by Kate Harveston
If you are wondering what to eat at night when you’re hungry, here are some of the best healthy snacks that curb the appetite and are satisfying. Whether you’re on a diet or not, we are sure you will find something suitable on this list. The options in this post are all healthy and are not high in calories, so you don’t have to worry about piling on pounds when you are eating them (as long as you don’t eat too many!).
Whether you’re expecting, trying to lose weight or simply trying to quiet a hungry bear in the belly, these late-night snacking ideas will ease you into dreamland. We’ve also included information about what foods can keep people from tossing and turning.
Foods to Avoid Late at Night
Some foods induce sleep, but others keep people up tossing and turning. Here are the foods you should avoid eating before bedtime and late at night (after 8 pm):
- Fatty foods: Fatty foods like chicken wings take a long time to digest. Additionally, they can cause significant gastrointestinal distress in some people. Who wants to wake up in the middle of the night with their stomach griping them something awful?
- Super-spicy foods: Like fatty foods, spicy foods can cause tummy discomfort. Those prone to acid reflux who eat late at night may find snacking on a jalapeño prior to counting sheep counterproductive. Taking a digestive aid can help, but it’s easier to eat such dishes earlier in the day.
- Red meat: Red meat takes a long time to digest, which anyone who has ever suffered the afternoon blahs after eating a burger knows. Red meat should be eaten at least three to four hours before bedtime. Otherwise, even though a heavy meal late may sap energy, the digestive process can make sleep difficult.
- Complex grains: Like red meat, complex carbohydrates such as those found in true multigrain bread can take a while to digest. This means eating these foods before bedtime can keep folks awake. Complex carbs do provide valuable fibre that keeps people feeling fuller earlier in the day, so save the 21-grain toast for breakfast.
- Sugar-added snacks: Sugary snacks cause blood sugar to spike, which can make finding sleep seem elusive. Although blood sugar from such foods processes relatively quickly, the resulting crash can shake folks awake with hunger pangs.
Best Healthy Bedtime Snacks for Those Counting Calories
People who are watching their weight should try these low-cal options:
- Bananas and peanut butter: Peanut butter helps ease people into slumber, as do bananas. While peanut butter can contain many calories, a schmear or two in moderation provides the body with protein. Try to find organic, 100% natural no-sugar peanut butter, as many supermarket brands include other ingredients apart from peanuts such as added sweeteners.
- High-protein smoothie: Who can go wrong with a smoothie? The protein powder in such tasty treats keeps people feeling sated all night long, and many fruits contain phytochemicals that ease the transition to dreamland.
- String cheese: One low-fat stick of string cheese (Cheesestrings) contains only around 60 calories. Most people have heard the advice to drink warm milk when they struggle to sleep, but those with mild lactose intolerance can find it causes indigestion. Some tolerate other dairy products, and fortunately, these provide the same soporific benefits.
- Greek yogurt: Greek yogurt also contains dairy, along with a powerful punch of probiotics. Probiotics help balance the bacteria in the stomach and intestines to reduce indigestion. Therefore, snacking on this prior to bedtime can keep abdominal woes from waking peeps up.
- Turkey cheese roll-up: Everyone who has ever celebrated Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas with a post-feast nap knows the sedative effects of turkey. Tryptophan is a powerful amino acid that helps people sleep. Wrapping a low-fat string cheese in a piece of lunchmeat turkey can bring on the Zs.
- Sunflower seeds: Sunflower seeds contain fat, but it’s the heart-healthy, omega-3 variety. A handful of sunflower seeds, especially when eaten shell on and split, takes a while to eat, giving stomachs time to realize they’re full. Because of the high vitamin E content, eating seeds before bed may help neurons heal during rest.
- Pumpkin seeds: Like sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds contain a ton of omega-3s and vitamin E. Plus, they taste great simply washed, tossed in olive oil and baked for a few minutes in the oven. Sprinkle with Himalayan sea salt if desired.
- Edamame: Those at risk for breast cancer may wish to give soy a pass due to the way it can raise estrogen levels. However, those without elevated risks can find edamame makes the perfect late-night snack. Roasted edamame contains few calories and tastes delicious.
- Seaweed snacks: Why not make like a cute sea otter and have a bit of seaweed? Most people think of it as a wrapper for sushi, but baked seaweed crisps make a satisfyingly crunchy snack with few calories. The dark green leaves contain a ton of vitamins and nutrients to fuel the body’s healing during sleep cycles.
- Slightly salted popcorn: Popcorn is high in fibre, so enjoying only a bit before bedtime is recommended. Air-popped popcorn contains few calories and tastes yummy with a sprinkle of salt or low-cal butter flavouring.
Best Healthy Snacks For Those Hoping to Maintain or Gain Weight
These super healthy snack options will satisfy the most demanding of appetites.
- Carrot French fries: Drizzle carrot strips with olive oil and dust lightly with Himalayan pink salt or sea salt. Bake them in the oven or alternatively quickly fry them in a traditional pan. Add some parmesan and mozzarella cheese to create a healthy twist on fast food cheesy fries.
- Pears with cheddar cheese: Cheddar cheese contains a lot of calories, but tastes delightful paired with tart pears and perhaps a single glass of lightly sweet red wine such as zinfandel. Take it easy on the booze at bedtime, though — although it can aid in falling asleep, too much disrupts normal sleep patterns.
- Trail mix: Commercial dried fruit and nut blends can contain a lot of sodium and/or sugar, so mix a batch at the bulk section of a favourite local health food store. Raisins and dried cranberries pair well with almonds and honey-coated walnut pieces.
- Turkey tacos lite style: Got leftover cooked ground turkey from making meatballs? Wrap some in a low-calorie tortilla and top with mild salsa for a healthy snack full of tryptophan.
- Cottage cheese: Even though long considered a diet food, full-fat cottage cheese has quite a few calories. Still, this mild dairy food upsets few stomachs and can help ease the transition into dreamland. Choose the low-fat version to consume fewer calories.
Best Healthy Snacks at Night For Pregnant Women
When hungry, pregnant women should snack at night to stave off mild morning sickness that stems from fluctuating hormone levels combined with breaking the fast. Unlike other people on the list, expectant mothers benefit from eating certain grains before bed that may settle their stomachs.
- Almonds: Almonds contain high levels of manganese, a nutrient vital to the development of healthy bones among in-utero infants. The high-fat content keeps pregnant women from waking up hungry or nauseous during the night. The nuts also contain folate, critical to fetal health.
- Avocados: Avocados contain high levels of vitamin E, and the creamy fats also keep hunger sated through the night. Dip crackers into a mild avocado and lime salsa to add extra flavour.
- Crackers: Many pregnant women keep crackers near their bedsides to calm nighttime and early-morning queasiness. While there’s nothing wrong with reaching for saltine crackers for this purpose, whole grain crackers before bed may keep tummies calmer longer.
- Granola bar with fruit: Most doctors recommend women between ages 19-30 consume two cups of fruit each day for maximum health benefits. Eating a fibre-rich granola bar settles the stomach, and the fruit helps her reach the recommended amount for her and her baby.
- Pickles and ice cream: Pregnant women develop weird food cravings, so if the body calls for pickles and ice cream, dig in. Humans need additional calories during pregnancy to help the baby grow and thrive.
Best Healthy Night Time Snacks For Vegans
Vegans get cravings just like everyone else. Those who prefer to pass on animal products often do so out of consciousness and concern for our furry friends, but they still crave midnight snacks sometimes.
- Rice cakes with guacamole: Rice cakes contain a mere 35 calories per slice, and avocado-rich guacamole provides vitamin E and omega-3s. Enjoy this healthy treat any time of day, even at midnight.
- Hummus and veggies: Hummus uses chickpeas, lemon juice and other spices to make a delicious dip, and it’s easy to make at home. Simply dip in some fresh pepper slices or cauliflower florets to crush cravings fast.
- Salsa and tortilla chips: This staple of Mexican restaurants everywhere is vegan-friendly. Most tortilla chips contain no animal products naturally, but folks can make their own at home. Keep the salsa on the milder side to avoid nighttime heartburn.
- Ants on a log: All that’s needed for this classic kids’ fave is celery, peanut butter and raisins. Substitute almond butter if preferred.
- Frozen grapes: Frozen grapes take little prep time, and those watching their sugar intake can omit adding it. Frozen grapes also add an interesting flavour to blended smoothies when used instead of ice.
Healthy Snacking Any Hour of the Day
While some nutritionists cling to the idea that eating late at night packs on pounds, it need not do so. In the end, body weight comes down to calories consumed versus calories expended — and those who work second- or third-shift jobs hardly can keep going most of the night without fuel.
Everyone craves the occasional midnight snack. By selecting a healthy one right for their stage of life and eating philosophy, people can enjoy a good nosh any time of the day or night.
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer from Pennsylvania. She has written for a variety of sites on nutrition, fitness, and self-care. If you enjoy her work, you can visit her at her personal blog, So Well, So Woman, or follow her on Twitter @KateHarveston.