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Have you ever tried to fall asleep with a rumbling tummy? It’s distracting and uncomfortable. And, contrary to popular belief, going to bed hungry isn’t going to help with your weight loss plans.
In fact, if you’re too food-deprived when you go to bed, you’re more likely to get up in the middle of the night to raid the refrigerator. Or, you could end up with some intense food cravings first thing in the morning that make you reach for a doughnut instead of a healthy breakfast.
In many cases, it’s more ideal to choose a healthy, good-for-you late-night snack that satisfies your hunger pangs, nourishes your body, and encourages sleep. It’s about choosing smart foods and avoiding temptations like a giant meal or pint of ice cream. We’ll share our top 17 food choices that are easy on your stomach and will fill you up without making you feel stuffed.
What To Eat and Avoid Before Bedtime
The best foods to eat will be relatively filling and easy to digest. Look for high-protein, high-fiber foods that are low in fat and sugar. Choose natural foods whenever possible. If you eat something that’s processed, check the label to make sure it’s healthy and not loaded with sugar and chemicals.
Avoid foods that are high in sugar, contain caffeine or are spicy. Sugar and caffeine can wind you up, while spicy foods can lead to heartburn, indigestion, and other risks right before bed.
Portion control is also something to consider. A full meal will weigh you down and make your digestive system work overtime. A gurgling stomach, cramping, and gas can be just as disruptive to your sleep as when your tummy is growling from hunger. Choose small portions that are around 200 calories or less. That way, you can avoid that too-full feeling and prevent unwanted weight gain.
Ideal Midnight Snacks
Berries are a satisfying snack that is high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Because they have a relatively low sugar content compared to other types of fruit, they’re also ideal to consume at night. Grab a handful of blueberries or make a small fruit salad combining strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
If you’d like some texture or crunch, add some chopped nuts, granola, and some almond or rice milk.
Peanut butter is filling without being too heavy. It’s high in protein and fiber, too. Look for natural peanut butter with no added sugar. Alternatively, choose cashew or almond butter. If you’d like to recreate your childhood, make a sandwich with either whole grain or gluten-free bread combined with fruit preserves. Go light on the preserves, though. They can be loaded with sugar.
Turkey is known to contain tryptophan, the amino acid that causes people to feel sleepy. That’s one of the reasons people get so tired after their Thanksgiving meals. Turkey is also a lean protein, meaning it’s high in protein and low in fat. These factors combine to make it a healthy evening snack that you can also enjoy any time of the day.
Look for whole grain or multi-grain crackers. They’re high in fiber and easy on the tummy. The elevated fiber content can also help to encourage a bowel movement in the morning and get your digestive system on a healthy track.
If plain crackers are too dull for you, add a couple of slices of cheese, but only if you’re not lactose intolerant. Also, use cheese in moderation as it’s a high-calorie snack that could interfere with any weight loss or maintenance programs.
Plain or Greek yogurt is best because you’ll avoid a lot of the added sugars. If you need something to enhance the flavor, add a tablespoon of honey and some berries or granola to make it more exciting. Adding some low-sugar, high-fiber cereal is fun, too.
Look for fruits that are low in sugar and don’t contain too much acid. Some of the best fruits to eat as a healthy midnight snack include peaches, watermelon, figs, and apples. In fact, many people's all-time favorite late-night snacks is slices of apple dipped in almond butter. It’s the perfect combination of salty and sweet.
Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber, which makes them one of the best late-night snacks you can possibly choose. Opt for raw veggies like carrots, broccoli, grape tomatoes, celery or cucumber slices. Add dips like hummus or salad dressing to make the snack more interesting and filling.
As a whole grain, popcorn is both healthy and low calorie. Choose either plain or lightly buttered with optional sea salt or coconut oil. There are healthy, ready-made brands available at the grocery store, or choose to make your own with air-popper.
If you don’t have the equipment to pop your own, you can put kernels and your seasonings in a folded paper bag, and then place it in the microwave for about three minutes.
Nuts are nutritious and very filling. You only need a handful to satisfy your hunger, so be careful not to over-indulge, especially since nuts are high in fat and calories. The best type of nut for late-night snacking is the pistachio. They’re the lowest in fat and calories, and their shells can slow down your consumption.
Look for plain oatmeal without a lot of added sugar. The warmth of this snack can be satisfying and comforting, especially on a chilly night. If you’d like to boost the texture or flavor, add nuts or berries to the mix.
Smoothies are a healthy nighttime snack because they’re easy to digest and can still be satisfying. Some contain cherries, which are known to boost melatonin. Here’s a smoothie recipe for a late-night snack:
- 1 cup almond milk (the flavor of almond combined with cherries is divine)
- 1 cup frozen pitted cherries
- 1 banana
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- Optional: add spinach if you haven’t had enough greens for the day
While this recipe is a healthy thing to eat at night when you’re hungry, it also makes a fantastic breakfast, too.
Keep your portions small because trail mix can be high in calories. A general recommendation is ¼ cup, and at the most ½ cup. When possible, choose raw nuts and dried fruit that don’t contain any added sugar.
Whole Grain Wrap
Grab a low-calorie whole grain tortilla and put some other healthy ingredients inside. You can try turkey, avocado, lettuce, tomato and a dollop of mustard. This snack is filling but still relatively light.
Pumpkin seeds are delicious, and they’re also a natural source of tryptophan, zinc, niacin, and magnesium, all of which help promote sleep. They’re even healthy for your heart, liver, and immune system, so feel free to snack away on these delightful seeds.
You can consume edamame either in or out of its shell. It’s a low-calorie, gluten-free option that’s high in protein, iron, and calcium. If you don’t know what edamame is, it’s a soybean that was harvested before maturity.
These are delicious eaten alone, sprinkled with a dash of salt, or in salads.
Eggs are high in protein and are also packed with nutrients. At night, it’s most convenient to eat a hard-boiled egg. We recommend having several on hand stored in the refrigerator, so you can easily access a healthy evening snack whenever the mood strikes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I buy vegan snacks?
Grocery stores are offering more vegan brands than ever before. Some of the best places to stock up on vegan snacks are Whole Foods and Trader Joes. If you don’t have convenient access to these stores, then you can also find vegan snacks online. Amazon has almost anything you can imagine. There is also Thrive Market, especially if you buy this type of food regularly and are looking to save some money.
What is the best option for bodybuilding?
Bodybuilders tend to eat more frequently as they’re always building muscle. Nutritional experts recommend that snacks and meals contain a balance of fiber, fat, and protein. Some of the best options we’ve found include the following:
- Trail mix
- Bananas dipped in peanut butter or almond butter
- Whole wheat tortilla stuffed with chicken
- Apple with cheese slices
- Beef jerky
- Hardboiled eggs
- Protein-rich smoothies
Why do I experience nocturnal cravings?
There are a variety of potential causes. Typically, hunger is caused by a hormone in the body called ghrelin. Our natural circadian rhythm regulates the production of this hormone, which is why most of us follow a similar three-meal-a-day cycle.
However, today’s constant on-the-go society means that many of us have irregular schedules. We may feel extra hungry at night if we’re stressed, sleep deprived or are eating foods that disrupt our digestive systems.
What will happen if you eat unhealthy bedtime snacks?
At the very least, eating unhealthy bedtime snacks will make it harder for you to fall asleep and stay sleeping through the night. Sugary snacks can make you feel more awake and then crash later. Processed or overly salty foods could cause you to wake up in the middle of the night feeling parched.
And finally, if you make a habit of eating unhealthy, high-calorie snacks right before bed, you’re likely to start packing on the pounds. You could even increase your risks of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer if this habit goes unchecked.
Are junk foods okay?
Most people say “anything in moderation” is okay. After all, one Snickers bar isn’t going to kill you. The issue is when it becomes a slippery slope. That occasional slice of cake when you’ve had a particularly rough day can easily become a habit whenever things get tough. From there, it could become a once weekly habit or even something more regular than that.
Once you start viewing junk food as okay to consume “once in a while,” it’s easy to progress down a path that includes eating it more often, even daily. So you might try to do your best to steer clear of junk food whenever possible. There may be special occasions or circumstances when you slip up, but you can try to minimize those occurrences as much as possible.
The topic of eating right before bed can be controversial, and it might not always be the best idea for everyone. Before indulging in a snack, ask yourself if you feel like eating because you’re bored or stressed, or are you genuinely hungry?
Also, consider the fact that you might simply be thirsty. Often, being dehydrated is often misinterpreted by the body as a hunger signal. Try drinking about eight ounces of water and waiting 15 minutes to see if you still feel hungry.
If you’re feeling famished, don’t deprive yourself of food, though. That can lead to cravings in the middle of the night. Or, it might cause you to wake up feeling so hungry that you grab the first thing you can get ahold of. As always, the key is to listen to your body and always strive to do your best to fuel it with healthy energy and whole food ingredients, not junk.
Author: Sleep Advisor
Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.
Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.