You brushed your teeth, tucked yourself into bed and turned off the light. Suddenly you hear a loud noise. It's coming from inside your stomach. It doesn't matter that you've already eaten dinner or that you feel guilty about snacking right before bed, you know you won't sleep unless you heed the call in your belly. It's time to make some smart decisions, and we're here to help.
Although it's long been believed that late-night snacking of any kind adds to your waistline, messes with your sleep and jeopardizes your health, recent findings suggest that eating the right types of portion-controlled foods before bed might actually be good for your body. One paper by Florida State University researchers, published in the journal Nutrients, found evidence that consuming certain "small, nutrient-dense, low energy foods (under 200 calories)" pre-sleep could potentially "optimize health, metabolism and overall human performance."
So now that you're hovering over the fridge, what are the best options for your late-night snack? You better believe we have some ideas.
Avocados aren't just nutrient-rich and filling; they're power-packed with potassium, which studies suggest can help you sleep deeper and limit your potential for waking up in the middle of the night. Mash a little up and spread it onto a piece of whole-grain toast, another ingredient in a good night's sleep. "Complex carbohydrates like whole-grain breads are great because they release serotonin when digested, which helps calm you down," registered dietician Abby Langer tells Buzzfeed, adding that it's important to keep your night snacking to under 300 calories to avoid binge eating.
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If you'd rather not prep a meal, grab a handful of raw almonds (there are a little over 100 calories in 20 nuts). The protein and fiber in these snacks will quiet your rumbling stomach, and the magnesium found in almonds reduces stress levels and promotes better sleep. "Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep," writes sleep expert and TheSleepDoctor founder, Dr. Michael J. Breus. "Research indicates supplemental magnesium can improve sleep quality, especially in people with poor sleep...[and] can also help insomnia that's linked to the sleep disorder restless-leg syndrome."
Greek Yogurt Parfait with Strawberries
For a lo-cal treat that satisfies your sweet tooth, start with Greek yogurt (about 100 calories per container) which is loaded with casein, a particular kind of protein found to reduce morning hunger cravings when eaten the night before. Sprinkle on some strawberries (only 47 calories in a cup!) to sweeten the deal with a healthy dose of melatonin, which regulates sleep and may even increase metabolism to promote healthy weight loss.
Kiwis and Cottage Cheese
Rich in vitamin C and low in calories (only 42 calories in one), Kiwis are the perfect go-to fruit when you can't fight the midnight hunger pangs. As a natural source of serotonin, these fruits are especially helpful in reducing stress and relaxing your body into sleep. In one small study, adults who ate two kiwis an hour before bedtime were more likely to fall asleep faster and stay sleeping longer. Slice one up and add it to a small cup of cottage cheese (222 calories in a cup). "Cottage cheese is an excellent choice for a nighttime snack because it's low in carbohydrates and high in protein," writes Dr. Mike Roussell in Shape. "Don't shy away from "full-fat" cottage cheese, as 2/3 cup of full-fat cottage cheese contains less than 6 grams of fat, which will help you feel fuller and kill cravings."
Banana and Peanut Butter (With or Without Whole Grain Bread)
Bananas are an ideal ingredient in any late-night snack because they're packed with potassium and serotonin, which your body partially converts to the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. In a study published in the Journal of Pineal Research, participants who ate two bananas increased their melatonin blood levels by four times the amount after just two hours. One banana is about 100 calories, which leaves you with another 100 to use on a tablespoon of unsweetened peanut butter and a slice of whole grain bread. The nut spread offers a dose of tryptophan—that sleepy-making amino acid—which will help you get some shut-eye stat.
Fresh or frozen, these green soybeans are a quick and healthy way to satisfy your stomach. Clocking in at 189 calories a cup, Edamame contains ample nutrients like Vitamin K and folate which promote healthy bone growth. They're also rich in tryptophan which converts to melatonin in your body.
It's time to stock up the fridge with some healthy late night snacks that will make your grumbling stomach happy in the wee hours. Even if you're not hungry now, you will be later. Trust us.