It’s Monday night and work was a bear.
You’ve been dreaming of your couch all afternoon and now it’s finally your chance to take a load off.
Tonight calls for late-night television and a big bag of chips.
Or maybe you are looking for a sweet nighttime treat like those homemade chocolate chip cookies from your neighbor down the street.
These would pair perfectly with a little ice cream you have tucked in the freezer for emergencies.
Or maybe that cold slice of pizza from the night before.
A lot of us are guilty of raiding the cabinets in the evenings, looking to wind down with a bedtime snack.
Unfortunately, this late-night snacking may be tipping those scales out of your favor.
It could also be messing with your circadian rhythm.
Sacrificing sleep for screen time and indulgent late-night cravings could be putting you at risk.
Not to mention a full stomach in the middle of the night does not always set you up to feel great the next morning.
Don’t worry though, not all evening treats are bad.
Take it from a Nutritionist (RDN), when real hunger strikes, a small snack before bedtime can be beneficial if you choose the right foods.
So how do we choose what to eat before bed?
Let’s take a look at some of the best late-night snack options.
15 Best Late Night Snacks
1. Banana With Almond Butter
You may know banana and peanut butter but there’s another nut butter in town that’s starting to grow in popularity.
Next time you feel a twinge of post-dinner hunger, grab a small banana and a tablespoon (16-grams) of unsweetened almond butter for a delightful, guilt-free treat.
With natural carbs from the banana and a good source of protein and healthy fats from the almond butter, this 165-calorie treat packs a nutrient-rich punch.
This powerful combo may even help you sleep.
Bananas are well-known to be rich in potassium but they are also a good source of magnesium.
Studies have shown magnesium to aid in the production of the hormone melatonin (Abbasi, Behnood, et al., 2012).
This hormone helps to promote more efficient sleep.
Almonds are also rich in magnesium as well as many other vitamins and minerals that contribute to a healthy diet.
Getting adequate amounts of these nutrients helps to ensure sufficient melatonin levels for optimal sleep quality.
Not a fan of anything on your bananas?
Grab a handful of almonds instead.
Another nutrient-packed bedtime snack is the pistachio.
Not only are these little green goodies fun to eat, but they’re also rich in magnesium and vitamin B6.
Similar to bananas, these nutrients help to promote the production of melatonin.
Pistachios are also a natural source of melatonin themselves.
A diet rich in natural sources of melatonin has been shown to help you get a good night’s sleep (Meng, Xiao et al., 2017).
Pistachios are also a great plant-based protein source that can help promote weight management.
Because of their protein content, they are a satisfying option compared to high processed treats such as chips, pretzels, crackers, or chocolate chip cookies.
A 1-ounce serving of pistachios is about 160 calories, 6-grams of plant-based protein, and only 8-grams of carbs.
So don’t be afraid to get crackin’!
3. Goji Berries
You may have heard of these little red berries referred to as superfoods.
Native to Asia, goji berries have a history of medicinal use.
High in antioxidants, these little berries have been shown to help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases and even improve longevity (Ma, Zheng Feei, et al., 2019).
Goji berries are most commonly found in the United States in dried form, similar to raisins, or as an addition to a nutrition supplement or powder.
You can top your yogurt or oatmeal with a small amount for an antioxidant boost to your midnight snacks.
Goji berries are high in naturally occurring sugars, so be mindful of your portion size.
Four tablespoons of goji berries contain only 80 calories and about 10 grams of sugar.
4. Whole-Grain Crackers and Hummus
This powerful duo is not only satiating, it’s wildly delicious.
Combine your favorite whole-grain crackers with a serving (2-tablespoons) of hummus for a nutrient-rich snack that will meet your savory craving.
Chickpeas help to boost our serotonin levels.
Serotonin is an essential precursor for the production of melatonin, helping you to get better sleep.
High in fiber and complex carbs, this evening treat will keep you feeling full without over-indulging.
The chickpeas in hummus, along with the whole grains are a good source of fiber.
Fiber is what helps to make us feel fuller during meals.
At about 70 calories per serving and only 4-grams of carbs, hummus is a great addition to any diet.
Trying to cut down on gains?
Try swapping out the crackers for veggies instead, such as carrots or cucumbers.
You can also put some on a slice of whole-grain bread for a different take.
5. Oatmeal With cinnamon
A coveted breakfast in some households, hot cereal, such as oatmeal with cinnamon is an easy, healthy, and hearty late-night snack option.
Whether you choose leftovers from the morning prior or you chose to pop them in the slow cooker earlier in the day, this simple option is loaded with nutrients.
Oats are packed with heart-healthy fiber and whole grains, containing 4-grams of fiber per 1-cup cooked.
Pop them in the microwave and sprinkle them with a dash of cinnamon to crush those sweet cravings.
Cinnamon has been shown to help improve blood sugar levels, leading to less cravings and more satisfaction during meals or snacks (Safdar, Mahpara, et al., 2004).
A half-cup plain oatmeal cooked with water is about 150 calories and 27 grams of complex carbohydrates.
6. Greek Yogurt
A complete protein source loaded with calcium, greek-style yogurt is not only nutritious, but it’s also convenient.
No need to create an elaborate evening snack in order to choose a healthy option.
Rich in probiotics, this filling dairy treat will help aid in digestion.
Be sure to check the label prior to purchase to avoid choosing one with a lot of added sugars.
6-ounces of plain Greek yogurt range in calories from 60-90 and about 5-grams of carbohydrates making it low-carb friendly.
You can even add some fresh fruit on top to make it more of a decadent treat without the guilt.
Try yogurt made from low-fat milk to further reduce the calorie content.
Another wonderful option for an evening nosh is edamame.
Edamame is a great plant-based protein source, especially for those who are vegan or vegetarian.
If you’ve never tried it, these are your soybeans.
They come in green pods that are delightful when steamed a lightly seasoned with just a hint of sea salt.
Their high protein and fiber content makes these beans a filling snack.
At about 150 calories per half-cup serving and 9 grams of carbohydrates, these are a great option for any snacker.
8. Peanut Butter and Apple Slice
If you’ve never tried this delightful pair, you are missing out.
Next time you get the late-night munchies, try dipping your apple slices in a little peanut butter goodness.
The protein and healthy fats in peanut butter help to compliment the high carb content of the apple slices for a nutritious boost that will keep you feeling satisfied.
Peanuts also contain the amino acid Tryptophan.
Tryptophan helps the body to produce serotonin.
As mentioned earlier, serotonin is necessary for the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone.
Tryptophan can also be found commonly in foods such as turkey which is why most of us feel so tired after a big Thanksgiving dinner.
1 small apple contains about 60-calories and 21-grams of carbohydrates and 2-tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 200-calories and about 6-grams of carbohydrates.
9. Walnuts, Almonds
A one-fourth cup serving of most nuts, such as walnuts or almonds is a great evening snack option.
Not only are these nuts filling and nutritious, but they also help to curb that salty craving we sometimes get in the evenings without going overboard.
Almonds and walnuts both contain tryptophan, although there are slightly higher levels found in almonds.
These nuts also contain good fats, known to help protect against heart disease.
Just be careful to stick with the one-fourth cup servings size as they can easily be over-eaten if distracted.
One-fourth cup serving of nuts typically contains about 160-calories and about 7-grams of carbohydrates.
Sometimes we just want something reminiscent of hitting the movies with some friends.
Similar to yogurt, there are healthy popcorn options available that would make a great evening snack.
Be wary to check food labels for added ingredients and high salt content.
Instead, choose an air-popped popcorn that does not have added butter, salt, or sugar.
Popcorn is another complex carb that helps to boost serotonin levels and improve sleep.
Bonus, you can eat a larger serving!
One serving size of air-popped popcorn is about 4-5 cups (or 2-tablespoons of kernels) and is about 120-150 calories.
Coming in at about 30 grams of complex carbohydrates, be mindful if you are watching your blood sugars.
11. Tart Cherries
Commonly seen dried, Montmorency tart cherries are a sweeter, sassier version of raisins.
Low in calories and high in nutrients, these red delights are quite versatile.
They have even been shown to improve conditions such as high blood pressure, enhance brain function, improve blood glucose and reduce inflammation (Alba C, Mayta-Apaza, et al., 2019).
Perfect for trail mix or just munching plain, if you have not tried them yet you might consider it.
Tart cherries are yet another food that helps to supply melatonin to improve sleep.
In fact, studies have found tart cherry juice to be a beneficial treatment for insomnia (Pigeon, Wilfred R, et al., 2010).
Be sure to monitor the serving size of this, however, as fruit juices contain high amounts of natural sugars.
Too much of this in one sitting can negatively affect blood sugar levels for those with diabetes or insulin resistance.
40-grams (1.5-ounces) of dried, no sugar added Montmorency tart cherries contain about 130-calories and 30-grams of carbs.
Mix them with some nuts and you have a delicious, sweet and savory, no-fuss snack when hunger strikes.
Rich in serotonin, snacking on 1-2 kiwis in the evening can be a great way to meet that sweet tooth without the worry of staying up all night with a sugar rush.
Kiwis are also rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidant-rich foods have been shown to improve sleep, inflammation, and overall health.
Kiwis are a great source of vitamin C which has strong antioxidant properties that have been shown to reduce stress from sleep deprivation (Olayaki, L A et al., 2015).
Not to mention they are delicious.
With about 40 calories per kiwi and 10-grams of carbohydrates, these low-calorie fuzzy fruits can be easily added to other evening snacks such as yogurt.
13. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are another evening superfood you can add to the list.
These little green seeds contain tryptophan, the amino acid helpful for sleep.
They also contain a good source of zinc which helps to convert this amino acid into serotonin, the precursor for melatonin.
Combine pumpkin seeds with another smart bedtime snack.
Top your oatmeal or yogurt with them or even enjoy them with some tart cherries and a handful of almonds in a homemade trail mix.
100-grams (or 3.5-ounces) of pumpkin seeds contains around 130-calories, 15-grams of carbs, and a whopping 18-grams of fiber.
14. Fruits and Veggies
A small study in the UK found that there is a strong relationship between diet and sleep quality, specifically low fruit and veggie intake (Noorwali, Essra A., et al., 2018).
Carotenoids present in apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, sweet potatoes, and many other fruits and veggies are necessary to help you reach those deeper stages of sleep.
Adequate amounts of the nutrients from these foods can help to decrease your risk of sleep conditions such as insomnia.
Bonus, they can also boost your metabolism which is commonly slowed in those with chronic sleep disturbance.
Don’t just save those produce items for earlier in the day, enjoy them in the evenings as well!
This hearty grain is a natural source of melatonin (Meng, Xiao et al., 2017).
Enjoy it in a hot cereal similar to oatmeal for a nutritious midnight treat.
Add some cinnamon or top with fruits such as strawberries, raisins, or goji berries.
Low in saturated fat and sodium and high in fiber, barley is incredibly filling, cost-effective, and nutritious.
one-half cup cooked barley contains about 175-calories, 37-grams of complex carbs, and about 9-grams of heart-healthy fiber.
Foods to Avoid Before Bed
Now that you have a good idea of some healthy bedtime snack options, let’s take a look at those snacks we really should limit or avoid in the evening time.
Although we love our coffee in the morning, caffeinated beverages are best avoided in the evenings as they can impair our sleep quality.
This can be trickier than most people think.
Caffeine is in many other beverages aside from just coffee.
You can also find it in tea, some sodas such as Coke and Pepsi, energy drinks, and some pre-workout shakes.
Drinking a lot of caffeine before bed can also lead to dependency which can increase the risk for conditions such as insomnia.
Instead, choose to consume caffeinated drinks before 2 pm to ensure good sleep or opt for a caffeine-free option instead.
Salty treats are the most common late-night craving.
Whether you are reaching for chips, pretzels, or leftover chicken wings, high salt foods can impact your sleep.
Unfortunately, highly salty foods can cause, water retention, dehydration, and fatigue.
Although feeling tired before bed may seem like a good thing, don’t be fooled.
This fatigue can disrupt the quality of your sleep.
If this cycle is repeated often it can cause chronic sleep issues.
If you are a lover of all things spicy, you may consider leaving those indulgences earlier in the day.
Spicy foods before bed can lead to uncomfortable side effects such as heartburn, acid reflux, or indigestion.
If you already struggle with these symptoms you may also consider avoiding highly acidic foods right before bed such as pineapple, tomatoes, and citrus fruits.
Ice cream, cookies, and cookie dough, chocolate, and other sugary treats are also among those you want to limit or avoid late in the evening to ensure better sleep.
This is also true for any sweet including things like high sugar cereal.
That much sugar right before bed is a recipe for tossing and turning.
Instead, opt for a nutrient-rich snack that won’t give you a pre-bedtime sugar rush.
Although often considered a healthy alternative to other sweets, dark chocolate is on this list as well.
Dark chocolate contains tryptophan however, it also contains caffeine which can inhibit sleep.
It also contains theobromine, another stimulant that increases heart rate.
Because of this, the National Sleep Foundation avoiding it before bed.
It is always best to give your body a good chance to digest prior to hitting the hay.
Avoid eating a large amount of anything for at least 2-hours before laying down for the evening.
Failing to do this will likely result in stomach upset, indigestion, heartburn, or acid reflux.
These uncomfortable symptoms will undoubtedly result in sleep disturbance.
Evening snacking is a common occurrence for many people.
You want to consider your food choices when snacking before bedtime to avoid difficulty with sleep, digestion, and weight gain.
Swap out that slice of pizza or bag of chips for a healthier alternative that will also give you better sleep.
Choose caffeine-free beverages after 2 pm and limit or avoid any highly spiced, sugary, or salty foods for midnight munching.
Be sure to ask your health care professional before making any big changes to your diet and never go against professional medical advice.
Armed with this list of great evening snacking options, you will be feeling your best in no time.
You may also like:
- 32 Dietitians Approved Healthy Snacks for Weight Loss
- 30+ Gluten-Free Snacks You Actually Want to Eat
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- Meng, Xiao et al. “Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin.” Nutrients vol. 9,4 367. 7 Apr. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9040367
- Ma, Zheng Feei et al. “Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action.” Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity vol. 2019 2437397. 9 Jan. 2019, doi:10.1155/2019/2437397
- Alba C, Mayta-Apaza et al. “Tart Cherries and health: Current knowledge and need for a better understanding of the fate of phytochemicals in the human gastrointestinal tract.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition vol. 59,4 (2019): 626-638. doi:10.1080/10408398.2017.1384918
- Olayaki, L A et al. “Vitamin C Prevents Sleep Deprivation-induced Elevation in Cortisol and Lipid Peroxidation in the Rat Plasma.” Nigerian journal of physiological sciences : official publication of the Physiological Society of Nigeria vol. 30,1-2 5-9. 20 Dec. 2015
- Noorwali, Essra A., et al. “The relationship between sleep duration and fruit/vegetable intakes in UK adults: a cross-sectional study from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey.” BMJ open 8.4 (2018): e020810.
- Pigeon, Wilfred R et al. “Effects of a tart cherry juice beverage on the sleep of older adults with insomnia: a pilot study.” Journal of medicinal food vol. 13,3 (2010): 579-83. doi:10.1089/jmf.2009.0096
- Safdar, Mahpara, et al. “Effect of various doses of cinnamon on blood glucose in diabetic individuals.” Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 3.5 (2004): 268-272.