Just when you finished your day's work and began to unwind in bed, someone started growling. Of course, you knew it was your tummy, but you had had your dinner already and did not want to ditch your diet routine. Well, if you do resonate with any of it, know that you are not alone! Believe us, late-night cravings are very much real, especially when you have recently adopted a diet plan.
Although we do not encourage eating before sleeping, if you are starving, a light, nutrient-rich snack at night can do the needful without negatively affecting your health. So, instead of starving yourself or resorting to the kitchen leftovers, consider trying any of the 30 healthy late night snacks listed below when your stomach rumbles in the middle of the night.
What Causes Midnight Cravings?
Midnight cravings are nothing but those sudden impulsive longings for high-calorie, sugary, and spicy foods during the dark hours. But what causes these cravings? Below, we discuss the most plausible factors that can cause you to feel hungry before bed.
Studies reveal that the circadian system (also referred to as the human body's internal clock) is responsible for increasing hunger and cravings in the evenings and during nighttime.
Sometimes, dehydration can make you feel hungry when you are actually not. Try drinking a glass of water before grabbing a snack next time.
Staying Up Late
Late night hunger is inevitable if you eat an early dinner and stay awake until midnight.
When you do not take a balanced diet, and your nutrition intake is insufficient, you can end up feeling hungry during odd hours like midnight.
Under certain physiological conditions like stress, sleep deprivation, or menstruation, some people experience hormonal imbalances that ultimately lead to irrational hunger.
Night Eating Syndrome
People undergoing night eating syndrome (NES) tend to feel excessive hunger after evenings and face difficulty in falling asleep at night.
30 Best Healthy Late-night Snacks
To help you listen to your body, we're here with some nutritious plus tasty late-night snacks that can alleviate your hunger. So, next time you wonder what to eat late at night, feel free to pick any of the below-mentioned midnight snack ideas (both sweet and savory) to keep yourself satisfied.
Sweet Late-night Snacks
Do you prefer sweetness over saltiness? Check out some of the best sweet yet healthy snack options:
Banana With Almond Butter
Take one small banana, dip it into 16 grams of unsweetened almond butter, and voila! Your low-calorie, easy late night snack is ready. The best part? Both bananas and almonds are healthy food items that help supply melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, directly or indirectly.
Smoothies are a healthy way to feed your tummy during those freakish hours. Instead of eating raw superfoods, you can creatively blend fruits, vegetables, and yogurt and prepare your nutrient-rich late night food. Protein smoothies, in particular, are rich in tryptophan, which is an amino acid that aids the production of serotonin and melatonin.
Interestingly, your midnight cravings can sometimes be too specific and lure you to gobble up some chocolates, especially if you have a sweet tooth. What you can do then is, go for a bar of dark chocolate that has more cacao content, is rich in antioxidants, and is relatively low in sugar.
Baked apple chips can act as good bedtime snacks when you feel like eating something sweet and crunchy at night. Plus, they are a great source of fiber!
Blueberries With Greek Yogurt
You can consider pairing greek yogurt with fruits like blueberries for midnight snacking. While yogurt contains tryptophan and regulates your body's sleep cycle, blueberries provide you with much-needed carbohydrates.
Tart cherries and their juice can serve as excellent late night snack ideas since they contain melatonin that promotes sleep. You may either have eight ounces of tart cherry juice or one-third cup of dried tart cherries whenever you feel hungry late at night.
Kiwis, the sweet-tart fruits that we all love, contain a good amount of the nerve messenger serotonin, which induces a calming sensation and helps you fall asleep quicker. Adding kiwis to a fruit salad can also be a good idea if you are looking for some no-cook late-night snacks.
Milk and Cereal
Milk is rich in tryptophan, and cereals are prominent sources of fiber and glycemic carbs. Therefore, when combined, a bowl of low-sugar cereal and low-fat milk can make some healthy midnight snacks. In general, consuming milk and milk products leads to better sleep.
Wholegrain cereals like oatmeal are a healthier choice for snacking at night. While beta-glucan in oats controls your cholesterol levels, melatonin relaxes your body and lets you sleep better.
Do you experience ice cream cravings in the middle of the night? If yes, try making fruit bars beforehand next time. All you need to do is blend fresh fruits and freeze them into popsicles.
In addition to being a delicious tropical treat, pineapple provides your body with the melatonin that facilitates sleep.
Although grapes are comparatively high in sugar, eating them in moderation is perfectly fine. This is because they are a natural source of melatonin and hence help you stay asleep.
Apples and Applesauce
Apples are low-calorie fruits that are rich in antioxidants and easy to digest. As such, they can become your go-to healthy late-night snack. You can also consider having applesauce, a dessert made of apples and stewed to a soft pulp.
Whole Grain Toast and Peanut Butter
Bread contains a good deal of fiber, and peanut butter is an excellent source of protein and unsaturated fats. Together, they both stabilize blood sugar during sleep.
A combination of dried fruits and nuts can be a quick late-night snack idea that is equally healthy.
Savory Late-night Snacks
There are many low-calorie yet filling healthy snacks for savory snack lovers, too.
Have a look at some savory snack ideas below:
Cottage cheese is packed with proteins and lots of other valuable nutrients. As such, it makes an excellent bedtime snack. Just make sure you choose a low sodium variety since excess sodium intake can increase blood pressure.
Avocado toasts are a popular snack not just for their tastiness – they are also a good source of magnesium that helps curb your sleep anxiety and boosts your mood.
Pistachios are delicious, protein-rich nuts that can satisfy your late-night hunger and make your taste buds happy. Plus, these melatonin-rich treats induce sleep too!
Cheese and Crackers
A combo of cheese and crackers is a wonderful way to take the edge off your nighttime food desires. When combined with a good tryptophan source like cheese, carb-rich wholegrain crackers support steady blood sugar levels and aid the production of sleep-supportive brain chemicals.
When you are on the lookout for a crispy, salty snack, kale chips are the way to go. Kale is rich in calcium, which in turn supports the production of melatonin.
Homemade Veggie Chips
Instead of eating prepackaged and unhealthy potato chips, you can consider making your 'own' homemade veggie chips out of sliced sweet potatoes, zucchini, or beets. Just bake them in an oven or air fry them, and your crunchy, nutritious snack delight will be ready in no time!
Are you looking for some proteins? Try being creative with the different kinds of nut butter – namely – peanut, almond, and cashew butter. Then, just spread your favorite nut butter on toast, apples, or rice cakes and top them off with a drizzle of honey to create some tasty, protein-rich, and healthy bedtime snacks.
Boiled or Scrambled Eggs
Eggs contain tons of nutrients and are incredibly versatile. So, whether you like them boiled or scrambled, they will maintain a good blood sugar balance with the extra proteins they contain. Not to forget, eggs are natural sources of melatonin and tryptophan!
Tofu is a soy-based protein that is well-loved by vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. A stir fry of veggies and tofu can replace your everyday evening snacks in addition to being the best midnight snacks you can ever have!
Veggies & Tortilla Chips With Hummus
While hummus is a good source of protein, veggies like carrots and bell peppers provide you with the necessary vitamins and minerals. You can use hummus as a dip for veggies or baked tortilla chips for late-night snacking any day you want!
If you are in a snacking mood and want to munch on something crunchy and light, rice cakes can come to your rescue. You can also add avocado, cheese, or nut butter to enhance their flavors.
What if we tell you that popcorn can control your bedtime cravings without interfering with your diet routine? Well, they can. But only as long as you make them from scratch and do not go for the prepackaged ones!
If you like salty snacks, you can consider trying this crunchy vegetable with a bit of sea salt. What's more, it is also a superb source of tryptophan.
Whether you like stuffing them with grains or cheese or dipping them in hummus, bell peppers can be a vitamin-rich bedtime treat.
Tomatoes & Cream Cheese on Toast
Small amounts of cream cheese on wholegrain toasts, when paired with tomatoes, turn out to be super-tasty and easy late-night snacks for those unexpected cravings.
Late-night Snacking Pros and Cons
Here are some pros and cons of snacking at night:
- Eating the right snacks can help you sleep better. Late-night eating won't harm you as long as you consume the right snacks. In fact, low-calorie snacks containing melatonin would let you sleep much better.
- Protein-rich snacks can aid in rebuilding muscle during sleep. Snacks that are high in protein prepare your body to rebuild while you sleep, especially if you've been working out lately.
- Maybe you aren't "actually" hungry. However, midnight cravings can also occur when you are just stressed out or bored. In such cases, late-night snacking can lead to weight gain.
- You'd be tempted to eat high-calorie food. Since nobody likes to cook at midnight, it's easy to get tempted to grab some prepackaged, high-calorie food items.
Unhealthy Late-night Snacks: Foods to Avoid at Night
You must avoid unhealthy snacks at all costs. This includes everything high in sugar, fat, and salt. Following are some examples:
Candies & Cookies
It's normal to crave sweets after dinner, but please do not give in. Remember that candies, chocolates, and cookies are loaded with sugar and have no nutritional value. Go for dark chocolate or fruit instead.
Spicy & Overly Salty Food
Spicy food can increase your heart rate, making it difficult to fall asleep. So, it is a big NO from our side! Not to mention, too much salt is equally bad for your health.
Tips for Nighttime Snacking
While it is recommended not to make it a habit and avoid nighttime snacking as much as you can, if hunger does hit you in the middle of the night, make sure you follow these three tips:
Not More Than 400 Calories
Limit your calorie intake to 400 calories or less to prevent risks of weight gain.
Veggies and Fresh Fruits
Try opting for veggies and fresh fruits first. They are easy to digest and packed with nutrients, making them the best late-night snacks one can have.
Low-sugar snacks won't let you get plumper. They'd also stabilize your blood sugar levels and avoid sugar spikes during sleep.
The bottom line is that it is okay to have some snacks before bed once in a while – given that you are really hungry. If this is something you often experience, make sure you keep some healthy night snacks on hand from next time onwards.
The key is to know what to eat at night and choose foods that contain fiber, protein, and healthy fat instead of sugary and spicy stuff. To assist you in this mission, we have compiled 30 late-night snack ideas in this guide and some essential tips regarding the same. We hope you find it helpful!