Healthiest Late Night Foods
We’re all familiar with this scenario: You’ve just logged 12 hours at the office and scarfed down whatever you could scrounge up between meetings and managing projects—namely 100-calorie packs and gum. The moment you set foot into your apartment, you rip off your heels like a woman unleashed. While you feel a slight twinge of hunger, you pause and deliberate… Skip eating altogether and collapse into bed? Or dig into a pint of Häagen-Dazs and pass out on the couch?
Though we’ve all opted for door No. 2 on occasion, eating right before bed has its undesirable consequences. According to Tanya Zuckerbrot, dietician and founder of F-FactorDiet.com, late-night pig-outs can “sabotage a day’s worth of healthy eating.” She also adds that choosing the wrong foods can not only pack on the pounds, but also disrupt sleep patterns. For those nights when you just can’t hack going to bed hungry, heed Tanya’s guide to smart late-night food choices.
Don’t curb the calcium. Your mom wasn’t far off when she gave you a glass of milk to drink before bedtime. Actually, the calcium in milk can help increase serotonin levels in the brain to relax your body and mind and promote a good night’s sleep. Just make sure it’s low-fat or fat-free to minimize excess caloric intake. Jell-O fat-free pudding is also a low-cal, calcium-rich snack that satisfies a sweet tooth.
Don’t go nuts with nuts. While they’re a good source of vitamin B and magnesium, which promote serotonin production, nuts are high in fat and calories. Blue Diamond oven-roasted almonds are the perfect night nut because the container has a portion scale—crunchy satisfaction without a worry.
Favor fruit. For something sweet, try a handful of dried fruit. The fiber, potassium, and magnesium it contains promote good digestion. Mix the dried fruit and/or a tablespoon of almond slivers in with Greek yogurt for a yummy treat packed with fiber and protein. Or, go frozen! Frozen grapes are a fun-to-eat, low-cal snack because they keep your mouth busy, perfect for expelling anxious energy. Also try freezing a banana, which contains vitamin B6, an essential nutrient for serotonin production. To sneak in some protein, spread a tablespoon of peanut butter across the banana slices.
Try turkey. If you’re ravenous and need a mini meal, have 2 ounces of sliced turkey on one piece of whole-grain bread. This will fill you up and get you ready for some solid z’s, due to the sleep-inducing tryptophan in turkey.
Beware of beverages. While a cup of hot cocoa seems like a great way to unwind before bedtime, it may actually have the opposite effect because cocoa contains caffeine. While we’re at it, so do many green and black teas. If you’re seeking something warm and soothing before bed, stick to herbal tea or a glass of warm milk.
Say no to simple carbs. Simple carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, pretzels, and candy should be avoided late at night. These foods cause a spike and then a rapid decrease in blood sugar, which can affect your sleeping patterns. Although they may provide temporary satisfaction, simple carbs aren’t filling and can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night (and head for the fridge again!). Stick to a combination of foods high in protein and fiber to keep you satiated—and asleep.
• Greek yogurt topped with ½ cup high-fiber cereal (like Kashi Go Lean Crunch) or ¼ cup dried fruit
• Sliced banana with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
• 1 cup frozen grapes
• 2 ounces turkey with one slice whole-grain bread
• Instant oatmeal made with ½ cup warm low-fat milk
• 2 cups air-popped popcorn (for a sweet tooth, sprinkle with cinnamon and Splenda; for a salty tooth, sprinkle with Parmesan)
• Jell-O fat-free pudding with 1 tablespoon Almond Accents (sliced almonds)
• Frozen treats: Skinny Cow Vanilla Truffle Bar, Tofutti Pops, 1 cup fat-free frozen yogurt