If you’re all too familiar with the midnight munchies, snacking at night is more common than you think. And, the need for a late-night meal can be triggered by a range of lifestyle factors. Eating an early dinner, lack of nutrients throughout the day, and getting in an evening sweat sesh are some of the most common contributors to late-night hunger pains. But, do you find yourself avoiding food after hours even when you’re hungry?
Late-night eating often comes with feelings of guilt and hesitation based on societal eating “rules”. We’ve been told snacking at night leads to weight gain, insomnia, and even health issues, making it hard to enjoy an evening snack without a serving of guilt. So, is all late-night snacking really that bad?
Night-owls, you’re in luck. If you’re enjoying healthy late-night snacks, a midnight nightcap could actually benefit sleep!
Below you’ll find the eight best healthy late-night snacks to improve sleep without causing weight gain — refer to this list the next time your late-night cravings strike!
Is it Healthy to Eat Late at Night? Here’s What Science Says
Before you categorize all late night eating as bad, know there are ways to enjoy healthy late-night snacks without hurting your health and fitness goals. Despite what society has led us to believe, there is no universal eating rule that deems late-night snacking off-limits. It’s perfectly okay to enjoy healthy late-night snacks if you’re listening to your body and honoring what it needs.
In fact, a recent study found evidence suggesting late-night meals can be enjoyed without fear of weight gain. Instead of limiting yourself to a certain time window and avoiding food once the sun goes down, research suggests focusing on the total amount of calories consumed throughout the day.
Rather than obsessing over the time of day, create a practical eating schedule that works for your lifestyle, but prioritize the quantity and quality of your foods. Think: whole foods rich in protein, fiber, complex carbs, and healthy fats!
When you head to the kitchen for a nightcap, ask yourself, “what are the healthy late-night snacks that will support my fitness goals and promote a restful night’s sleep?”
With this mentality in mind, you’re more likely to make healthier eating decisions!
The Problem With Snacking Late at Night
So, when is snacking late at night not so healthy?
Late-night snacking becomes problematic when it leads to unhealthy eating habits. Research suggests late-night eating can lead to overeating caused by mindless eating and boredom, which can lead to weight gain and other health issues over time.
Often, our cravings for nighttime snacks are triggered by habit rather than hunger. Before you know it, a midnight walk to the fridge may unintentionally become part of your nightly routine!
So, before you take a mental inventory of your pantry, consider why you’re snacking in the first place. Are you really hungry, or are you bored? Are you choosing healthy late-night snacks, or could your food choices lead to sleep disturbances?
While some foods have the potential to benefit sleep, other foods can do more harm than good. Below you’ll find foods to limit or avoid when choosing the best healthy late-night snacks!
RELATED: Does Eating Before Bed Cause Weight Gain? What You Need to Know
Foods to Limit or Avoid at Night
According to Nathalie Rhone, Registered Dietitian, Functional Medicine Nutritionist, and founder of Nutrition by Nathalie LLC, it’s best to avoid foods heavy in fat, sugar, or caffeine before bed. These foods may increase energy and promote indigestion, thereby reducing the quality and quantity of sleep!
To avoid sleep disturbances, Rhone recommends avoiding or limiting the following foods when reaching for a late-night snack:
- Spicy or acidic foods
- Fatty food
- High-sugar foods
What is a Healthy Late-Night Snack?
If you’re going to enjoy a late-night treat, why not benefit from it? The best healthy late-night snacks to eat before bed are foods that promote sleep or enhance sleep quality. These foods often contain sleep-supporting nutrients such as melatonin or tryptophan, which have been shown to aid the natural sleep cycle.
Other healthy late-night snacks are foods that satiate the body (and of course, the taste buds!) without disrupting digestion or increasing energy.
So, without further adieu, here are the eight best healthy late-night snacks (and recipe ideas!) to support a healthy sleep cycle while keeping you on track with your fitness goals!
The Best Healthy Late-Night Snacks
#1 Tart Cherries
There’s nothing snooze worthy about the benefits of Tart Cherries! Evidence from a pilot study for the treatment of insomnia suggests tart cherry juice may increase sleep time and sleep efficiency, so we’re giving this fruit juice a healthy late-night snack a stamp of approval. When tart cherry juice was consumed before bed, participants benefited from an extra 84 minutes of sleep! These antioxidants have also been shown to reduce inflammation, increase tryptophan, and reduce insomnia.
Just remember, to get the full health benefits, look for a tart cherry juice that is 100% pure and does not contain added sugars or other additives.
When it comes to sleep benefits, don’t underestimate the small but mighty pistachio nut. According to a recent study, pistachios contain high amounts of melatonin, making this nut one of the best healthy late-night snacks. Plus, they’re an excellent source of protein, which can help promote feelings of fullness and reduce late-night cravings for unhealthy snacks.
Another satiety-promoting trick to curb mindless munching? Choose an in-shell version of pistachios — they’re tricky to open, which may prevent overeating.
The rich levels of magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6 give bananas their sleep-inducing benefits. Magnesium and potassium are two minerals that can promote relaxation and calmness, helping to relax the muscles and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. So, if you’re sore and achy after a late-night workout or struggle winding down, bananas may be just the thing to reduce sleep disturbances and promote a more restful slumber!
For something quick and satisfying, try this Protein Packed Banana Berry Smoothie. Packed with protein and low in sugar, it’s the perfect post-workout snack. P.S. It makes for a healthy ice cream alternative, too!
- ½ cup frozen berries
- ¼ cup oats
- ½ tbsp peanut butter
- ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
- ¾ cups unsweetened almond milk
- ½ banana, chopped
- 1 tsp honey
Step #1: Add the oats to the blender and pulse a few times until they form a fine flour. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
Almonds come with a host of sleep-supporting nutrients, making these healthy fats a staple on our list of healthy late-night snacks! In addition to rich levels of melatonin, almonds contain a notable amount of magnesium. According to research, the cortisol-reducing effects of magnesium may contribute to improved sleep quality.
#5 Greek Yogurt
When your late-night sweet tooth is kicking in, try a serving of greek yogurt with a handful of berries or honey! The high protein content can provide satiety while the rich probiotic levels work to support digestion.
For a dairy-free alternative, try unsweetened Kite Hill Greek-style yogurt! With a low sugar and high protein content, this plant-based substitute is one of the best healthy late-night snacks.
Full of sleep-supporting nutrients, this Chunky Monkey Yogurt Bowl is a healthy snack that tastes like dessert.
- 1 tbsp sliced almonds
- ¾ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tsp peanut butter, melted
- 1 tbsp chocolate chips
- ½ banana, sliced
Step #1: Top yogurt with sliced bananas, almonds, and chocolate chips. Then top with drizzled melted peanut butter
#6 Herbal Tea
Herbal tea is one of the best healthy late-night snacks, helping to curb hunger cravings, support digestion, and prepare the body for a restful night’s rest. Just make sure you’re choosing a caffeine-free herbal tea!
To ease post-dinner indigestion, try ginger or peppermint tea.
If your sweet tooth is calling, try munching on a handful of grapes. There are about 32 grapes in one cup, with less than one hundred calories per serving! This fruit makes a healthy snack to curb cravings while supporting your waistline.
Plus, have you ever tried frozen grapes? Store a bag in the freezer and thank us later!
These small beans pack a powerful (sleep-supporting) punch! Edamame is a great savory snack that is low in calories but high in protein. Plus, edamame contains high levels of the amino acid tryptophan, helping to induce sleep without packing in the calories before bed!
With a range of sleep-supporting foods, feel confident knowing there are many healthy late-night snacks to choose from when evening hunger strikes.
Are you looking to take your sleep to the next level? In addition to incorporating these sleep supporting foods, upgrade your sleep routine by developing healthy bedtime habits. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Sleep for inspiration.