Smart Nighttime Snacking

We’re conditioned to avoid nighttime snacking when we’re trying to shed unwanted pounds. However, if you’re famished for a nosh at 9:45pm—like can’t possibly get to sleep because you’re so darn hungry—then the good news is that you can snack on one of these moderately-portioned, healthy carb and protein snacks without totally destroying your weight loss goals…

Banana with Nut Butter

Craving something sweet and filling without eating a large meal before bedtime?

A small banana will help to satisfy your sweet tooth and healthy carb cravings. And add a smear of nut butter (i.e., raw almond butter) for a little protein power.

Plus, this nana-butter snack is tasty and light, weighing in at roughly 200-calories. Keep in mind also that eating protein prior to bed is not always a bad thing—a quality protein supports muscle mass, which will in turn, reinforce your weight loss efforts, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Sip a Green Smoothie

For a light but satisfying sip before bedtime, a smoothie made with all simple, fresh carbohydrates—think fresh or frozen berries with no sugar added, or sliced peaches or mango, and handful of leafy greens (spinach blends the best with fruit). Oh and make sure to add some sweetness with a frozen banana.

Add to that a cup of protein powder in plain kefir, low fat Greek yogurt, or unsweetened almond milk. The idea of leafy greens in your smoothie might put you off, but trust me, with the frozen fruit and creamy combination, you’ll feel like you’re drinking a milkshake before bedtime!

Tuck into Hummus and Pita

Another perfect pre-bedtime protein and wholesome carbohydrate combination is hummus and toasted pita—to be exact, scoop 4-tablespoons of hummus and toast a small whole-wheat pita.

This pita triangle and hummus spread snack is ideal for diabetics who can suffer plummeting blood sugar at nighttime. A 2003 research study published in the journal, Diabetes Care, found that nighttime noshes composed of half protein, half carbohydrate helped maintain balanced blood sugar in adults with type 1 diabetes.

Combine Pineapple and Cottage Cheese

On those nights you just need a little something to tide you over until morning, Rhode Island-based Registered Dietician and Clinical Nutritionist, Mary Hartley, recommends a light snack—between 150 and 200 calories—to prevent turning this little chow down into your fourth meal of the day.

So reach for a small cup of cottage cheese, a half-cup should do the trick! Mix your creamy protein with chunks of fresh pineapple, kiwi, or a ¼-cup handful of mixed, fresh berries.

Munch Air-Popped Popcorn

Sure a buttery tub of popcorn is the ideal snack at the movie theatre, but is it a smart, late-night option? While the finger-licking good option might not be wise due to excessive buttery fats—it turns out that the lighter air-popped version is perfect prior to bedtime.

Keep in mind that minus the buttery topping, 1-cup of air popped corn weighs in at a mere 30-calories. Plus, studies from Washington State University show that the complex carbs in plain popcorn trigger the release of insulin, which regulates sleep cycles with the natural release of relaxation-promoting tryptophan and serotonin. If you require some flavor, use no-fat, no-calorie cinnamon, dill, or cumin.

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Healthy Baked Apple

This snack suspiciously sounds like dessert—which is why the nutritious + delicious combination has made it my staple bedtime snack when I can’t banish chocolate cake from my reoccurring dreams.

A medium-sized apple is jam-packed with roughly 4-grams of healthy fiber…not to mention the added iron-, vitamin C, and calcium-rich bonuses of this naturally sweet fruit. Core your apple, spoon in a tablespoon of Greek yogurt, a sprinkle of plain quick oats, and a teaspoon of honey. You can alternately “bake” this snack in your microwave oven too.

Chow on Cherries

According to research published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, cherries not only make a juicy bedtime snack—they’re also one of the few raw foods that trigger melatonin production, a chemical responsible for the body’s internal, sleep-regulating clock.

That means a small bowl of fresh cherries make the ideal nosh while you watch television or read a book before bedtime.  And when cherries are out of season, look to frozen (no-sugar added) cherries thawed for eating, or whole grain cereal sprinkled with dried cherries. Interestingly, grapes also contain melatonin.

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.