Despite our best efforts to get a good night’s sleep (read: hitting the hay at 10 p.m., taking an Instagram hiatus and keeping our phone off the nightstand), there’s one crucial factor that all too frequently keeps us tossing and turning: We’re hungry. Instead of resigning ourselves to raiding the kitchen for whatever leftovers we can find and eating them by the light of the refrigerator (looking at you, Buffalo wings), we did a deep dive for better-for-you munchies that won’t give you a stomachache before bed. Here, the 25 best healthy midnight snacks that we’d eat any time of day.
25 Healthy Midnight Snacks for Late Night Munching
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Is It Unhealthy to Eat Late at Night?
In a perfect world, we wouldn't eat right before bed. "This is inherently problematic," explains Dr. Felicia Stoler, registered dietitian, nutritionist and exercise physiologist. "Late-night foods should not spend too much time in the stomach [because they can] potentially cause reflux."
If you absolutely *need* a snack, Stoler recommends having something balanced with protein, carbs and not too much fat to hold you over through the night. "Yogurt, milk (plain or flavored), cottage cheese and nut butters are examples of ideal late-night foods because they have all three macronutrients, are easily digestible (meaning they spend the least amount of time in your stomach and can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream to maintain overnight blood glucose levels)," she explains. Skip anything acidic, robustly seasoned, spicy, high in fat or high in sugar, and stick to a small portion.
What Time Should We Stop Eating?
There's no concrete answer to this. "The idea of not eating after a certain time has to do with the position of the head, neck and stomach, especially for people with reflux," notes Stoler. "You want all contents out of your stomach pouch by the time you lay down. This is why high fat, high protein and big chunks of food are not ideal, because they take longer to leave the stomach." So what does that mean for you? Basically, it depends, but a good rule of thumb per The Cleveland Clinic is to stop eating about three hours before bed.
Read on for 25 healthy snacks to nosh on any time of day (and, OK, before bed if you must).
We knew there was a reason we loved chickpeas. “They're packed with protein—three grams for every two tablespoons,” says Dr. Daryl Gioffre, a New York City-based nutritionist and author of Get Off Your Acid. “Chickpeas are high in lysine, and tahini is a rich source of the amino acid methionine. Individually, [chickpeas and tahini] are incomplete proteins, but when you combine them to make hummus, they create a complete protein.”
Why are complete proteins so important, you ask? Basically, they keep you full, which means no more tossing and turning over a rumbly stomach. “For a late night snack, you can use hummus as a dip for raw veggies or Ezekiel bread,” says Gioffre. Don’t mind if we do.
You probably associate oatmeal with the early morning hours, but it has plenty of nighttime benefits too. For starters, oats are a complex carb that break down slowly, controlling blood sugar spikes that might mess with your sleep. And if you find a warm bowl of oatmeal cozy and soothing, you’re not alone. According to a Columbia University study, the carbs actually work with your brain to release the neurotransmitter serotonin, which coaxes you into a tranquil state and helps your body produce melatonin for a restful night of sleep.
You’re trying to quell a craving, not put yourself in a full-on food coma. That’s where popcorn comes into play. The crisp, salty snack is naturally light (a whopping three-cup serving clocks in at about 100 calories), so you can nosh without getting weighed down before bed. As long as it's not covered in butter and salt, it's a solid choice. Oh, and there’s also the complex carb factor again—a whole-grain bedtime snack will stick to your ribs much longer than a cookie or bowl of ice cream…as tempting as those sound. Invest in an air popper, which will pop the corn kernels with—you guessed it—air instead of oil or butter.
We already know that Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, but we had no idea that it could help us catch ZZZs. The calcium in yogurt helps your brain use tryptophan and melatonin, and one University of Pennsylvania sleep study even suggests that it can help you stay asleep longer. Instead of loading up on sugary sweetener (which can potentially throw your blood sugar out of whack), top your bowl with fresh fruit and crunchy chia seeds. (Oh, and if you’re prone to heartburn and indigestion, which can be caused by fatty foods, stick to a low-fat option.)
Who knew our childhood favorite was actually a prime midnight snack? Here’s why: According to the National Sleep Foundation, peanut butter is a natural source of tryptophan (aka an amino acid that induces sleepiness). And carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain. Consider the combination of protein-rich peanut butter and complex carbs pure bedtime magic.
What’s salty, crunchy and a surefire way to put you to sleep? Pumpkin seeds, of course. According to the American Sleep Association, these are a good source of the sleep-inducing mineral magnesium and amino acid tryptophan. They're also packed with zinc, which can help the brain convert tryptophan into serotonin. Not to mention they're satisfyingly crunchy and savory to boot.
Remember how your high school track coach told you to eat bananas to prevent or soothe leg cramps? That’s because bananas contain potassium, which aids in muscle relaxation. Combine that with peanut butter for a winning midnight snack, since it's not only delicious but also full of healthy fats to keep you satisfied, says the Cleveland Clinic. And while you could certainly slap some PB on a ripe banana and call it a day, why not make a healthy two-ingredient ice cream treat out of the combo?
If you’re lazy like us, you don’t want to do much work for a snack. A small handful of nuts fits the no-cook bill, thanks to their high protein content and healthy fats. Gioffre says that nuts (specifically organic ones) “are nutritional powerhouses that can help regulate blood sugar level, fight inflammation, decrease hunger urges, help weight loss and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.” His go-tos? “Raw almonds, pistachios and macadamias. [They're] high in healthy fats, they suppress hunger, optimize brain function and help you burn fat.”
Plus, according to the National Sleep Foundation, almonds and walnuts specifically contain the sleep-regulating hormone melatonin. Just make sure you stick to a handful and not the whole bag—that works out to about 200 calories per quarter cup, give or take.
Speaking of nuts, almond butter is an equally convenient grab-and-go option. And considering that a quarter cup of almonds contains 24 percent of your daily recommended magnesium intake, plus tryptophan and potassium, they’re a no-brainer for late night hunger pangs. Magnesium is a great relaxation mineral too, so it will help you wind down as bedtime approaches. Almond butter also boasts heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals, which are good for you any time of day, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. As long as the almond butter you choose is raw and free of added sugar, it has all the benefits of whole almonds.
10. Turkey Sandwich
- Try It: Turkey Lettuce Wrap Sandwich
- Buy It: 365 by Whole Foods Market Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast Deli Slices
You’ll never forget when your Uncle Bill fell asleep at the table last Thanksgiving. It was probably thanks to the turkey, which is known for being rich in serotonin-producing tryptophan. That’s exactly what makes it a smart midnight snack. Pair it with whole-grain bread to sneak in some complex carbs (you can also go the route of jasmine rice or sweet potatoes, says Northwestern Medicine), or keep it low-cal and layer some slices in a lettuce wrap instead.
Cottage cheese got a bad rap for being a bland, boring weight-loss staple back in the day, but it’s a hidden gem for insomniacs (not to mention tasty to boot). The lean protein (which comes from slow-digesting casein) helps boost that aforementioned serotonin and, according to a recent study by Cambridge University, can actually help you hit your weight-loss goals while you sleep by helping you feel more satiated and increasing your resting energy expenditure the next morning. Want to boost the snooze-factor? Top a half-cup serving with raspberries for a 100-calorie midnight snack with an added touch of melatonin.
Memorize this equation: Protein plus fiber equals the best night’s sleep of your life. Edamame (aka soybeans in their pods) have both going for them, so they're a natural choice when you need a quick bite. And specific compounds in soy (called soy isoflavones) have been found to potentially increase the duration of sleep, according to this Japanese study.
By now, you can probably guess why eggs are a healthy midnight snack: They’re protein-rich and full of tryptophan. The American Sleep Association says they might make you sleepy for that reason, but we also love that they’re portioned and packaged for easy eating. Plus, you already have a stash of jammy eggs in your fridge for topping salads and toast, right?
When it comes to sleep, cheese is a surprisingly sound choice. That’s because it’s high in calcium, which has been tied to better sleep. It’s also loaded with protein, plus some tryptophan and melatonin for good measure. Pair a few slices of cheese with whole-grain crackers, sprouted bread or apple slices for the ultimate protein-carb combination.
15. Avocado Toast
Good news for anyone who worships at the avo toast altar: Dr. Gioffre calls the fruit (yep, it’s a fruit) “God’s butter.” That’s because it has “a nice balance of healthy fats, more potassium than bananas and plenty of fiber to keep your digestion in check.” Want to bring it up a notch? Dr. Gioffre suggests making your toast with sprouted bread, tomato, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and black pepper.
16. Fresh Vegetables
- Try It: Spring Crudités with Romesco Sauce
- Buy It: Earthbound Farm Organic Vegetable Tray with Ranch Dip
You can never go wrong with raw veggies. The trick is making them exciting enough that you actually want to eat them. (This roasted red pepper sauce will do just that, but you can also lean on whatever dressing you have stowed away in the fridge.) The only caveat? Steer clear of veggies that contain a ton of fiber (like carrots and beets) to avoid being bloated and gassy before bed, says Sleep Health Solutions. Cruciferous veggies, like broccoli and cauliflower, are also best avoided late at night because they contain a large amount of insoluble fiber. Instead, go for lettuce, kale, tomatoes and fruits, like kiwi and cherries.
If avocado toast is on the to-snack list, then so is guacamole. As Gioffre stated above, avocado's healthy fats will keep you full and its potassium content could help you sleep better. Additional ingredients in the guac can also boost your slumber: Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene, which aids in heart and bone health, as well as sleep-inducing potassium, while tryptophan-rich onions help lower your stress level and aid in relaxation. (Just go light on the lime juice, onions and jalapeños if you have acid reflux or indigestion.) For a twist on the dip, try this avocado hummus that boasts two nutritionist-recommended staples in one creamy package. Dip pita chips, cherry tomatoes or crackers, or sneak a spoonful and call it a night.
Why should mornings get to have all the fun? Smoothies can be sipped at night too, and they're as healthy as whatever you put in them. Blending many sleep-inspiring foods like tart cherry juice, pistachios or avocado could help you get maximum cozy. If you use kefir or yogurt in the smoothie, the probiotics could also possibly help the release of serotonin in your brain, says nutrition expert Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN. Add magnesium-rich hemp or chia seeds for even more sleep support. The avocado and chia seeds in this green smoothie will keep you feeling full, while the banana and Granny Smith apple make it naturally sweet enough to satisfy a late night craving.
19. Veggie Chips
Our kryptonite: Potato chips. We can eat a million of 'em without even blinking, but sleeping after all that salt and oil leaves us feeling bloated and greasy. Luckily, these zucchini alternatives are just as crisp and tasty, minus the frying. But there are a slew of other vitamin-rich types to snack on too, like turnip chips, carrot chips and sweet potato chips. As long as they're baked instead of fried (or air-fried without oil), they're a solid option, says Sleep Advisor.
We've never met a French fry we didn't like, but since these are baked instead of fried, they contain way less fat—and are less fussy to prepare. They're also made with sweet potatoes, which contain a ton of vitamins and minerals, plus a bit of protein to hold you over before bedtime. But most importantly, they're teeming with relaxing potassium, magnesium and calcium, especially if you leave their skin on. Their carb content will make it easier for your brain to absorb the tryptophan, which will then be converted to serotonin-producing niacin.
21. Beef Jerky
Protein is the way to go when you feel a late night craving coming on, as long as you don't consume too much of it. Eating a large portion before bed may keep your body up longer than you'd like for the sake of digestion, plus too much pre-bedtime protein may give you a surplus of energy before hitting the hay. But if you're craving something savory and filling, it's OK to have a small piece or two. Jerky is a great source of protein and iron; just note that it can also be high in sodium, since it's typically cured in a salt solution. So, you shouldn't nosh on it 24/7, especially if you have high blood pressure. Make your own in advance instead of leaning on store-bought processed jerky.
22. Cereal and Milk
Like oatmeal, cereal is just as good for you at night as it is first thing in the morning. Since many corn-based cereals contain high-glycemic carbs, they could potentially reduce the time it takes for you to fall asleep. Even better, milk is a great source of calcium, a mineral that's essential for the production of melatonin. Choose something with minimal sugar and use low-fat milk to keep your calories low and to make the meal more digestible.
23. White Rice
- Try It: Antoni Porowski's Salmon and Spinach Rice Bowl with Green Tea Broth
- Buy It: 365 by Whole Foods Market White Thai Jasmine Rice
White rice's high glycemic index means that it will give your blood sugar and insulin a natural boost, consequently helping the tryptophan lull your brain to sleep, says the American Sleep Association. Not to mention that rice is high in magnesium, which also aids in sleep, and it's easy to digest, according to dietitian Samina Qureshi, RD. Want to make it even more satisfying and soothing? Pair it with green tea broth and even salmon, if you're feeling extra hungry—fatty fish's high levels of vitamin D may help improve the quality of your sleep too.
For those nights when your heart cries "ice cream," but your brain says "we can do better than that." Here's the catch: Sorbet tends to be lower in fat than dairy ice cream, but just as high in sugar. Finding a sugar-free one—or better yet, making your own from pure fruit—is important to make sure you don't get a sugar rush before hitting the pillow. (On that note, a 2014 study found that a diet high in sugar was linked to poor sleep overall.) Frozen yogurt is also a solid ice cream alternative. Choose any flavor sorbet you'd like, but we're partial to this twice-frozen watermelon version that doesn't call for additional sugar. You'll have an easy time digesting it if it's dairy-free and as close to pure fruit as possible.
You love hummus—why not celebrate these tiny gems in their smashed form? Chickpeas boast protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, making them a popular healthy choice. But they also have a ton of sleep-inducing tryptophan, complex carbs and folate, which can help regulate your sleeping patterns. The actual measurements and ingredients here can be adjusted to your liking, so taste as you go and add more or less to make it delicious.