Dietitians Reveal The 6 Healthy Foods Suitable For Late-Night Snacking
And they may even help you sleep better!
Picture this: You’re cozied up on the couch catching up on your latest Netflix show when you get the urge to munch on something. Though this is an all too familiar scene for many of us, late-night snacking doesn’t have to be synonymous with “junk food.” In fact, certain foods can actually help you fall asleep quicker.
According to Brittany Lubeck, a registered dietitian and nutrition writer, when choosing the best late-night snack, you’ll want to avoid snacks that are extra greasy or heavy, high in added sugar, and spicy. “Greasy and spicy foods may cause indigestion, while snacks high in added sugar may give you an energy boost you’d rather avoid at bedtime,” she says.
Instead, focus on choosing a healthy pairing of carbs with either protein, fiber or healthy fats. “This powerful combo will help you stay fuller longer, and won’t raise your blood sugars too much,” says Paulina Lee, a functional dietitian and founder of Savvy Stummy.
Read on for six foods approved by registered dietitians that are suitable for late-night snacking. Enjoy!
Banana and peanut butter
This is a great late night snack because both bananas and peanut butter contain magnesium, a mineral that may help you fall asleep — and stay asleep. “Peanut butter also contains healthy fats and protein that will keep your blood sugar at bay and prevent a late-night sugar spike,” says Lubeck. “Because of the fiber and protein in this snack, it’ll take a bit of time for your body to digest it, which means you should feel satisfied and no longer hungry as you drift off to sleep.”
Whole grain toast with healthy fats, like nut butter or avocado
Lee says that “a complex carb like whole grain toast is high in fiber, which will digest more slowly and not raise your blood sugars too quickly.” Plus, the added benefit of healthy fats (like nut butter or avocado) can also help with keeping you fuller for longer. And, if you choose to pair your toast with peanut butter, Lee says that it contains vitamin B3, or niacin, which can enhance sleep by supporting serotonin production (the feel-good hormone that might help you relax).
Cottage cheese and fruit
Cottage cheese is high in protein and can help stabilize blood sugar during the night. It’s also chock-full of nutrients like calcium and vitamin B12, says Ronald Smith, a registered dietitian and nutritionist. If you’re craving a crunch, sprinkle some granola on top. Or, top it with blueberries or raspberries to add a burst of sweetness along with antioxidants and vitamin C.
If you’re consistently having late-night cravings, Lee says it might do you well to look back over the day to make sure you’re not skipping meals and that your meals have a good combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats. Still, it’s helpful to have something healthy — like overnight oats — on hand if you’re prone to late-night snacking. “The benefit of overnight oats is that you can make them eight to 12 hours in advance and have them ready to eat before going to bed,” says Brenda Peralta, a registered dietitian, sports nutritionist and health coach. “Oatmeal is high in fiber (which increases your satiety levels) and in magnesium and melatonin (which are key components for you to have a restful night).” You can also throw on some cherries, as studies have shown they may help increase the quality of sleep.
It may be more time-consuming to whip up than some of the other snacks, but eggs contain tryptophan, the amino acid that your body uses to create melatonin. “Melatonin is the hormone your body releases at nighttime as part of the sleep-wake cycle, which could make for better z’s” says Lubeck. Not to mention, eggs are a good source of protein and can help keep you full longer. Try sprinkling on some cheese — it’s rich in calcium, a mineral that has been associated with less difficulty falling asleep.
Nuts and seeds
“Nuts and seeds — like walnuts, almonds or pumpkin seeds — contain protein, healthy fats and magnesium, the calming mineral that can help calm nerve activity and may help you get more restful sleep,” says Lee. This combination of protein and healthy fat will definitely help you stay fuller longer and may ward off more snacking later in the night. A caveat? Lee says to avoid the salted or seasoned nuts (especially spicy — as it may raise your heart rate) and stick to a handful of them at a time to avoid digestive issues.