The sun has set, the moon is shining brightly above, and your stomach is rumbling… what to do? While many folks have “rules” about not eating after a certain time (whether that’s 6 p.m., 8 p.m., 10 p.m., or midnight), many of us realize that ignoring the body’s loud and clear hunger signals just sets us up for serious overeating later. It can even lead to bingeing the entire next day! Plus, it can keep you up at night, disrupting your sleep once you do finally hit the sack.
So, instead of telling those hunger signals to shut up and sit down (or, trying to quietly ignore them), for many of us, it’s better to honor them by eating healthy late-night snacks that will set you up for healthier eating later and improve sleep to boot!
Keep in mind that just as going to bed hungry can disrupt sleep, so too can eating too much before you hit the sack. The key is to ensure you’re eating just enough to ease your hunger without weighing you down with too many calories. Instead of reaching for a full meal, a small snack of around between 150 and 200 calories should do the job well.
It’s also a good idea to choose a snack that will digest slowly and avoid anything that will spike blood sugar levels (which could wake you up and leave you even hungrier).
Here are 11 healthy late-night snacks to give your body what it needs by providing loads of nutrition without too many calories.
Top 11 Healthy Late-Night Snacks
1) High-protein shake or smoothie
Especially if you’re a regular exerciser, eating a protein-rich snack before you hit the sack can help repair muscles and prevent muscle loss. Start with BioTRUST® Low Carb for an easy-to-make, delicious, rich, creamy milkshake or smoothie. One of my favorite ways to indulge in this healthy late-night snack is to mix it in a bowl with just enough water to make a pudding. And if I happen to be have a hankering for ice cream, I put it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Yum!
2) Air-popped popcorn
On its own, before it’s loaded up with loads of butter and oil, popcorn is a healthy high-fiber, whole-grain snack that also provides protein, vitamins and minerals, is low in sugar and fat, and has a satisfying crunch. With 3.5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein in 3 cups, popcorn can fill you up with just 93 calories.
3) Fresh fruit and nuts
This combination provides a bit of sweetness, a bit of crunch, and just the right amount of healthy carbs, good-for-you fats, and fiber to calm any tummy rumbles and keep you satisfied as you sleep. Plus, it’s so easy to prepare. Spread some natural nut butter on banana slices or use as a dip for apple or pear slices. Or, have cup of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and cherries with a small handful of your favorite nuts like walnuts, almonds, or pistachios. Cherries may be an especially good choice as they’re a natural source of melatonin, a hormone that supports the sleep cycle.
4) Celery with nut butter
Another perfect healthy late-night snack is celery with nut butter, which provides fats, protein, and fiber to fill you up and keep you satisfied. For a little extra something, add a sprinkle of cinnamon.
5) Kefir or yogurt
Instead of having a glass of warm milk to help you sleep, reach for a cup of kefir or yogurt instead, and you’ll be nourishing your body with a dose of protein and probiotics to help satisfy your hunger and nourish your gut microbiome. Just stay away from those with lots of added sugar. Start with plain yogurt or kefir and use your own sliced fruit and cinnamon and maybe a bit of stevia or honey to help sweeten as too much sugar can disrupt sleep. As a bonus, the calcium from dairy may also help calm muscles as you settle down for some deep, rejuvenating sleep. For an even greater nutritional bump, you can also stir in a tablespoonful of chia seeds.
6) Fruit and cheese
This savory and sweet combo is popular for good reason. It provides a good balance of protein, fat, and carbs with soluble fiber to slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes that can make sleep difficult. Try cheddar, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, or mozzarella with your favorite fruit.
7) Hummus and veggies
This filling, but not heavy, healthy late-night snack provides protein, fat, and carbs to help keep you satisfied. Plus, chickpeas provide the amino acid tryptophan, which may help you fall asleep.
8) Pumpkin seeds
To help fill up and support a good night’s rest, pumpkin seeds are also a good source of tryptophan, protein, and fiber. If you grab those that are still in-shell, you’ll be more likely to slow down and savor them rather than eating them by the handful, a mindless habit that can add up in calories quickly. Or, try mashing up a banana and sprinkling it with pumpkin seeds for a delicious change of pace.
9) Tart cherry juice with chia seeds
A natural source of melatonin, tart cherry juice has been found in studies to help promote restful sleep. In one study, older women who were suffering from insomnia found they could sleep almost an hour and a half more at night while also enjoying greater efficiency of sleep when they drank tart cherry juice before bedtime. Add a tablespoon of chia seeds for a good dose of plant protein, fiber, and tryptophan. What’s more, both foods help support the body’s ability to fight inflammation as you sleep.
10) Oatmeal or hot cereal
Sometimes you just want something warm in your hungry belly. Well, oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast, and hot cereals are typically less processed than the “kiddie cereals” that come in a big box. Oatmeal is a great choice (just choose old-fashioned or steel-cut over instant), but it isn’t the only choice. You can make a hot cereal with leftover barley or whole-grain rice. Just warm up your grain and top with milk, cinnamon, nuts, and fruit. As a bonus, these grains also provide melatonin to help you sleep.
11) Homemade protein bars and bites
We have to give a nod to Coach Cristina for her help in solving our snacking problems. She has a fantastic no-bake peanut butter chocolate chip protein bar that will soothe a sweet tooth and your hunger with a mere 123 calories as well as a decadent chocolate-covered cherry energy bite that’s a perfect late-night snack.
Healthy Late-Night Snacks: A Recap
Other easy options for your healthy late-night snacks include olives, edamame, hard-boiled eggs, or even a leftover sweet potato. The key is to look for a simple, small snack that’s not too heavy or calorie dense (which can disrupt sleep) rather than a full-on meal.
Remember that by honoring your hunger, you’ll likely enjoy a better night’s sleep, better muscle recovery, and set yourself up for a healthier day of eating tomorrow. And if you still don’t believe it’s safe to eat late at night, I encourage you to read this article from Coach Tim: Eating Before Bed: Why Everything You’ve Heard Is Wrong!