What are some of the best healthy late night snacks?
Occasional late night snacks are not usually an issue if someone chooses healthy foods. However, if this becomes a regular habit and people snack on unsuitable foods, it could lead to weight gain or reflux symptoms.
With this in mind, there are a few quick and easy snacks that people can prepare if they are hungry at night. This can include a variety of fruits and nuts, while certain foods may also contain compounds that help a person sleep better.
This article suggests why people may snack at night, along with the associated health implications. It also explores a range of healthier snacks to choose from and provides tips that may help people avoid frequent snacking in the evenings.
There are various reasons why people may snack at night. If someone does this occasionally, it may not be an issue. However, if late night snacking becomes a habit, it could indicate an underlying disorder or result in potential health consequences.
According to a 2018 review, night-eating syndrome (NES) is a form of disordered eating where someone eats 25% or more of their daily calories at night.
People with NES consume excessive food after dinnertime or when they wake from sleep. They may also eat less food in the mornings, frequently have depressed moods, and have difficulty sleeping.
The authors suggest a potential reason for this is the decreased thermic effect of food after the onset of melatonin, which refers to a lower metabolic rate and use of energy later at night.
For people who experience acid reflux or have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), eating late at night could exacerbate symptoms. Experts advise that someone with GERD should avoid eating for 3 hours before bedtime.
Breakfast implies “breaking a fast.” According to research, fasting overnight may have health benefits and reduce the risk of obesity. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid regular late night snacking if possible.
People should aim to eat a balanced diet throughout the day, so they are not hungry after dinner.
Eating a diet containing too many refined carbohydrates or added sugars could cause an imbalance in someone’s blood sugar. Evidence suggests that high glycemic index (GI) foods trigger blood glucose dysregulation.
Blood glucose dysregulation may negatively affect someone’s mood and cause them to crave more food. Eating high GI foods or too many calories before bed could also cause a person to gain weight.
The following are healthy foods that someone could snack on if they are hungry in the evening. However, it is important to note that late night snacking may lead to weight gain.
People may wish to consider consulting with a health practitioner if they find they frequently crave a substantial amount of food at night.
In a small 2019 pilot study, Montmorency tart cherry juice increased sleep time and efficiency in people aged over 50 years with insomnia. According to the research, the procyanidins, melatonin, and tryptophan in tart cherries may be responsible for their sleep-promoting effect.
Grocery stores sell tart or sour cherries, which are often in frozen form. A person could try eating them with natural yogurt, which also contains tryptophan, to help with sleep. People can also buy Montmorency tart cherry juice from retailers.
Turkey is a good source of the amino acid tryptophan, with light turkey meat containing higher amounts of the substance than darker turkey meat.
According to a 2016 study, eating carbohydrates can help people absorb tryptophan into the brain. Therefore, using whole grain bread to make a turkey sandwich may help someone to sleep.
Oats are a natural source of melatonin. Other cereals, such as wheat and barley, are also relatively good sources of this substance.
Oats are also a healthy whole food containing vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, if a person wishes to maintain a moderate weight, they should have a smaller portion of oats and avoid eating them regularly before bed, as this could lead to weight gain. A 40 gram (g) portion of oats contains roughly 140 calories.
People can also try sprinkling cinnamon on their oatmeal. According to research, cinnamon helps balance blood glucose, which may help manage cravings, weight, and mood. The spice is also anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
However, people with liver conditions or taking medications, such as warfarin, wish to speak with their doctor before consuming cinnamon.
Bananas increase melatonin production, which can help someone sleep. A medium banana contains around 105 calories and is a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, they are a quick and easy food that someone can eat to satisfy a hunger pang before bed.
Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium. In addition to being vital for bone health, research suggests that calcium may also support better sleep. This food is also another good source of tryptophan.
Yogurt is rich in protein, which can help a person feel fuller. In particular, consuming casein protein at night may help reduce hunger the next morning.
If choosing this food as a snack, it is advisable to opt for plain varieties. A person can flavor it with unsweetened fruits such as berries.
According to the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), eating 1.5 ounces of nuts daily as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Another review indicates that nuts, in particular pistachios, contain the highest melatonin content among plant foods.
Unsalted and unflavored nuts are the healthiest, and people can try the following types:
- Brazil nuts
- macadamia nuts
Although technically a legume, peanuts are also a good source of tryptophan. As carbohydrates help the body absorb tryptophan, a person can try a slice of toast with peanut butter as an evening snack.
A person could try a boiled egg with two oatcakes as a healthy evening snack. Alternatively, they could make some egg and vegetable muffins to keep in the freezer when they need an evening snack.