What is a healthy snack to eat at night?

Face it: Even when you fuel your body with whole grains, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables all day long, sometimes you find yourself raiding the kitchen cabinets at 9 p.m. because you’re starving.

And at that point, anything looks good—including those stale Oreos (no one wants to go to bed hungry, right?).

But here’s the thing about bedtime snacking: It’s not exactly the best way to lose weight. A 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition actually found that people who eat before bed tend to have higher amounts of body fat.

Still, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry—and not all bedtime snacks are diet-ruiners; some healthy ones can actually promote sleep, while still keeping your weight-loss goals on track. Try healthy late night snacks that will fill you up, bring on restful sleep, and even help you wake feeling more energized in the morning—all without derailing your healthy-eating efforts.

Contents

1. An apple with peanut butter

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Slice up an apple and dip it into one tablespoon of natural peanut butter. The fiber in the apple and the healthy fat in the peanut butter is a combo that will tide you over until wake-up time, says Amy Gorin, R.D.N., owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area.

Per serving: 200 calories, 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 28 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 55 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 4 g protein.

2. A chocolate pudding cup

Kozy Shack Chocolate Pudding Kozy Shack amazon.com

When you’re craving dessert late at night, opt for a single-serve sweet treat like pudding. The milk offers protein, and as long as you’re mindful of the brand, it doesn’t have to be high in sugar. Gorin recommends Kozy Shack Chocolate Pudding since it contains minimal ingredients and additives.

Per serving: 140 calories, 2 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 24 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 140 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 3 g protein.

3. A peach with nonfat cottage cheese

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Jessica Crandall, R.D.N., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says this duo is chock full of filling protein and fiber with the added benefits of calcium and vitamin C. Buy single-serve (four-ounce) cups of cottage cheese to make your healthy late night snack prep super simple.

Per serving: 150 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 23 g sugar, 820 mg sodium, 2.2 g fiber, 25 g protein.

4. Wasabi almonds

Blue Diamond Almonds, Bold Wasabi & Soy Sauce amazon.com $6.86

Almonds are high in protein and fiber as well as selenium and magnesium, says Crandall. This is good news for nut lovers, because while the protein and fiber fills you up, the magnesium may help you fall asleep. Choose a bold flavor like wasabi—it really kicks your snack up a notch.

Per serving: 170 calories, 15 g fat (1 g saturated), 6 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 115 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 6 g protein.

5. Dried Montmorency tart cherries

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Tart cherries supply melatonin, which Gorin says helps regulate your internal clock and may be able to increase overall sleep efficiency. She likes to snack on a quarter cup before bedtime.

Per serving: 100 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 24 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 1 g protein.

6. Whole-grain toast with a scoop of guacamole

Dave’s Killer Bread, 21 Whole Grains Thin-Sliced amazon.com $23.99

Toast a slice of whole-grain bread and top it with two tablespoons of guacamole for healthy fat. Gorin recommends Dave’s Killer Bread Thin-Sliced 21 Whole Grains and Seeds. It comes in at 60 calories a slice and provides satiating protein and fiber.

Per serving: 105 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 15 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 185 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 4 g protein.

7. Nonfat Greek yogurt with chia seeds

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Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and fiber; Crandall says topping it with a tablespoon of chia seeds, which are rich in iron and fiber, really gives your healthy late-night snack a powerful punch.

Per serving: 160 calories, 3 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 20 g carbs, 7 g sugar, 65 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 15 g protein.

8. Black olives

Pearls Olives To Go! amazon.com $23.67

When you want to feel full for a very small amount of calories, Gorin suggests reaching for a Pearls Olives to Go! snack cup. They’re perfectly portioned, providing a fueling snack with healthy fats for just about 30 calories.

Per serving: 30 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 2 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 300 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 0 g protein.

9. Banana with a handful of sunflower seeds

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Gorin loves pairing a high-fiber banana with two tablespoons of shelled, dry-roasted sunflower seeds. The duo offers filling healthy fats as well as tryptophan, an amino acid that helps your body create melatonin.

Per serving: 150 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 29 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 3 g protein.

10. A bowl of cereal with skim milk

Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Cereal Almond amazon.com

Cereal: it’s not just for breakfast. Look for one that’s low in sugar and high in protein and fiber, like Ezekiel 4:9 Almond Sprouted Whole Grain Cereal. It’s bursting with nothing but good-for-you ingredients, says Gorin, including whole grains (think sprouted wheat, barley, millet, and spelt), almonds, lentils, and soybeans. Topped with a little skim milk for calcium, this is a great choice for a healthy late night snack.

Per serving: 115 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 23 g carbs, 7 g sugar, 128 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 6 g protein.

11. Baby carrots

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Gorin recommends a dozen baby carrots for those nights when you want the crunch factor of a bag of potato chips without the regret. They’re low in calories but high in fiber, so they’ll fill you up better than chips while satisfying your urge to chew on something.

Per serving: 40 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 10 g carbs, 6 g sugar, 95 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 1 g protein.

12. Pistachios

Wonderful Pistachios, Sweet Chili amazon.com $18.85

Pistachios provide a filling trio of plant protein, fiber, and healthy fat, and—because they’re in a shell—they take longer to eat, which Gorin says reduces the risk of mindless munching in front of the TV. Try a Wonderful Pistachios 100-calorie pack, which comes in several different flavors, including sweet chili.

Per serving: 100 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated), 5 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 180 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein.

13. Wheat crackers with low-sodium turkey breast

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The protein in the lunch meat will keep you full until your alarm clock goes off, and the whole grains in the wheat crackers are heart-healthy, says Crandall.

Per serving: 178 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 22 g carbs, 4 g sugar, 675 mg sodium, 1.8 g fiber, 11 g protein.

14. Cooked edamame

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They may not look like much, but edamame beans are high in protein and fiber (a.k.a. filling AF), Crandall says. She recommends seasoning them with garlic and red pepper flakes after cooking.

Per serving: 200 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated), 18 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 60 mg sodium, 8 g fiber, 16 g protein.

15. Hummus and grape tomatoes

Sabra Classic Singles amazon.com

Grab a container of protein- and fiber-rich Sabra Classic Hummus Singles, and use a half cup of grape tomatoes as dippers—Gorin says tomatoes offer melatonin to help you sleep.

Per serving: 180 calories, 11 g fat (1.5 g saturated), 23 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 280 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 6 g protein.

16. Air-popped popcorn

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Steer clear of bags of microwave popcorn—they’re loaded with unnecessary ingredients. Instead, Crandall suggests air-popping your own kernels and sprinkling two cups of popcorn with nutritional yeast or cinnamon for a high-fiber, high-volume healthy late-night snack.

Per serving: 62 calories, 1 g fat (0.1 g saturated), 12 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 2.4 g fiber, 2 g protein.

17. A pear with cheese

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You really can’t go wrong with a fruit and dairy pairing. Crandall says that cheese is high in calcium and the pear provides filling fiber and immune-boosting vitamin C. A strong cheese, like stilton or goat, is a nice compliment to the subtle flavor of pears.

Per serving: 190 calories, 9 g fat (6 g saturated), 21 g carbs, 14 g sugar, 181 mg sodium, 5.5 g fiber, 7 g protein.

18. A banana oatmeal cookie

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For a delicious treat with zero guilt, Crandall says to mix half a banana with rolled oats and a tablespoon of cacao nibs, form into two small mounds, flatten a bit on a greased cookie sheet, and bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

This snack takes a little more preparation, but the cookies are packed with fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, and you could even have another for breakfast in the morning.

Per serving: 152 calories, 3 g fat (1.3 g saturated), 29 g carbs, 2 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 4.5 g fiber, 2 g protein.

19. Hardboiled eggs with Everything Bagel seasoning

Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend \ amazon.com $6.32

Hardboiled eggs boast a lot of protein for not a lot of calories, so you can slice up two eggs before bedtime for a filling snack. Sprinkle with Trader Joe’s delicious Everything Bagel seasoning to jazz up the taste, suggests Gorin.

Per serving: 145 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated), 140 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 220 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 13 g protein.

20. Nonfat Greek yogurt with frozen berries

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You know that Greek yogurt is loaded with protein (you already topped it with chia seeds, remember?), but it’s back again—this time to be served with frozen berries. Crandall says the berry blend is high in antioxidant power and vitamin C. Plus, those frozen berries will make this taste more like delicious fro-yo than plain old yogurt.

Per serving: 135 calories, 0 g fat (0.5 g saturated), 24 g carbs, 12 g sugar, 72 mg sodium, 1.5 g fiber, 12 g protein.

Foods That Help You Sleep Better

Foods rich in tryptophan, carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, melatonin and vitamin B6 can all help promote quality sleep.

Best foods to help you sleep
Ingredients Examples of foods
Tryptophan
Carbohydrates
Calcium
Magnesium
Melatonin
Vitamin B6
Milk
Cheese
Eggs
Nuts (especially walnuts, almonds and pistachios)
Fish (especially salmon, tuna and halibut)
Beans
Rice (especially Jasmine)
Breads
Pasta
Potatoes
Yogurt
Kale and other leafy greens
Cherries
Bananas
Oats and whole grains (especially bulgur and barley)
Tomatoes
Raw garlic
Chickpeas

Tryptophan-rich foods

Tryptophan is an amino acid that helps the body produce the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin induces deeper and more restful sleep by creating melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep-wake cycles. Foods rich in tryptophan include:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Beans

These are protein-rich foods, so they should be easy to remember when you’re deciding what to have for a bedtime snack.

Tryptophan is often pointed to as the culprit for post-Thanksgiving Dinner sleepiness, but many people have debunked this explanation as overly simplistic. While it is true turkey is rich in tryptophan, the large size of the dinner and the plethora of starches in the typical dinner are more likely to cause drowsiness.

Carbohydrate-rich foods

Carbohydrate-rich food for dinner helps a lot of people sleep. These include:

  • Rice
  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Dairy products
  • Potatoes

Carbohydrates facilitate tryptophan production. Foods rich in carbohydrates or tryptophan itself have both been linked to improved sleep quality. Pairing either of these with a healthy fat can also encourage sleepiness, according to research.

Complex carbohydrates provide energy. Pairing carbohydrates with proteins keeps the blood sugar stable during the night.

Carbohydrate-rich food with a high glycemic index correlate with faster sleep times than those without, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Thanks to its higher GI, jasmine rice reduced sleep onset for study participants significantly faster than the participants who were given a meal with long-grain rice.

Calcium-rich foods

Calcium-rich foods also help keep you asleep. Calcium isn’t exclusive to dairy products, and includes:

  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Kale and other leafy greens

In a study published the European Neurology Journal, researchers reported increased levels of calcium during REM sleep, and concluded that disturbed REM sleep was due to a calcium deficiency, since undisrupted sleep was regained after calcium levels returned to normal.

Melatonin-rich foods

Melatonin is a hormone released by your pineal gland that signals it’s time to fall asleep. Melatonin is naturally produced by your body, and is also found in foods such as:

  • Cherries
  • Walnuts
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Tomatoes

One study found that drinking 1 cup of tart cherry juice twice a day helped reduced insomnia.

Not only do walnuts contain melatonin, but they may also increase the blood melatonin levels in your body, according to a 2005 study by University of Texas.

The vitamin B6 helps your body create neurotransmitters. These chemicals help your body produce melatonin, so foods rich in vitamin B6 are also helpful for sleep. Vitamin B6 is commonly found in:

  • Fish, particularly salmon, tuna and halibut
  • Raw garlic
  • Pistachio nuts
  • Bananas
  • Chickpeas

Magnesium-rich foods

Maintaining normal levels of magnesium can help you sleep through the night. Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • Whole grains, especially bulgur and barley
  • Almonds

A study published in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine found that even low levels of magnesium deficiency disrupt sleep.

Drinking milk before bed: good or bad?

You might remember your mom giving you a glass of warm milk before bedtime to help you sleep. It’s not another old wives’ tale – studies have shown that a little milk can help you sleep better. Milk is rich in both tryptophan and calcium. Tryptophan helps you fall asleep, and maintaining your calcium levels helps you stay asleep.

It may also be the routine of drinking milk that helps you fall asleep. Establishing a regular bedtime routine helps many people with sleep disorders such as insomnia to fall asleep.

9 Foods to Help You Sleep

Fact: Women who report better sleep were 33 percent more likely to hit their weight-loss goals, according to a study published in the journal Obesity. Whether you want to doze your way slim, or you just want to wake up feeling more refreshed in the morning, check out these foods that help you sleep.

1. Kiwi

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Recipe to Try: Green Fruit Salad

This green fruit may be the ultimate pre-bed snack. When volunteers ate two kiwis an hour before hitting the hay, they slept almost a full extra hour, found research from Taipei Medical University in Taiwan. Kiwis are full of vitamins C and E, serotonin and folate-all of which may help you snooze.

2. Soyfoods

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Recipe to Try: South of the Border Buddha Bowl

Foods made with soy such as tofu, miso and edamame, are rich in isoflavones. These compounds increase the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that influences the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Adults who ate two or more soy servings a day slept longer and reported the best-quality sleep, according to a 2015 Nutrition Journal study.

3. Fiber-Rich Foods

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Recipe to Try: Blueberry Almond Chia Pudding

Eating more fiber could be key for better sleep. Eating fiber was associated with more restorative slow-wave sleep-the more you eat, the better you sleep-per a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Fiber prevents blood sugar surges that may lower melatonin. Get a fiber boost from beans, artichokes, bran cereal and quinoa.

4. Fish

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Recipe to Try: Roast Salmon with Chimmichurri Sauce

Most fish-and especially salmon, halibut and tuna-boast vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness), according to an article published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

5. Tart Cherry Juice

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In a small study, melatonin-rich tart cherry juice was shown to aid sleep. When adults with chronic insomnia drank a cup of tart cherry juice twice a day they experienced some relief in the severity of their insomnia.

6. Yogurt

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Recipe to Try: Ricotta & Yogurt Parfait

Dairy products like yogurt and milk boast healthy doses of calcium-and there’s research that suggests being calcium-deficient may make it difficult to fall asleep.

7. Whole Grains

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Recipe to Try: Pistachio-Crusted Chicken with Warm Barley Salad

Bulgur, barley and other whole grains are rick in magnesium-and consuming too little magnesium may make it harder to stay asleep, reported the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine.

8. Kale

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Recipe to Try: Sauteed Broccoli & Kale with Toasted Garlic Butter

Dairy products are well-known calcium-rich foods. But green leafy vegetables, such as kale and collards, also boast healthy doses of calcium. And research suggests that being calcium deficient may make it difficult to fall asleep.

9. Bananas

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Recipe to Try: Almond Butter & Banana Protein Smoothie

Bananas, well-known for being rich in potassium, are also a good source of Vitamin B6, which is needed to make melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness), according to an article published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Some original reporting by Brierley Wright, M.S, R.D.

Foods That Help You Sleep

Achieving a great night’s sleep can be affected by what you eat in the hours before bedtime. Certain foods are known to calm the brain and help promote sleep so eating the right things in the evening is definitely part of the recipe for a good night’s kip.

We don’t recommend eating a big meal just before bedtime as it can lead to discomfort and indigestion, but some people find a small snack a helpful aid to sleep.

Research has found that certain nutrients may play an underlying role in short and long sleep duration. For longer and better quality sleep it’s important to have lycopene (found in red and orange-coloured foods), carbohydrates, vitamin C, selenium (found in nuts, meat and shellfish), and more lutein/zeaxanthin (found in green, leafy vegetables that are rich in stress reducing calcium).

The best snack is one that contains complex carbohydrates and protein to optimise tryptophan levels. Proteins help maintain a stable blood sugar level while sleeping and switch the body from alert adrenaline cycle to rest-and-digest mode, while complex carbohydrates increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream. Tryptophan is the amino acid that the body uses to make sleep-inducing serotonin and melatonin, the relaxing neurotransmitters that slow down nerve traffic and stop the brain buzzing.

Do bananas help you sleep?

Bananas are an excellent source of magnesium and potassium which help relax overstressed muscles and make them an ideal go-to snack before bed. They also contain all-important tryptophan to stimulate production of those key brain calming hormones. Eat whole or whizz into a sleep-inducing smoothie.

Other foods to help sleep

Almonds are another winner as they contain magnesium which promotes both sleep and muscle relaxation. They have the added benefit of supplying proteins which help maintain a stable blood sugar level while sleeping and switch the body from alert adrenaline cycle to rest-and-digest mode. Try swapping your afternoon snack to a handful of nuts or mix with milk and honey for a comforting bedtime snack.

Most fish – it contains vitamin B6 which again encourages production of melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness. Chick peas similarly contain vitamin B6 and are again helpful in aiding restfulness. Team with green leafy vegetables (such as cabbage or spinach) which are also rich in stress reducing calcium.

Low sugar, whole grain cereals are carbohydrate-rich foods that increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream. Tryptophan is the amino acid that the body uses to make sleep-inducing serotonin and melatonin, the relaxing neurotransmitters that slow down nerve traffic and stop the brain buzzing.

Calcium is also known to aid restful sleep which is why a nice warm mug of milk is recommended before bed! It is effective in stress reduction and stabilisation of nerve fibres, including those in the brain. If it’s a little nibble you’re hankering after, oatcakes with cheese is a great bedtime snack as it contains complex carbohydrates and protein to optimise tryptophan levels.

Proteins help maintain a stable blood sugar level while sleeping and switch the body from alert adrenaline cycle to rest-and-digest mode, while complex carbohydrates increase the availability of tryptophan in the bloodstream. Tryptophan is the amino acid that the body uses to make sleep-inducing serotonin and melatonin, the relaxing neurotransmitters that slow down nerve traffic and stop the brain buzzing.

The Romans thought that lettuce was good for sleep, but apparently the crème-de-la-crème “sleep sandwich” has to be a banana, marmite and lettuce butty: the banana is an excellent source of magnesium and potassium which help relax overstressed muscles. They also contain all-important tryptophan to stimulate production of those key brain calming hormones. And marmite also contains natural substances that help induce sleep.

Food to avoid before bed

Avoid eating a big meal and spicy food just before bedtime as it can lead to discomfort and indigestion. Research also found that it brought about a change in body temperature which can confuse the brain, as core temperature naturally dips as bedtime approaches.

Go easy on processed high carb (bread, pasta and rice) that cause energy crashes and fatty foods as the stimulated acid production in the stomach can lead to heartburn and indigestion. Remember that excess eating leaves you sleepy.

Even if you know to avoid coffee and strong tea, you might be sabotaging your sleep with sneakier sources of caffeine, like chocolate. Dark chocolate, in particular, can pack a significant punch. If you like to nibble on a square or two for dessert, you’ll probably be fine but an entire chocolate bar (or two!) could have just as much caffeine as a fizzy drink.

While grapefruit seems a healthy option, avoid before bedtime. Citrus fruits increase the stomach’s acidity causing heartburn and keeping you up at night.

Equally, limit stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine which reduce sleep quality and prevent you feeling rested.

Food for thought!

Q. I know it’s not good to eat close to bedtime, but I get hungry. What are the least harmful things I can eat — or drink — say, an hour or two before going to bed?

A. It’s hard to resist late-night cravings, but try to limit your bedtime nosh to 100 or 200 calories, 300 calories tops, said Isabel Maples, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and choose nutrient-rich items that may be lacking in your diet, like fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, whole grains or nuts, “to really make those calories count.” (Seafood and beans are other good options, but not particularly appealing before bed.) Keep in mind that snacking contributes to weight gain, and studies have found that nearly one-quarter of the calories we eat come from snacks.

A banana, apple or other fresh fruit, a small portion of low-fat cottage cheese or plain yogurt with sliced fruit, or oatmeal or some other high-fiber cereal with skim milk were frequent suggestions made by experts interviewed for this article.

Other suggestions included raw veggie sticks, a couple of whole grain crackers with a small slice of cheese, a handful of almonds or other nuts, or celery sticks spread with a tablespoon or two of peanut butter or almond butter (measure the nuts and butters — don’t eat them straight out of the container).

Best Snacks to Eat Late at Night and Before Bed

For many people, a late-night snack means raiding the fridge and gorging on leftovers, junk food, and anything else they can find. For others, the mere thought of a nighttime snack is enough to give them nightmares about packing on the pounds.

The fact is, there is a middle ground when it comes to nighttime snacking. Although eating large amounts of food – especially junk food – at night can contribute to weight gain, there is mounting evidence that indicates eating a small, nutrient-rich snack before bed is actually beneficial. Multiple studies suggest that not only can certain foods help you fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep, but that eating healthy foods before bed can have a positive effect on cholesterol, fat oxidation, and blood sugar. So before you head to bed with a grumbling stomach, check out some of these ideas for healthy late-night snacks that won’t keep you awake and might help you stay healthier overall.

Why You Might Need a Nighttime Snack

Before we get into what you should eat before bed, let’s look at some of the reasons why you should nosh on something at night.

  • Some foods help you fall asleep. Certain foods and drinks actually contain nutrients and ingredients (such as herbs) that can help you fall asleep faster.
  • Snacking helps you stay asleep. When you go to bed starving, you’re more likely to wake up in the middle of the night with hunger pangs. Not only does this increase the chance you’ll grab something unhealthy (rummaging through the pantry half-asleep does not always lead to good choices) and that you’ll eat more, but you’re also disrupting your sleep cycle, making it harder to get a good night’s rest.
  • Snacking can help control blood sugar. For many diabetics, a nighttime snack is a must in order to maintain blood sugar control overnight.
  • Snacking helps with muscle repair. For athletes or those who work out frequently, a snack before bed can help repair muscles and build up muscle tissue.
  • Snacking supports weight maintenance. It might seem counterintuitive, but eating a healthy snack before bed can help stave off hunger and cravings that lead to overeating or unhealthy choices, which in turn contribute to weight gain. A small, 100-calorie snack with plenty of protein and fiber can help satisfy your hunger without causing weight gain.

Of course, sometimes you’re just hungry and want something to eat. When you choose the right food, you won’t need to worry about packing on unwanted pounds or making unhealthy choices.

What Makes a Good Snack?

So what makes a nighttime snack a good choice?

For starters, as with any snack, your nighttime noshes should have at least some nutritional value, without excessive amounts of sugar or fat that can keep you awake and contribute to weight gain. Some foods even contain amino acids and hormones like tryptophan and melatonin, making them a great choice for a late-night snack because they can help induce sleep.

More specifically, nutritionists recommend choosing foods that balance protein, fat, fiber, and carbohydrates: For example, a small bowl of cereal with milk, an apple with a bit of natural peanut butter, or some Greek yogurt with nuts. The right balance of nutrients will keep you feeling full, helping you stay asleep without having to ingest a lot of calories (but still benefiting from plenty of nutrients).

Best Snacks to Eat

So if a bowl of ice cream or a handful of cookies isn’t a great idea for a late-night snack, what should you eat? Here are a few ideas to help you stock the fridge and pantry.

    • Bananas: Not only are bananas potassium powerhouses, a mineral that can help regulate your blood pressure, but they also contain serotonin. Serotonin helps support the production of melatonin, which helps you sleep.
    • Almonds: Almonds are another powerhouse when it comes to supporting sleep. Almonds also contain melatonin, as well as high amounts of magnesium, vitamin E, and healthy fats. Magnesium is good for maintaining healthy blood pressure and proper blood sugar levels and supports melatonin production. Try combining some almond butter with bananas for a delicious snack that’s full of sleep-supporting nutrients.
    • Oats: Eating refined bread, pasta, and cereal can significantly reduce your serotonin levels and make it more difficult to sleep, but a snack with whole grains like oats can help you get some shut-eye. Try a small bowl of oatmeal before bed; it’s full of fiber to fill you up and helps support melatonin production. You can also add some oats to a healthy protein-rich smoothie for an extra fiber boost.
    • Cherries: Several studies have determined that drinking tart cherry juice or eating tart cherry varieties like Richmond and Montmorency, can help induce sleep and improve sleep quality. That’s because these particular cherries contain small amounts of melatonin, as well as antioxidants that help increase your body’s production of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps make you sleepy. Keep in mind that only tart cherries have this benefit; sweeter varieties, such as Bing, or jarred cherries like Maraschino, won’t improve your sleep.
  • Yogurt: Greek yogurt is a protein-packed food that contains plenty of carbohydrates and healthy fats to keep you satisfied. Try mixing some yogurt with nuts for a healthy bedtime snack. Just watch out for yogurts that are high in sugar, as they typically have more calories and may keep you awake.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Like almonds, pumpkin seeds are packed with magnesium, which can help support melatonin production. A single, 1-ounce serving of seeds provides 35% of a person’s recommended daily magnesium intake, so try adding some to your yogurt or oatmeal for a healthy boost.
    • Turkey: It should be no surprise that turkey is on this list – who hasn’t fallen asleep after Thanksgiving dinner thanks to its high volumes of tryptophan? For healthy late-night snacking, have a slice or two of turkey on a piece of whole-grain bread for a good mix of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates, along with a healthy dose of sleep-inducing tryptophan.
    • Herbal tea: Although the jury is out on whether herbal teas marketed as “sleepytime” or sleep-inducing actually work, there is some evidence that they can help you nod off. Herbs such as valerian, chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm are natural sedatives, which means they can help you fall asleep. Enjoying a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea can help you relax and unwind before bed and, with a wide array of flavors, can help stave off a craving for something sweet.
  • Warm milk: There may be something behind your mother’s recommendation to have some warm milk when you couldn’t sleep. Research indicates that milk contains melatonin and tryptophan, but perhaps more importantly, the psychological connection between warm milk and sleep is powerful.

Snacks to Avoid

Just like there are foods that can help you sleep, there are also others you should avoid if you don’t want to disrupt your slumber. Obviously, anything containing caffeine is a no-go, but it’s also important to avoid sugar, spicy foods, and alcohol. Eating spicy food at night can cause stomach upset and heartburn that will keep you awake, and although the sedative effect of alcohol might seem to help you fall asleep quickly, it often leads to poor-quality sleep and repeated nighttime waking. If you want to enjoy a drink, do so about two to three hours before bedtime to give your body time to metabolize the alcohol.

Enjoying a snack before bed isn’t bad for you or your waistline, as long as you choose the right snack. Before you mindlessly nibble, consider the nutrition and sleep-supporting benefits of certain foods and make a smart, informed choice.

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.

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Greek Yogurt

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

2

Cherries

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.

3

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.

4

Protein Shake

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.

5

Cottage Cheese

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.

6

Turkey

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.

7

Banana

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.

8

Chocolate Milk

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.

9

Kefir

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.

10

Almonds

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.

11

High-Fiber Cereal

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.

12

String Cheese

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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Easy Bedtime Snacks You Can Make Yourself

10 sleep-inducing recipes for nighttime noshing

When hunger pangs hit at night, it can be tough to know what to eat. You don’t want to have anything that will make you too full and cause you to toss and turn, but you also have to eat something or your growling stomach will keep you from falling asleep. The solution: Whip up one of these simple snacks and satisfy your appetite while preparing your body slumber.

  1. Turkey Roll-Ups: Spread cream cheese on slices of turkey, top them with some thin slices of cucumber, and roll them up (no bread required!).
  2. Warmed Milk: Whether you heat it up in the microwave or on the stovetop, add a dash of cinnamon and honey to make it a tastier treat.
  3. Nut Butter Toasts: Toast one slice of whole wheat bread and smear almond butter or peanut butter on it. Top it with banana slices for an open-faced sandwich.
  4. Crackers and Cheddar: Top your favorite wheat crackers with cheddar slices and eat them with a few fresh apple crescents.
  5. Cereal: Whole grain cereal (think Cheerios, Wheat Chex, Shredded Wheat) with milk is the perfect combination of carbohydrates and protein that’ll make you sleepy. Just avoid cereals that have lots of added sugars, which can add unnecessary calories and potentially keep you awake.
  6. Yogurt Parfait: Take a tall glass and layer plain Greek yogurt, strawberries, sliced almonds, and a small drizzle of honey.
  7. Oatmeal: Whip up a serving of the instant stuff with milk and top it with chopped walnuts and blueberries.
  8. Mozzarella and Seeds: A mozzarella cheese stick pairs well with a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds.
  9. Fruit Smoothie: Blend together spinach, frozen cherries and enough water, almond milk, or plain yogurt to reach a consistency that you like.
  10. Cottage Cheese: This protein-packed dairy food is delicious with a tiny bit of jam on top to give it some sweetness.

Can I Eat Before Bed Without Gaining Weight?

When your tummy starts to growl and the clock reads 10 p.m., you have a decision to make: Chow down and eat before bed, or go to bed hungry to avoid extra calories.

The thing is, the decision of whether to eat before bed is a lot more complicated than that. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of situations when you should be nourishing your body before sleep.

To navigate the question of the pre-snooze snack, we enlisted the help of registered dietitians Cara Harbstreet and Jackie Newgent, as well as Harvard sleep researcher Andrew McHill, who are here to help us understand the nuances of this widely debated dietary quandary.

Yes, habitually eating a bunch of food before bed can cause weight gain.

It’s critical to examine the reasons for late-night snacking. “What I’m recommending on eating before bed is noticing, is it actual physical hunger, or are you eating more out of habit or boredom?” Harbstreet says. “Or is there an emotional trigger component? That’s important for directing next steps.”

Studies also show associations between eating before bed and weight gain (especially with these bad foods). A 2013 Appetite analysis of “average sleepers” (whose midpoint of sleep was before 5:30 a.m.) and “late sleepers” (whose midpoint was after 5:30 a.m.) found that late sleepers were prone to consuming more protein, fat, and carbohydrates after 8 p.m.. And the consumption of all three macronutrients after 8 p.m. was associated with a higher body mass index.

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But, it may have to do with your bedtime.

Weight gain has more to do with your body’s natural bedtime than the time you eat, according to a 2017 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers studied the circadian timing of food intake, or the gap between the timing of your last meal and the time when your melatonin sleep hormone kicks in, and discovered that eating and melatonin onset were associated with higher BMIs, but time of day wasn’t.

“Weight gain has more to do with your body’s natural bedtime than the time you eat.”

“It was somewhat of a surprise that clock hour was not more closely associated,” says Harvard University postdoctoral research fellow and lead researcher Andrew McHill. “I find that people think it is okay to eat later into the night if they are pushing their bedtimes back to a later time. Problems metabolizing foods are most likely due to the circadian clock and not sleep, per se, as we found in our current study.”

McHill’s study posits a few educated guesses on why before-bed eating is associated with weight gain; however, there’s no definitive explanation for the association. Because our circadian rhythms are no longer dictated entirely by exposure to sunlight, you’re better off thinking about your late-night snack in terms of your regular bedtime rather than the time of day.

There are good reasons to eat before bed.

As with any other form of weight gain and loss, it comes down to your energy expenditure and caloric needs. “If you expend significant energy late in the evening—like taking an hour-long walk or working out after dinner—then eating before bed may actually be needed to refuel your muscles and meet your overall energy needs,” says Newgent.

Many athletes and busy professionals push back dinner times because they fit in exercise after work. For afternoon and evening athletes, the need to fuel doesn’t go away just because it’s late. So, they should eat before bed. “They’re hungry because they just finished training,” Harbstreet says. “So I’ll recommend they look at the timing of their meals. People have the mindset that they have to fit into a breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule. But if it’s been three or four hours since your last meal, your body is probably in need of fuel.”

For later meals, Harbstreet recommends that clients eat at least two food groups, one of which should be a fat or a protein. “The reason is to stabilize your blood sugar levels going into sleep,” she says. Skipping food when you’re hungry could leave you groggier in the morning because your blood sugar stores will deplete overnight.

Is there a recommended time of night to eat?

Harbstreet doesn’t issue a standardized timing proclamation to eat before bed. She does, however, instruct clients to shy away from meals high in fat, but not because of weight gain. “Those nutrients take a lot longer to digest; if you’re going to bed feeling really full, that’ll impair how well you’re able to sleep,” Harbstreet says.

Cravings are a different story—especially if you’re having them for a specific food, such as candy or chocolate. “If it’s a recurring thing and you’re noticing patterns, reach out to an registered dietitian and see if there other factors that play in,” Harbstreet says.

So, what’s the best food to eat before sleep?

First, make sure you’re hydrating throughout the day and into the evening, as dehydration could explain some of the hunger feelings. After that, try pairing a healthy carbohydrate with a protein or fat.

“Have a small piece of fruit with a peanut or nut butter,” Harbstreet says. “Or a container of yogurt that has nuts or seeds mixed in.”

And if you’re not insanely, eat-now-or-starve hungry, remember that your eyes might be bigger than your stomach. “Those who get hungry before bed can try eating low-caloric snacks which may help with hunger, but decrease the possible adverse effects of eating so late,” McHill says.

If you’re needing a bigger meal later in the evening, make sure the foods aren’t keeping you up with bloating, heartburn, or acid reflux. Although eating near bedtime won’t necessarily lead to weight gain, there’s substantial evidence that sleep deprivation will.

You can actually use your before-bed nosh for good; rather than feeling guilty, make it a net positive for your body’s nutritional needs. “Use this time to fill in nutrient gaps,” Newgent says. “Those vitamins, minerals, and plant-based nutrients you may have missed throughout the day.”

Most of all, try not to stress too much if you eat before bed. If your body is asking for food before bed, it probably needs it. “A lot of what I coach clients on is based on intuitive eating—giving permission to eat foods that you enjoy and want to have in your diet, and recognizing what your body is asking for,” Harbstreet says.

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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):

Calories: 215
Protein: 13g
Carbs: 9g
Fat: 15g

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:

Calories: 180
Protein: 13g
Carbs: 16g
Fat: 8g

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):

Calories: 230
Protein: 29g
Carbs: 6g
Fat: 10g

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):

Calories: 290
Protein: 29g
Carbs: 21g
Fat: 11g

Protein Fluff

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.

Macros:

Calories: 200
Protein: 26g
Carbs: 20g
Fat: 2g

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):

Calories: 215
Protein: 24g
Carbs: 2g
Fat: 12g

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.

Macros:

Calories: 290
Protein: 30g
Carbs: 22g
Fat: 11g

Protein Cheesecake

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):

Calories: 200
Protein: 15g
Carbs: 15g
Fat: 9g

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):

Calories: 195
Protein: 4g
Carbs: 28g
Fat: 8g

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.

Macros:

Calories: 180
Protein: 20g
Carbs: 22g
Fat: 7g

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):

Calories: 190
Protein: 6g
Carbs: 21g
Fat: 10g

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?

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