There are a few reasons you might be snacking at night and unfortunately if you’re not careful with your snack choices, your evening munchy habit can result in weight gain and a night of fitful rest.
Here’s why you snack at night and 10 better-for-you snacks to reach for.
Why you’re snacking at night
This may come as a surprise but your willpower isn’t entirely to blame for your late-night noshing. Researchers say that it’s actually our internal clocks—known as our circadian clocks— that trigger us to reach for sweet, salty and starchy foods at night—specifically around 8pm.
The reason for this is because it helped to prompt our ancestors to load up on high-calorie foods for survival—but times have obviously changed and we no longer need to stockpile fat to survive. Unfortunately, those pesky light-night cravings are still innate.
Other reasons you might be overeating at night is because you overly restrict calories throughout the day, leaving you hungry at night. This is especially true for some important macronutrients like protein and fiber which help to keep you satiated for longer and support healthy weight loss.
Another possibility is that you’re not drinking enough water throughout the day and you’re dehydrated. Lack of hydration has been scientifically shown to mimic hunger and lead to overeating. In clinical studies, 37% of people mistake thirst for hunger thanks to the empty stomach, gurgling and light headedness that can also accompany dehydration. Make sure you’re getting at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
And lastly, you may be failing to manage stress levels. Elevated cortisol levels caused by stress is a well-known contributor to food cravings. Make sure you’re managing stress by exercising, meditating, practicing breathwork, yoga and more and you’ll likely find that you’re less inclined to eat your stress away.
Better-For-You Late-Night Snacks
That said, just because you have a growling tummy as bedtime approaches doesn’t mean you should go to bed hungry. You just have to choose the right late-night snacks that won’t derail your weight-loss efforts—or interfere with sleep.
Here are the 10 best late-night snacks that are not only nutrient-dense but may even help you fall—and stay—asleep.
1. If you have a sweet tooth: Try low-sugar dark chocolate
If you have a sweet tooth at night but you’re watching your waistline and worry about compromising sleep, upgrade your chocolate. Dark chocolate has an enormous amount of positive research around it for its heart-health benefits and more. Look for a dark chocolate that has no more than four grams of sugar per serving and is at least 70% dark chocolate (the higher the better). Snacks that are high in sugar are known to negatively impact a good night’s sleep.
2. If you crave salty snacks: Try cheese crisps
If you find yourself craving cheese in the evening, there’s a better alternative you may even prefer: Cheese crisps or cheese chips. You can easily make them yourself by grating parmesan or any hard cheese and baking them into little cheese chips but there are pre-packaged options too. Cheese crisps are low-carb, keto-friendly and gluten-free—all great for weight management—and they make a super satisfying bedtime snack. An added bonus is the combination of fat and protein that make for a good night’s sleep.
3. If you crave chips: Try sweet potato chips
What vegetable hasn’t been turned into a bag of healthy chips? Well, it’s sweet potato’s turn and we’re here for it. Rich in beta-carotene, sweet potato snacks are super satisfying and contribute to a restful sleep. In a study that looked at various foods for sleep support, participants that ate complex carbs before bed were three times more likely to have better sleep patterns.
4. If you like cookies: Try healthier, grain-free cookies
If nightfall turns you into a cookie monster then you’re in luck! There are now countless grain- and gluten-free cookie brands on the market. Just search for “healthy cookies” and look for all the aforementioned criteria. All that’s left to do is pour a glass of tryptophan-rich organic milk known to help you drift off to dreamland.
5. If you like candy: Try low-sugar, high-fiber gummy treats
Your typical gummy-style candies are not your friend when it comes to supporting a healthy weight—or a good night’s sleep. Luckily there are much better options available. Look for the next iteration of gummy sweets that are low in sugar and calories and pack a good amount of fiber, a macronutrient that supports satiety and improves sleep quality.
6. If you crave popcorn: Sprinkle on some Himalayan pink salt
Popcorn is the perfect couch snack but many varieties are loaded with salt, which has been shown to disrupt sleep. Make your own at home and sprinkle on some Himalayan pink salt instead. It’s high in potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that help support sound sleep.
7. If you like sour: Try dried tart cherries
Trade high-sugar sour candy for tart cherries and you’ll benefit everything from muscle repair to improved joint health, while also improving sleep. Tart cherry juice is another option that’s been shown to extend sleep. But if it’s a handheld snack you’re after, dried tart cherries are the perfect confection to help lull you to sleep.
8. If you crave cold and creamy snacks: Try Greek Yogurt
Replace your evening bowl of ice cream with something equally cold and creamy but worlds healthier: Greek yogurt. You’ll still get that satisfying mouthfeel but you’ll slash sugar and increase protein, healthy fats and gut-healthy probiotics—all great things for weight loss and restorative sleep.
9. If you crave nuts: Opt for cashews, pistachios and almonds
A handful of nuts is the perfect snack to fill a growling belly and also support good sleep. High in healthy fats and low in calories, cashews, pistachios and almonds contain melatonin, magnesium, and zinc, all studied for their sleep-supporting abilities.
10. For the health nut: Anything with quinoa
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you eat a bowl of quinoa as a midnight snack, although a sweetened version with raisins and maple syrup is delicious if you’ve never tried it! There are loads of snacks on the market that contain quinoa from crisps, cookies, muffins and more. The reason why quinoa makes so much sense before bed is because quinoa is a complex carb proven to help drift you to dreamland—not to mention that it’s a solid source of protein, which supports your weight-loss efforts.
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