10 Healthy Late Night Snacks to Ease Your Night-Time Tummy Rumbles

You’re lying in bed, trying to drift off to sleep. Then you hear it—the dreaded tummy rumble! Your stomach is telling you that it’s time to snack and, while your mind may be saying no, it’s hard to resist the urge. Every fiber in your body wants to leap out of bed and head straight to the kitchen cupboard or the fridge. You know you should grab something healthy, but wonder if a healthy midnight snack even exists.

If you want to know if there really is such a thing as a healthy late night snack, keep reading. We’ll teach everything that you need to know about this critical topic!

Why Do You Crave Snacks at Night?

Woman eating cookies and milk in bed as a late night snack
Cookies are tempting, but keep reading to see why you should grab a healthy midnight snack.

If you’re used to those late-night hunger pangs, you’re likely not alone. Research from Oregon Health & Science University suggests that the body’s internal clock, i.e. the circadian system, boosts your hunger for high-calorie foods in the evening.[1] The researchers stated that they believe that this urge to eat at night could have helped our ancestors to survive when food was less readily available.

However, these days, we don’t need to eat late at night, and yet the biological craving still exists. With that in mind, you shouldn’t be surprised if you have regular cravings for sweet, starchy, and salty snacks at night. The truth of the matter is that you may not be able to avoid these cravings, as your body is programmed to have them. That’s why finding healthy late night snacks could be the answer to your problem.

Do Good But Healthy Late Night Snacks Exist?

Woman trying to find a late night snack in her fridge
An all too familiar scenestaring inside the fridge trying to find the perfect late night snack.

First of all, let’s deal with the burning question here: Do healthy late night snacks exist? Logic tells you that eating food late into the night is unhealthy. To some extent, that’s correct. If you want to avoid weight gain, overeating when the evening comes is not the way to go. However, if you simply can’t ignore those cravings, you do have options. Here’s what the latest research on the matter says.

Eating main meals late is dangerous

Late night snacking is one thing but eating your meals late is a dangerous game to play. Research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that delaying your meal times could lead to weight gain and a rise in insulin and cholesterol.[2] For the healthiest results, you should try to keep a regular schedule and eat your main meals at the same times during the day. Try to avoid eating main meals after 7 PM.

Fact: Eating a full meal, such as dinner, late in the evening could lead to unexpected weight gain![3]

Some snacks help you sleep better

On the other hand, eating specific healthy late night snacks could actually benefit your sleep routine. For instance, research suggests that snacks that contain whey protein, such as milk, could help you to get a better night’s rest.[4] That means that, if you choose a milk-based snack, you may find that you snooze better than you usually would.

Protein-rich snacks support the metabolism

When you’re choosing your healthy late night snacks, you should ensure that they are rich in protein. Research suggests that eating just 30 grams of protein about 30 minutes before you go to bed could boost your metabolism and overall health.[5] It’s often not only about when you eat but what you decide to eat. Opting for a healthy midnight snack when you’re feeling peckish may not be so bad for you after all.

What Should I Look For When Selecting Healthy Midnight Snacks?

Woman eating fruit as a healthy late night snack in bed
Choosing a healthy late night snack will help you sleep better and ensure you don’t feel groggy after.

Looking for late night snack ideas? Before you head to the kitchen, there are some things that you need to keep in mind. There’s an art form to choosing the best late night snacks and you need to make sure that you get it right. Here are some of the things you should look out for when deciding what healthy late night snacks to eat.

  • Satisfying foods Of course, there are loads of different option to try, but you need to make sure that you choose something that satisfies your hunger. Protein and fiber filled foods tend to make us feel full. However, you should also focus on choosing snacks that taste great. Often enough, when we feel hungry, it’s because we crave flavor. Eating healthy late night snacks that give you a huge taste hit means you won’t be going back for more.
  • Protein-rich options As we’ve already mentioned, research suggests that eating protein-rich snacks directly before be may give your health and metabolism a boost.[6] With that in mind, when you’re choosing the best late night snacks for you, go for food that is packed with protein. For example, you might find that something like cottage cheese or a boiled egg works well.
  • Low-calorie snacks Needless to say, you shouldn’t be consuming copious amounts of calories in the night. However, research suggests that having a nutritious snack of 200 calories or less could be a healthy option.[7] When you’re choosing, keep the calorie count in mind and always opt for foods that score low. If you choose a snack that is typically high in calories, try reducing your portion size so that you bring the count down.

The 10 Best Late Night Snack Ideas

Now that you understand what you’re looking out for, let’s talk about the best late night snack ideas. We’ve got all the inspiration you could need right here. Check out these 10 healthy late night snacks and try them for yourself.

1. Goji berries

A wooden spoon with goji berries

Have you tried these tasty treats yet? Goji berries are one of the best superfoods out there and, as an added bonus, they make a good late night snack that’s healthy too. The berries contain a little melatonin, a byproduct that helps to regulate sleep.[8] That could mean that eating these snacks before you hit the hay will help you get some much-needed rest.

Research into the effect that goji berries have on a person’s sleep suggests that eating them can affect the quality of sleep you get.[9] A massive 80% of people who drank goji berry juice over the course of the two-week trial reported an improved level of sleep.

What’s more, 70% of people in the goji berry juice group said that they also found it easier to wake up in the morning than usual. While more research into the area is needed, the results of the current studies are encouraging.

Serving suggestion

Why not mix your goji berries into some warm oats? The combination of the whey protein from the milk and the melatonin from the berries could help to seriously improve your sleep!

2. Pistachio nuts

A pile of fresh pistachio nuts

Packing loads of protein and even more fiber, you can’t go wrong with a handful of pistachio nuts. They contain 25.3g of protein per 123g serving, meaning that they are extremely high in the good stuff.[10] In theory, the copious protein levels should mean that you don’t need too many of these nuts to start to feel full. As though that weren’t enough, they are a good source of dietary fiber too.[11]

On the other hand, you absolutely have to exercise portion control if you choose these as your healthy midnight snack. A 123g serving of the nuts comes in at a whopping 685 calories.[12] To avoid eating too much and gaining weight, you should cut that down. Aim for a 30g measurement of the nuts, which should come in at less than 200 calories.

Serving suggestion

Make sure that you get pistachio nuts that are still in their shells. Doing so means that you have to take extra time cracking them open, which makes the eating experience longer. With any luck, that will mean that your body has time to feel full and you won’t overeat!  

3. Edamame

A woman holding a bowl of freshly cooked edamame ready to eat as a healthy late night snack

Edamame beans are a healthful little snack that boasts protein and a whole load of vitamins too. Aside from being tasty and super fresh, the soybeans are strikingly low in calories, which means that they are one of the best late night snacks to choose. In fact, a 100g of shelled edamame comes in at just 140 calories.[13] They also boast the amino acid tryptophan, which may help your body to produce melatonin and regulate your sleep patterns.[14] Put simply, snacking on some soybeans could actually help you improve your sleep. That means that eating them right before bed might not be such a bad idea after all!

Serving suggestion

When buying fresh edamame beans, you will need to cook the pods for around five minutes in boiling water. You can also get pre-cooked soybeans that are ready to eat. Season your shelled edamame with some salt and pepper to give it some extra bite!

4. Whole Grain Toast

A variety of whole grain breads

Want something a little more filling? A slice of whole grain bread has only 68 calories, which means that it’s a great place to start when looking for healthy late night snacks.[15] Of course, you probably don’t fancy eating a piece of plain bread, so you’ll want to toast your slice and add some toppings to it before you get started.

Choosing whole grain bread rather than white bread options is essential. Whole grains offer you a huge amount of dietary fiber as well as vitamin B.[16] The high fiber content of the bread means that you will feel fuller for longer. So, if you’re looking for a quick and healthy midnight snack that satisfies your hunger, it could be the way to go.

Serving suggestion

The key here is finding the right thing to put on your toast. You want to avoid high-sugar options like jelly or marmalade. Choose a high-protein spread, such as some form of nut butter or even hummus.

5. Carrot sticks and hummus

Bowls of hummus and carrot sticks

Carrots are vitamin-rich vegetables that you shouldn’t overlook as a good late night snack. As if that weren’t enough to tempt you, this option is extremely low calorie. A 60g serving of raw carrots contains around 21 calories.[17] Plus, they have almost no fat and are rich in vitamins A, C, and K. With all of the above in mind, it’s obvious that choosing them as a healthy midnight snack is a seriously smart move.

When it comes to the hummus, you should keep in mind that it has a high-calorie count. Don’t make the mistake of overindulging when it comes to this one! Opt for 80g of the dip, which should come in at around 136 calories.[18] The same amount contains around 6g of protein, which means that it should make you feel full.[19] Exercising a little portion control here and there means that you can still enjoy the food you love without overdoing it.

Serving suggestion

One of the greatest things about these healthy late night snacks is that there’s minimal prep required! All you need to do is wash your carrots and cut them into sticks. Next, simply put them on a plate with a little hummus. Start dipping.

6. Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

A bowl of homemade roasted pumpkin seeds

Looking for something crunchy and satisfying? You might just have found it. Not only are roasted pumpkin seeds a fun snack, but they are also low in calories too. A 28g serving of these healthy late night snacks contains 146 calories.[20] They are also rich in magnesium, which could help to promote a healthier sleep pattern.[21] Plus, these snacks are quite cheap and you can keep them in your cupboard as your go-to healthy midnight snack.

Serving suggestion

Of course, you can eat roasted pumpkin seeds straight out of the bag. However, if you’d like to get a little more from your snack, why not add them to yogurt? The seeds make this sweet and healthful treat extra crunchy while adding a new dimension to the flavor.

7. Avocado

A whole avocado and a halved avocado on a wooden board

Whether you’re going vegan now or following the keto diet, an avocado could be a healthy midnight snack. This late night keto snack is high in healthy fats and packed full of protein.[22] However, one standard avocado contains around 322 calories, which is actually a little too heavy for a late night snack.[23] With that in mind, you should opt for a half avocado serving size, coming in at around 161 calories instead.

One of the biggest benefits of nibbling on avocado is that it boasts extremely high levels of potassium.[24] The mineral helps keep your muscles working well and lifts your mood too. [25] But its health-based benefits don’t stop there. It is also one of the minerals that researchers have identified as promoting sleep.[26] So, having some deliciously creamy avocado before you snuggle down for the night is a good idea.

Serving suggestion

Have you tried smashed avocado yet? It’s strikingly simple to get right. All you have to do is start with a super ripe avocado fruit. Make sure that it’s nice and soft. Cut it in half, remove the stone, and scoop out the flesh. Next, you have to mash the avocado with some lemon juice and salt. Enjoy!

8. Cottage Cheese

A bowl of cottage cheese on a teatowl

The old myth goes that you shouldn’t eat cheese at night but is that really the case? Research from Florida State University suggests that eating some protein-packed cottage cheese before bed can speed up your metabolism and improve your health.[27] Thankfully, this type of cheese is not as calorific as other types. In fact, a 100g serving of cottage cheese comes in at 98 calories.[28] That means that it could well be one of the best healthy late night snacks for weight loss.

Serving suggestion

Not sure where to start? Slather your cottage cheese on a slice whole grain toast or wrap it up in a whole grain tortilla! Whipping up a small sandwich or wrap means that you can satisfy those hunger pangs in no time at all.

9. Tart Cherries

Tart cherries, one of the best healthy late night snacks

Fancy snacking on some uber tart cherries before you hit the hay? These healthy late night snacks are set to be a huge food trend, and so it might be time to get on board. Studies have suggested that eating tart cherries can boost your melatonin levels and, as a result of that, improve your sleep.[29] So having the snacks around bedtime could lead to a restful night’s sleep. Despite their deceptively sweet taste, tart cherries aren’t too high in calories, either. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that a 40g serving comes in at around 140 calories.[30] Nice!

Serving suggestion

Tart cherries make good late night snacks, but you likely don’t want them on their own. Why not mix them into some yogurt? Failing that, you can also get tart cherry juice. A quick shot of the stuff will satisfy your hunger super fast.

10. Warm Milk

A woman sitting on her bed holding a cup of warm milk

There are few things as comforting as drinking a cup of warm milk before you go to bed. When you’re choosing a healthy midnight snack, sometimes it pays to opt for a classic. As we’ve previously covered, research suggests that the whey protein found in milk may help to promote healthy sleep functions.[31] Add that to the fact that having something warm and familiar helps you to relax and you’ve got a real recipe for success.

Of course, it’s important to remember that milk can be quite high in calories. For instance, 200 ml of 2% fat milk contains 179 calories.[32] That’s why you need to limit your portion size when making yourself a nighttime drink. Keep it small!

Serving suggestion

If you don’t want to stick with standard warm milk, you can mix things up – literally. By adding herbs and spices to your drink, you can make some sleep-inducing moon milk. It doesn’t take long to make at home and you’ll be so glad that you did!

Tip: Vegan? Lactose intolerant? No problem! There are loads of non-dairy milk alternatives that you can try.

10 Healthy Late Night Snacks to Ease Your Night-Time Tummy Rumbles

Conclusion

Midnight snacking doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. Now that you have some healthy late night snack ideas, you are armed with everything you need to improve your eating habits. Use these healthy late night snacks as a starting point but do your own research too and see what you can find. As you can see, having an evening treat can be delicious, nutritious, and totally guilt-free.

The 10 Healthiest Late Night Snacks Infographic

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References

  • [1] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.20351
  • [2] https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2017/june/timing-meals-later-at-night-can-cause-weight-gain-and-impair-fat-metabolism
  • [3] https://www.pennmedicine.org/news/news-releases/2017/june/timing-meals-later-at-night-can-cause-weight-gain-and-impair-fat-metabolism
  • [4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29617841
  • [5] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/presleep-protein-in-casein-supplement-or-wholefood-form-has-no-impact-on-resting-energy-expenditure-or-hunger-in-women/FA272FC2E0B8C9FF85C6DA0918EDFEB7
  • [6] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/presleep-protein-in-casein-supplement-or-wholefood-form-has-no-impact-on-resting-energy-expenditure-or-hunger-in-women/FA272FC
  • [7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25859885
  • [8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29361780
  • [9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18447631
  • [10] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3135/2
  • [11] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3135/2
  • [12] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3135/2
  • [13] https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/45339604?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=edamame&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=
  • [14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28799778
  • [15] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/baked-products/4846/2
  • [16] https://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/All-Star-Foods/Grains
  • [17] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/3026/2
  • [18] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4407/2
  • [19] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4407/2
  • [20] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3067/2
  • [21] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23853635
  • [22] https://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/nutrients
  • [23] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1843/2
  • [24] https://www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition/nutrients
  • [25] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18466657
  • [26] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26005400
  • [27] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/presleep-protein-in-casein-supplement-or-wholefood-form-has-no-impact-on-resting-energy-expenditure-or-hunger-in-women/FA272FC2E0B8C9FF85C6DA0918EDFEB7
  • [28] https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/11/2
  • [29] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22038497
  • [30] https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/45062346?fgcd=&manu=&format=&count=&max=25&offset=&sort=default&order=asc&qlookup=tart+cherry&ds=&qt=&qp=&qa=&qn=&q=&ing=
  • [31] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29617841
  • [32] https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/01175?man=&lfacet=&count=&max=25&qlookup=01175&offset=&sort=default&format=Abridged&reportfmt=other&rptfrm=&ndbno=&nutrient1=&nutrient2=&nutrient3=&subset=&totCount=&measureby=&Qv=2&Q322805=1&Q322806=1&Qv=1&Q322805=1&Q322806=1

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