Your Weight Loss
Greek yogurt is like the MVP of yogurts, thanks to its high protein and low sugar content (in unsweetened varieties). The protein is filling and can help you build lean muscle while you snooze. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology found that eating protein right before you sleep stimulates overnight protein synthesis, which repairs and helps grow muscle. Since lean protein helps your body burn fat, getting enough of the macronutrient is key for weight loss
Cherries not only satisfy your post-dinner sweet tooth; they can help you get better shut-eye, too. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. Have a bowl or a glass of tart cherry juice before bed; a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that adults who drank tart cherry juice noticed improvements in sleep quality and duration. Plus, cherries are chock-full of antioxidants, which can also help fight inflammation and move the scale.
Peanut Butter on Whole Grain Bread
Peanut butter toast is a delicious and filling snack any time of day, but especially before bed. This peanut butter contains tryptophan, an amino acid that helps put you to sleep, and the B vitamins in whole grain bread will help you absorb it. Plus, there’s a reason peanut butter is one of our best fat-burning foods; it’s a great source of plant-based protein to help you build muscle, and healthy monounsaturated fats to keep you full and blast belly fat.
If you’re one of those people who prefers to hit the gym in the evening, recovering with a protein shake can help you build muscle while you catch your Zzzs. A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise shows that downing 40 grams of casein protein before bed increases muscle protein synthesis, and building lean muscle is key to getting rid of fat. Try adding a scoop of casein protein powder to make a protein shake.
Cottage cheese is almost the perfect bedtime snack. It’s rich in casein protein, a slow-releasing protein that keeps you full overnight and will help you repair muscles while you get your beauty rest. Plus, it contains the sleep-inducing tryptophan to help you fall asleep.
There’s a reason you want to take a nap after Thanksgiving dinner; the tryptophan in turkey makes you sleepy. So it makes for the perfect pre-bed snack, especially because the protein will help you build muscle overnight. Enjoy a couple slices on whole wheat bread or crackers; the fiber will keep you satisfied all night, and the B vitamins will help your body absorb the tryptophan.
Did you know bananas also have tryptophan? The amino acid will help put you to sleep quicker, and the fiber will keep you satisfied. At about 100 calories each, this sweet fruit will help squash any sugar cravings you might have after dinner. Try freezing a banana (unpeeled, of course), and mash it up with a fork to create a tasty ice cream-like treat.
Chocolate milk may seem like a sweet indulgence, but it’s actually an ideal weight-loss beverage. The calcium can help melt belly fat; a study in the journal Diabetes Care found that when diabetics supplemented their diet with dairy calcium, it helped them shed weight. And the old wives’ tale is true: a glass of milk makes people sleepy, thanks to the tryptophan. Just be sure to choose a brand that doesn’t have too much added sugar or use high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.
The key to losing weight could be in your—literally. Kefir, a fermented milk product, is packed with probiotics to keep your gut bacteria happy and de-bloat your stomach. Since it’s dairy, it also has tryptophan to help you fall asleep and slimming calcium.
If you’re craving something salty, munch on some almonds. At 5 grams of protein a serving, they’ll help you repair muscle overnight, and the fiber will keep you satisfied. Plus, almonds are a fat-burning superfood: One International Journal of Obesity study found that overweight adults who ate ¼ cup of almonds for 6 months had a 62 percent reduction in weight and BMI.
End your day the way it started: with a bowl of cereal. Carbs are good for sleep, and fiber-rich whole grain cereals will keep you fill while melting fat; studies have shown that fiber intake is associated with lower body weight, a study in Eating Behaviors found. Enjoy with a cup of low-fat milk for the extra dose of tryptophan, calcium, and vitamin D.
You wouldn’t think string cheese is one of the best foods that help you sleep, but one serving has a satiating combo of fat and protein at just around 80 calories a pop. Plus, it contains a decent dose of tryptophan; part-skim mozzarella, for example, has more than 600 milligrams of the drowsy-inducing amino acid.
RELATED: No-sugar-added recipes you’ll actually look forward to eating.
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17 Healthy Late Night Snacks for When Midnight Cravings Hit
You look at the clock glaring the numbers 12:15 back at you in bright red. You can feel your stomach grumbling. You reach for your phone trying to distract you, but you just can’t seem to ignore the overwhelming urge for something to eat! Finally, frustrated, you grab your slipper and stomp to the fridge. You try to remember your diet but it’s too late. If you don’t grab something you’ll be up all night…
Does this situation sound familiar? If so, get prepared to be prepared! Late night cravings don’t have to mean the pitfall of every diet you’ve ever tried. Instead, with a little knowledge and planning you can avoid those dreaded midnight munchies!
Are you ready? Here are the top 17 late night snacks for when your cravings hit.
1. Blood Sugar Balancing Lemonade or Soda
When cravings hit, there’s a good chance our blood sugar might just be out of balance. When you find yourself craving food in the middle of the night, start off with this balancing lemonade. You might find that you don’t even need anything else!
The power is in the blend of lemon (a detoxifier), Cinnamon (a craving buster) and chromium (a mineral that is necessary for us to balance our blood sugar). Of course, the water in itself will help fill you up and destroy cravings. So, before reaching for the cookies, fill up on some of this lemonade and see if the problem takes care of itself.
If you are looking for something to occupy your tastebuds, edamame might just be the way to go! This tasty snack is extremely clean and high in protein.
Late at night, your body’s metabolism slows down to prepare you for sleep. So of course, if you are munching on high calorie snacks, there is a good chance they might turn into fat more than if you were to eat that same food in the morning of an active day.
The combination of low-calorie and high protein might help you stay full and satiated while still revving up the metabolism enough to help burn off those calories.
3. In-Shell Pistachios
Although too many might be high in calories, moderate amounts of pistachios might actually help you go back to sleep.
Though all foods contain some melatonin, a nutrient which is essential for deep sleep, pistachios are one the most nutrient dense. Just a small handful of these power snacks will punch as much melatonin as supplement!
Remember how each Thanksgiving, your Dad crashes on the couch in a deep turkey-coma? Post-Thanksgiving naps are a legit thing! I’ll tell you why.
Turkey contains large amounts of tryptophan which contribute to making people feel tired. If you really want some good rest and a yummy nighttime snack, try wrapping turkey in romaine lettuce, drizzle a little dressing, and enjoy a delicious wrap.
5. Tart Cherries
Tart cherries can actually help you boost your melatonin production making them perfect for a good night’s rest. Cherries also require mindful eating due to the stems and pits making them a perfect choice for people who want to avoid late night binges.
If you really want something sweet but need help keeping it moderate, try freezing the cherries. The extra cold will not only take longer to eat but, it might actually help you curb some cravings in the process.
Berries are an extremely healthy snack for anytime of the day, but at night, they are especially perfect. High amounts of carbs can make it harder for you to sleep.
However, berries are extremely low glycemic (meaning they don’t have a huge effect on your blood sugar) making them absolutely perfect to curb the sweet tooth and still have a good nights rest.
Plus they are so high in antioxidants that your also doing your body a favor!
7. Berry Slushie
As mentioned, berries are very low glycemic, meaning they don’t spike your blood sugar in the way normal fruit would.
For an especially perfect snack, blend together ice, lemon, berries, and stevia. The addition of the lemon and stevia will help you get that sweet kick without having to add too much fruit into the mix. You will feel satisfied without even budging your waistline.
For those of you who feel extra ambitious, try filling up on veggies. They are so low-calorie, you don’t really have to worry about over eating them.
If you really want to add some extra flavor, try sauteing them in water or dipping them in a tablespoon of sauce. You’ll feel full and satisfied but you won’t have to worry about an overdose of calories.
9. Pumpkin Seeds
Much like pistachios, pumpkin seeds can help fill you up without disrupting your sleep. Pumpkin seeds are packed with tryptophan that might help knock you out.
If you feel like you just can’t sleep and want to avoid a sudden binge, keep in-shell pumpkin seeds on hand as well. You will stay occupied and have your cravings handled without the temptation of grabbing mouthfuls at a time.
10. Plain Yogurt and Cinnamon
Cinnamon is really a master at helping curb cravings. This makes for a power combo when you hit your body with both protein-dense Greek yogurt and balancing cinnamon simultaneously.
If you really want to feel like you’re having a treat, just add a tablespoon or so of stevia, and dip in half an apple. You’ll almost think you were having a dessert.
11. Protein Ice Cream
Who doesn’t love a low calorie snack? This recipe uses gelatin to thicken up the rest of the ingredients into a more creamy flavor without adding the whopping calories of cream.
Late and night, our metabolism slows down to prepare for sleep. That means, low calorie snacks are ideal. They’ll fill you right up without disrupting your sleep or diet.
Check out the recipe of this ice-cream here!
12. A Tablespoon of Almond Butter
Sometimes, all you need is just one little lick of something to keep you satiated. That’s what this trick will do for you.
Although one tablespoon will pack in about 100 calories, the healthy fats might be all it takes to keep you satisfied and happy. Just be mindful of how much if you are trying to lose or maintain weight.
13. Shiritake Noodles
There’s a big difference between wanting to eat because you’re hungry or eating because.. well.. you want to eat. By all means, if you’re feeling genuinely hungry, then reach for something a bit more satiating. Most of us, however, start reaching for the pantry out of pure habit.
But, before giving in to a cup of Top Ramen, give this trick a try! Warm up Shiritake noodles and season with whatever you’re feeling most. These noodles taste great mixed in with coconut aminos for a Thai bowl topped with veggies.
Or try mixing it with almond milk, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast for something savory. These 0-calorie noodles with help solve the munchies and make you feel satisfied again!
14. Homemade Jello
Much like the Protein Ice Cream, homemade jello is a really filling way to get your sweet fix when you don’t really need the extra calories.
While most gelatin from stores is not good for you at all, moderate amounts of natural gelatin, like Great Lakes Gelatin, can actually be pretty good for you and your gut.
While healthy carbs are in no way bad, I prefer to use stevia for this recipe as well at night, since too high of carb can really disrupt sleep.
Take a look at the recipe here to make your own healthy jello.
15. Kale Chips
When you’re craving something crunchy and salty, kale chips are the way to go. Many brands include some amounts of cashews which make them very satiating as well.
Think ahead for those days when potato chips sound tempting and keep bags of kale chips on hand instead. You will not regret it! And as a little bonus, the extra minerals will help you feel more fulfilled too.
16. Bento Box
A bento box is an amazing way to fill up your body with very satiating and fulfilling foods in a very balanced way. If you are genuinely hungry, then a balanced and portioned snack like this is hands down the way to go.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to fill your box with one portion; each of protein, nuts, veggies, and low-carb fruit. It’s a quick snack plate that will leave you feeling great!
17. Peanut/Sunflower Butter and Carrot sticks/Jicama
I saved the weirdest for last! This is one of my all time favorite snacks, but it makes for a truly satiating meal when you absolutely need something filling to hold you up through the night.
Jicama or carrots and nut butter provide the most amazing blend of satiating saltiness with a tang of sweet. It doesn’t take much of this meal to fill you up. You’ll be feeling awesome in no time!
1. Try to Eat 2 Hours before Bed
Because your metabolism slows down so much at night, most dieticians recommend eating at least 2 hours before bed.
Eating later at night can disrupt your sleep and add to unwanted weight gain. To really prevent this slump, try eating regularly throughout the day. You’re body loves consistency and not starving yourself during the day will prevent those late-night binges.
2. Choose Low-Carb
High amount of carbs at night are a sure-fire way to pack on unwanted pounds. To avoid this, choose lighter and lower-carb meals at night to prevent fat-gain.
There’s nothing wrong with some big chunks of bread, but eating that late at night is not going to work for you!
3. Satiate Yourself
Try adding some healthy fats to your dinner. I’m all about eating “lean and clean”, but if you find yourself starving after dinner, then there’s a chance you might not be eating the right types of foods for dinner.
Adding lean protein and healthy fats to your meals will help keep you full longer and prevent late night hunger.
4. Know Whether You’re Craving or Hungry
When you’re stressed out or working late, it’s only natural to want to eat to get rid of the stress. However, overeating will only make things worse.
If you find yourself walking into the kitchen out of stress of habits, then I would say it’s time to learn an awesome new habit to de-stress. Whether you go for a walk or you sit down and read, making time for you in a relaxed environment is going to be the way to go
5. Invest in Good Sleep
Sometimes, late night cravings really boil down to a lack of good sleep. There are a variety of supplements out there, from melatonin to valerian root, that can help you calm down and get some rest.
I’ve found that taking CALM, a magnesium supplement drink, really helps me unwind as well. I really recommend turning off all electronics 2 hours before you go to sleep so you have some good time to unwind and rest too.
6. Be Aware of Your Blood Sugar Balance
If you have any sorts of blood sugar imbalance, then staying on top of your nutrition is extremely important.
Skipping meals shouldn’t be an option. Instead, choose meals with a good balance of healthy fats, low-glycemic carbs, and proteins to keep you satiated throughout the day. This will prevent spikes and drops in your blood sugar that could really mess with your system!
7. Try Intermittent Fasting
Lastly, if you are really starving every night, intermittent fasting might be a great option to try.
By training your body to only eat during certain time frames, you will naturally adjust and stop getting as hungry during times outside of that “feeding window.” It’s a really good option whether you’re looking to feel good, lose weight, or just regain your relationship to food.
Learn more about intermittent fasting here: Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss (The Ultimate Weight Loss Hack)
So here you are, your new manual for when late night cravings hit. Say goodbye to those miserable binges for good!
More Healthy Snacks
- 25 Healthy Snacks for Work: Decrease Hunger and Increase Productivity
- 25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive
- Stock up on These 9 Healthy Snack Foods to Boost Your Brainpower
Featured photo credit: Glen Carrie via unsplash.com
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The 10 Best Midnight Snacks That Won’t Make You Gain Weight
Snacking before bed is the ultimate diet don’t, but maybe we shouldn’t be so strict about it. In some instances, it might help you sleep better. And according to Time, a post-dinner snack can help stabilize your blood sugar levels overnight, meaning you’ll feel less sluggish when you wake. If you eat dinner early in the evening or are very active throughout the day, those late-night cravings might mean your body really needs nourishment. Just make sure you’re choosing healthy options and eating proper portions.
Check out these options for some inspiration. They’re among the best midnight snacks you can eat.
Almonds are a great choice. | iStock.com
Almonds are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat and make a great snack right before bed. A 1-ounce serving is 160 calories and delivers 6 grams of protein that will help keep you full for the rest of the night. Cooking Light also says almonds contain tryptophan, a sleep-supporting amino acid that can help you doze off. They also contain magnesium, which helps relax your muscles. Have a serving before you call it a night for a guilt-free snack that offers wholesome nutrients.
2. Homemade vegetable chips
Homemade sweet potato chips are delicious. | iStock.com
According to Livestrong.com, eating foods high in fat and sodium right before bed not only causes bloating, but it can also hinder your sleep efforts and cause discomfort throughout the night. Part of the problem is the temptation to eat too much since there’s little fiber or protein to fill you up. By the time you feel satisfied, it’s likely you’ll have eaten more than one serving.
Instead of reaching for a bag of those processed snacks, PopSugar recommends making a batch of low-calorie carrot chips. You only need carrots, a little bit of oil, and salt. The best part is, since they’re homemade, you can can customize the amount of salt and even add other seasonings.
Popcorn is a great midnight snack. | iStock.com
Livestrong.com notes popcorn is a great low-calorie snack that’s made from fiber-rich whole grains. As long as you’re not dousing the kernels with butter, popcorn is a very healthy option to snack on before bed. Stick to air-popped popcorn when you can. A plain, 3-cup serving only has around 90 calories and 1 gram of fat. To add flavor without fat, try sprinkling any of your favorite herbs or spices on top.
4. String cheese
Grab a string cheese before bed. | iStock.com
Women’s Health says string cheese makes a filling snack option right before bed because of its fat and protein content. Similar to almonds, cheese also contains tryptophan to increase drowsiness to help you fall asleep. If you’re worried the dairy alone won’t satisfy you, grab some raw veggies as well.
5. Yogurt with berries
Yogurt can help you get back to sleep. | iStock.com
If you’re in the mood for something sweet, yogurt with fruit is a filling option that’s filled with protein and nutrients to help you get a good night’s rest. You’ll want to aim for plain yogurt, not one that’s fruit flavored or packed with other added sugars. Life by Daily Burn says plain yogurt contains potassium, which may be helpful for managing insomnia. To add naturally sweet flavor, top it with fruit like raspberries or strawberries. Both contain vitamin B6, which increases melatonin production in the body to help you sleep better.
6. Banana with nut butter
Sliced banana is a good choice. | iStock.com
This sweet combo contains lots of nutritional benefits and won’t hurt your waistline. Authority Nutrition mentions the fruit boasts vitamins C and B6, plus magnesium and iron. A medium banana usually contains about 30 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of fiber. Combine this with a tablespoon of nut butter for protein and fat, and you’ll have a filling snack that leaves you satisfied right before bed. Self says bananas also contain melatonin, which can help you sleep better.
7. Carrots and guacamole
Try some guac and carrots for a healthy snack. | iStock.com
Since avocados have a high amount of unsaturated fat, Glamour says they make a healthy and satisfying option for a late-night snack. All you have to do is mix half an avocado with salsa for a guacamole dip to pair with carrots. Carrots offer lots of antioxidants and filling fiber that, when combined with the avocado, deliver the perfect mix of nutrients for a satisfying snack. You can even try other veggies. Jicama, snap peas, radishes, and broccoli florets are all great choices.
8. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate is fine to have late at night. | iStock.com/kobeza
Who doesn’t love chocolate? Well, you’re in luck. But first, please don’t think your run-of-the-mill candy bar will cut it. A candy bar is bound to have tons and tons of sugar, plus plenty of other additives — not ideal for bedtime. Instead, grab dark chocolate, specifically one with at least 70% cacao content. According to Livestrong.com, dark chocolate will fight inflammation, calm your mood, and can help lower your blood pressure.
Pistachios are one of the leanest nuts you can eat. | iStock.com
Pistachios are definitely worth snacking on, according to Livestrong.com. Surprisingly, the work it takes to eat a pistachio is one of the many benefits of eating them before bed! Since it’s a process that takes some time, we’re bound to eat less than if they were already shelled. They’re also one of the leanest nuts, so you’re less likely to go overboard. To top it all off, the nuts are packed with fiber, vitamin B6, and biotin.
Fresh blueberries are a great late-night snack. | iStock.com
We’re ending this list on a sweet note with blueberries, a wonderful late-night snack. According to Men’s Fitness, frozen or fresh out of the refrigerator blueberries are packed with vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. Blueberries are also extremely easy to mix with nuts or blend with a little milk and chia seeds for a blueberry smoothie. Whatever you end up making with them, blueberries are ready to send you off to sleep in a healthy way.
Additional reporting by Jordan Porter-Woodruff.
15 Healthy Late Night Snacks for When the Midnight Munchies Hit
It may not have a good rap, but eating in the midnight hours can sometimes be A-OK—that is, of course, if you eat healthy late-night snacks rather than foods that keep you up at night.
Indeed, we’re not talking about a full-on feast—and most nutritionists agree that when it comes to late-night munching, it’s best to limit things to a light snack—but it’s important to listen to your body and heed the hunger signs it’s giving you. If your stomach is grumbling at midnight, nutritionists give you the go-ahead to satisfy those cravings with the right food.
Why it’s ok to snack late at night.
You’re probably familiar with the sleep myth that you shouldn’t eat at night because your metabolism slows down; however, experts say that’s not the case. “Contrary to popular belief, metabolism does not shut down when we sleep. It ebbs and flows but overall remains consistent with our waking metabolism,” advises Madeline McDonough MS, RDN. “The key is opting for nutrient-dense snacks that support an overall balanced dietary pattern.”
That is to say that you should skip the leftover pizza and opt for a nutritious snack to tide you over until morning.
Eating late at night isn’t just ok, it’s also recommended if you’re really hungry. If you ignore your bodily cues, you may even sleep less that evening or have a harder time staying asleep. “If you’re overly-hungry at night, you’ll likely have a harder time sleeping, and you’ll be extra ravenous in the morning, possibly even feeling nauseous from hunger,” says Diana Gariglio-Clelland, RD, CDE with Balance One Supplements. “Eating at bedtime may even be beneficial for people who experience low blood sugar at night, such as those taking insulin.”
What are the best types of foods for healthy late-night snacks?
Foods that help to increase melatonin levels in your body, in particular, can be a boon for bedtime eats. “For example, foods such as cheese, milk, turkey, and peanuts contain tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin and melatonin. The body naturally produces serotonin and melatonin, which help induce calm and regulate sleep-wake cycles,” says Edwina Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, Registered Dietitian and Head of Nutrition at hundred.
For optimal effectiveness, Clark advises pairing tryptophan-rich foods with a source of carbohydrate. This “helps cross the blood-brain barrier and exert its sleep-enhancing effects.”
For some, opting for a probiotic-rich snack after dinner may even help with digestive problems. “Research suggests that probiotics can be useful for GI problems such as IBS, diarrhea, and constipation—all of which can impair sleep,” says Clark. She notes some healthy options like kefir, sauerkraut, and kombucha.
The best healthy late-night snacks.
Next time hunger strikes before bed, be kind to your body and swap the fast-food fix for one of these expert-approved picks for 15 healthy late-night snacks.
This crunchy veggie is one of the midnight go-tos of Clark. “Edamame is a great healthy substitute for those who prefer salty snacks at night,” she says. “Edamame is a source of tryptophan and a carbohydrate and may assist with serotonin and melatonin synthesis.” Sprinkle a little salt on a bowl of edamame, or pair with a little hummus for a more filling snack.
2. Fresh vegetables
“Crudité is always a good choice as veggies have few calories and will prevent you from gaining weight due to excess night eating,” suggests says nutritionist Brocha Soloff, RD, of iHeart Health. Carrots and celery are a popular choice but also consider radishes, zucchini rounds, or sliced broccoli stalks with a little bit of salt for something different.
3. A banana with almond butter
“Bananas provide our body with healthy carbs and almond butter helps to balance blood sugar with its protein and fat content,” suggests McDonough. “This perfect pair may even help you get to sleep, bananas are rich in nutrients that can be converted to melatonin and almonds contain magnesium, another nutrient that may help us reach and maintain quality sleep.” No almond butter? Swap a tablespoon or two of almond butter for a handful of almonds.
4. Whole-grain crackers and cheese
A winning combo for late-night cravings. “The carbohydrates in the crackers are digested more slowly because of the higher fiber content, and the protein and fat in the cheese contain filling protein to keep us feeling satiated,” says Gariglio-Clelland. If you’re dairy-free, lactose intolerant, or vegan, try pairing the crackers with hummus or another favorite bean dip.
5. Tart cherry juice
“Tart cherries contain melatonin and small trials suggest that consuming tart cherry juice improves sleep duration and quality,” says Clark. “In addition, tart cherries are packed with polyphenolic compounds that help
combat inflammation and oxidative stress.” Clark recommends the Cheribundi brand, but feel free to experiment with whatever is at your local grocer.
6. A small protein bar
Most people aren’t actually hungry after dinner, but they need ‘a little something,'” says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD. “A sweet, portion-controlled option with some fiber and protein can be just the thing to satisfy your craving without blowing your eating plan.” Her favorite flavor of these organic ProBar Bite Bars is the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, but they also come in mixed berry and coconut almond flavors. They’re all totally plant-based, and only have four grams of sugar with around 150 calories per bar. “It’s the perfect guilt-free snack that helps with cravings. It’s not too heavy on the stomach and won’t give you that sugar rush other sweet foods do.”
7. Stove-top popcorn
We’re talking plain kernels here, not buttery popcorn like you get at the movies or the kind you buy in microwave-safe bags, which is often loaded with additives. “Stove-top popcorn is a versatile and satiating snack that can be curated to honor any late-night craving,” notes McDonough. “Looking for a salty crunch? Sprinkle some sea salt and/or nutritional yeast on top. Something sweet? Add a touch of raw honey and some cinnamon to help promote stable blood sugar. Popcorn also contains fiber and is relatively low in calories when prepared at home.”
If you aren’t hungry enough for a full-on snack, but are still craving something sweet before bed, popping a few grapes may do the trick. “Grapes are a source of melatonin. Grapes also contain polyphenols which are good for the heart,” says Malena Perdomo, MS, RD, CDE, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator.
Kiersten Hickman/Eat This, Not That!
These juicy fruits contain small amounts of melatonin. “Consider eating tomatoes throughout the day and it may help you fall asleep easier at night,” says Claudia William, MD, Board certified in Family Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine. Bonus: Tomatoes also offer lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.
10. Unsweetened, plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit
You don’t have to tell us twice to indulge in this creamy, satisfying snack that just happens to be a really nutritious option for you when late-night hunger pangs strike. “Greek yogurt and fruit provide all the creamy sweetness of ice-cream without the added fat and sugar. Yogurt is rich in probiotics which may help settle the stomach, and also a source of an amino acid called tryptophan,” explains Clark. “Tryptophan is used to synthesize serotonin and in turn, melatonin, which helps regulate circadian rhythms. Pairing Greek yogurt with a source of carbohydrate, like fruit, helps tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier.” To make this snack a little tastier, sprinkle the yogurt with some ground cinnamon or turmeric.
11. Nuts or nut butter on a piece of whole-grain toast
“A simple serving of nuts or sunflower seed butter spread on a high-fiber food—like an apple or whole grain bread—is a great option before bed,” says Rachel Fine, RD, a registered dietitian, and owner of To The Pointe Nutrition, a nutrition counseling firm in New York City. “The key here is fiber, which helps to stabilize blood sugar throughout sleep, preventing the onset of hypoglycemia in the early morning. The addition of protein and unsaturated fats will also help to build a macronutrient mix that works to stabilize one’s blood sugar.” Not sure what kind of toast to use? Read our guide to the healthiest store-bought bread loaves.
“Pistachios are packed full of protein, B6, magnesium, and melatonin. All of these are important nutrients to help you feel full and fall asleep,” advises Dr. William. “Just two pistachios can give you a good amount of melatonin. So, a handful should help you hit the hay ASAP.” Nuts for pistachios? We’ve got 15 perfect pistachio recipes for you here.
13. Oat bites
“I’ve been really enjoying oat bites as a late-night snack because of their warm, comforting spices,” says Goodson. If you don’t want to make your own at home, you can always buy a premade version. “The perfect snack to warm up the winter months, OJAS STUDIO Date & Grain Bites feature whole food ingredients including cinnamon, coconut, fig, and orange peel.” Just add calming lavender essential oil and a warm blanket and you’ll be drifting into dreamland in no time.
Make sure you limit your cheese intake to a healthy portion size. That’s one string cheese or a few small cubes of cheddar. “Research shows the lactose in cheese can help you fall asleep better,” notes Soloff. To round out the snack, add on a few fresh vegetable slices or a low-carb fruit, like berries.
15. Goji Berries
We’re wild for this uber-nutritious superfood for a late PM snack, and so is Dr. William. “Goji berries have the highest concentration of melatonin for any dried fruit,” she notes. Make sure you snack on no-sugar-added or unsweetened varieties.
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A lot of people think that the best way to lose weight or get leaner is to stop eating altogether after dinner.
But think about what that really means…you probably eat dinner around 7:00 p.m., and maybe go to bed around 10:30 or 11:00. If you don’t eat breakfast until 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. the next day, that can be a long time without eating for an active person.
Trying not to eat after dinner probably means you:
- Get “snacky” and go for something sweet (ice cream) or salty (chips, popcorn, etc.), which isn’t always bad, but can often lead to binge eating of unhealthy foods if you’re actually hungry.
- Get so hungry you’re grumpy and feel bitter about not getting to eat more so no one else wants to be around you.
- Wake up completely depleted and starving with no energy to exercise or start your day (or worse, wake up in the middle of the night feeling famished and nauseous—speaking from experience!).
Personally, I’ve experienced every one of these things, and they’re not fun. While everyone’s bodies are different, if you’re currently waking up in the middle of the night feeling famished or feeling extra depleted the next day, you may want to start incorporating a healthy bedtime snack.
Choosing the Right Nighttime Snack
Eating at night doesn’t automatically mean your diet has failed for the day or that your body is going to store every one of those calories as fat.
Remember, food is fuel! As long as you focus on eating high nutrient foods and are fairly active during the daytime, it’s absolutely fine to eat at night. And unless you’re really off on your portion sizes, your body will actually be stronger and fitter because of it. Better yet, you’ll be more likely to feel strong during your next day’s workout.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a late night snack:
- If you’re trying to lose weight, avoid eating too many carbs at the end of the night. Since you won’t be burning off any carbs while you’re sleeping, your body is more likely to store these as fat.
- If you’re working out first thing in the morning, some carbs at night will help give you energy for your workout. That’s where the idea of carb loading before an endurance race of some sort comes in—carbs give you fuel, but since you’re waking up early you have to give them to your body the night before to fill up your glycogen stores rather than the morning of.
- Eating healthy fats at night is a great way to feel satisfied and not wake up in the middle of the night starving. This is good news for nut butter and avocado lovers!
- Protein of any sort is always a good bedtime snack choice. This is especially true if you’re trying to gain muscle or at least retain it while losing body fat, and is the reason why bodybuilders will often have a Casein shake or cottage cheese before bedtime.
Below are some easy snack ideas that you can eat pre-bedtime without feeling like you’re overindulging. I’ve included the macro levels so you can get an of what these would look like in my diet, but obviously you can adjust the portion sizes to fit your own goals.
Here are 10 healthy bedtime snacks you can enjoy guilt-free:
Peanut Butter Protein Balls
These are one of my all time favorite late night snacks, because they’re so satisfying and taste like a delicious dessert despite being made out of all healthy ingredients (yes, even the chocolate—a little dark chocolate is good for you!).
Make these ahead of time for an easy go-to snack, or make them and freeze them to speed up the process. Get the recipe for these here.
Macros (per 2 protein balls):
Greek Yogurt, Berries + Crumbled Walnuts
Top this with some cinnamon and it’s almost like eating ice cream! Or, at least a really yummy parfait. Obviously you can substitute walnuts for any other nut you enjoy. Chia seeds or flax seeds would be a good addition as well.
Macros (based on 1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt + 1/2 cup berries + 2 walnuts:
Protein Ice Cream
The brainchild of Adam Bornstein, this stuff really is pretty good if you have the patience to wait for it (you have to put it in the freezer for at least a half an hour). I like to make mine with chocolate protein powder, peanut butter and oat milk. Mmm.
Macros (based on 1 serving protein powder and 1 Tbsp peanut butter):
Cottage Cheese + Berries + Almonds
Cottage cheese is a great choice before bed (if you like the stuff), because it’s packed with casein and whey protein to keep you full and repair and build your muscles all night long. Top with berries, almonds, or whatever you like and you have a filling, healthy pre-bedtime snack.
Macros (based on 1 cup cottage cheese + 1/2 cup berries + about 10 almonds):
If you’ve never checked out Anna Sward’s site Protein Pow, do yourself a favor and take a look. She’s got tons and tons of delicious recipes all focused on high protein, mostly low carb goodness. Protein fluff is one of her specialties, and it’s a perfect healthy bedtime snack—I like mine with frozen berries and vanilla whey protein powder.
Late Night Omelette
I’ll admit that I’m usually one to crave sweets at night, which is why I tend to go for more sweet options more often than not. But if you like savory, eggs are a great option at night, since they have both protein and fat to keep you full. You can fix it up however you like, adding extra egg whites for protein if you want.
Macros (based on 2 whole eggs, 2 egg whites and a smidgen of grassfed butter):
A protein shake is a good, easy snack option for any time of the day, and late at night is no exception. You can even dress this up as a faux milkshake if you want, adding cocoa powder and nut butter to make it taste extra delicious.
My favorite late night milkshake includes one serving chocolate whey protein powder, a small frozen banana, 1 Tbsp almond or peanut butter, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder and unsweetened coconut milk to make it extra creamy.
As mentioned before, you may want to consider casein instead of whey powder if muscle building is your main goal.
I adore this treat since it tastes almost like the real thing and is just as satisfying. Plus, the protein will actually help keep you full through the night. You can follow this protein cheesecake recipe or make your own variation for a healthy bedtime snack. If you want to make it leaner, cutting the crust out altogether is a good way to cut down the calories while still getting a delicious cheesecake.
Macros (per slice):
Apple + Nut Butter
I love this as a late night snack especially with a good, chilled, crunchy apple. Crunchy peanut butter is my favorite, but obviously this can be substituted with almond butter or any other nut butter.
Macros (for one medium apple and 1 Tbsp peanut butter):
Toasted Quest bar
I like to take the chocolate chip cookie Quest bar, toast it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-5 minutes, then break it into three chunks. I flatten them with a fork and viola, they’re just like chocolate chip cookies! Ok, well, almost.
Home Popped or Healthier Store-Bought Popcorn
This one is high carb, but popcorn is one of the most satisfying, high volume, fairly healthy snacks you can eat. Make it at home or buy a bag of pre-bagged low calorie popcorn (Boom Chicka Pop or Skinny Pop are my favorites).
If you make your own, try mixing it up with a little melted coconut oil, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast and a little cayenne pepper. Yum!
Macros (per 3 cups popped + 2 tsp coconut oil):
Also, adding a few squares of high quality dark chocolate as a side to any of the above is always a good idea!
What’s your favorite healthy bedtime snack?
After-dinner and before-bedtime snacking when not hungry can result in consuming unneeded calories. Often this may be due to boredom, stress or tiredness. Try these tips to banish evening cravings and curb after-dinner snacking; and, if you must snack, go for nutritious options.
End Mealtime Madness
Spend a little time planning ahead and grocery shopping for nutritious meals, including breakfast, and snacks throughout the week. When you eat a variety of foods throughout the day according to your hunger and fullness, you’re less likely to overeat at night.
Boost Protein and Load up on Fiber
Protein can help you feel full faster and for longer, so ensuring you incorporate protein during meals and snacks may help with mindless snacking.
Some ideas include, a breakfast of oatmeal with a cup of low-fat or fat-free milk, small handful of nuts and fruit, which provide approximately 20 grams of protein. At lunch, a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter (7 grams of protein), half a can of tuna fish (16 grams of protein), half a cup of black beans (7 grams of protein) or a small 4-ounce salmon filet (25 grams of protein) can help push up protein. At dinner, aim for recommended serving sizes such as a small — the size of a deck of cards — 3-ounce chicken breast (27 grams of protein) or a 3-ounce lean top sirloin steak (26 grams of protein).
Dietary fiber also helps us feel full, in addition to being protective of intestinal and heart health. Find fiber in whole grains, legumes such as beans and lentils, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. The daily recommendation for dietary fiber is 14 grams for every 1,000 calories, which is about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men per day.
Sleep deprivation can impair glucose metabolism and affect hormones linked to hunger, appetite and body weight regulation. When we get too little sleep, we may confuse tiredness for hunger. If you’re tempted to keep snacking after a balanced dinner, that may be a sign that your body needs rest. Adults should strive for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.
Turn off the Screen before You Pick up Your Fork
Screen time may encourage mindless eating and increased food intake. Eating in front of the TV, while playing video games or surfing the Internet can distract attention from what and how much is eaten, reduce satiety signals sent to the brain and lessen memory of snacking.
Still Starving after Dinner?
People often eat out of boredom, because of stress, or just out of habit rather than from true hunger. Consider asking yourself the following questions before eating: Am I hungry? Am I thirsty? Am I tired? Am I bored? Am I sad?
If you are still hungry after ruling out other factors, it’s OK to have a snack. Opt for foods with high protein and fiber and eat small portions slowly, and without distractions.