Eating at night is not always that bad. It depends on what you choose to eat. If you choose healthy late-night snacks, it could be beneficial.
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.”
So, It’s late at night and you’re hungry. Maybe you have had a busy evening and just got home. Or perhaps you cannot sleep because your stomach won’t stop growling. Whatever the reason, you are currently in the kitchen and in desperate need for something to eat. You better make that something to eat healthily.
Well, search no more: These good-for-you options are both satisfying and—bonus—loaded with nutrients that can even help promote sleep.
1. Cereal and Milk
You may reserve your cereal for your morning meal, but it also can be a smart decision for a midnight snack. A study has found that eating high-glycemic carbs—which many corn-based cereals are—before bed reduced the time, it took for people to fall asleep. Keep portions small (your entire snack should be under 300 calories), especially if you have problems with heartburn—heavy meals can exacerbate the problem. One cup of cornflakes has 100 calories, and a half-cup of skim milk has 45 calories. Dairy products contain calcium, a mineral that plays a direct role in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. In addition, it also acts as a natural relaxant in the body.
When your sweet tooth needs satisfying, you cannot beat a bowl of berries. Besides being loaded with fiber, which helps fill you up, berries contain magnesium, a mineral that relaxes nerves and muscles to speed slumber. Serve your berries plain, or add some chopped nuts or granola, or even a splash of milk.
3. Jelly and Peanut butter
Nighttime is the right time for this childhood favorite. Here’s why: Certain foods, like peanut butter, contain an amino acid called tryptophan that gets converted in the brain to melatonin to promote sleepiness. But carbohydrates like bread and jelly are needed to make tryptophan more available to the brain. Hence the reason why a PB&J is the perfect pairing for a pre-sleep snack, one that is also yummy and—if you opt for whole-grain bread and sugar-free PB (many brands are loaded with sweetener)—super healthy too.
4. Cheese and some crackers
When you are hungry for something savory at night, just say cheese and crackers. Keep an eye on your serving sizes if you are watching your weight because cheese can get high in calories if you eat big chunks of it. And opt for the whole grain crackers, which contain filling fiber. If you need a little more volume to stay sated until morning, add some fresh grapes, apple slices, or fresh veggies.
5. Fruit and Yogurt
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which has been linked to better sleep. Just be sure to read labels before you purchase it because some varieties are high in sugar and calories that you do not need. Opt for plain yogurt and add flavor with berries, chopped nuts, and antioxidant-rich honey.
6. Turkey Sandwich
When only a sandwich will do, start with lean protein like turkey and whole-grain bread and add a slice of tomato, some lettuce, and a little mayo or mustard. The combination of protein and complex (that is, filling) carbs will send hunger pangs packing. Just give yourself time to digest one-half of the sandwich before starting in on the second: Sometimes being too full can keep you awake too.
7. Fresh bowl of vegetables
When craving something crunchy and low-cal, fresh veggies are the ticket. Any combination of raw carrots, broccoli florets, cucumber slices, celery, zucchini, peppers, and grape tomatoes will do nicely to help quell the rumbling in your stomach. Enhance the flavor—and get a healthy dose of z’s-inducing calcium—with a dip made from low-fat cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.
Popcorn is a great p.m. snack as you can have a lot of it without breaking your calorie bank. In fact, 3 cups of air-popped popcorn have less than 100 calories and about 4 grams of fiber to satisfy your hunger. Skip the butter to save your waistline and mix it with grated cheese or dried spices instead for an extra flavor punch.
9. Fresh Nuts and Fruits
Neither fruit nor nuts require much effort to prepare, making this an ideal option when you are both hungry and tired. Moreover, both fruit and nuts bring a lot of nutritional benefits to the table, including vitamins, minerals, protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and fiber. The upshot: They make for a nourishing combination that will keep you satisfied so you can fall asleep.
Tasty pairings include an apple with a handful of almonds, a banana (a natural source of melatonin) and a dozen pecans, or a pear with a few walnuts. If you are all out of nuts, you can spread peanut butter on banana slices or dip your apple slices in almond butter. If your almond butter is too solid and thick for dipping, microwave a tablespoon or two for 30 seconds or until it has melted.
A warm, soothing bowl of oatmeal may be just the thing for a sleepless night. Oatmeal is an excellent source of filling fiber, including beta-glucan, which can help keep your cholesterol levels in check. Steel-cut oats have the best texture and flavor, but they take a long time to cook. Instead, prepare instant oatmeal using fat-free milk, 1-tablespoon maple syrup, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and one-quarter cup dried fruit.