We’ve been told that late night snacking is bad, but that may not be completely correct. It is true that giving in to midnight munchies could disrupt your sleep with indigestion and cause weight gain in the long run. So should you satisfy those nocturnal hunger pangs? The answer is simple: stick to nutritious and light snacks. Eating healthy snacks under 200 calories can not only alleviate hunger but also promote sleep, boost metabolism and contribute to body repair. Here are 10 healthy options for guilt free late night snacking.
If you’re in the mood for a small, crunchy snack, pistachios are the way to go. These nuts are chock-full of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps you sleep at night. Pistachios are also nutritious, with high levels of magnesium and Vitamin B6. The former helps the body maintain levels of the amino acid GABA, which can help slow down and relax the brain. Vitamin B6 is also essential in helping the body store and use energy from the protein and carbs you consume.
Serving suggestion: A handful of pistachios (about 28g or an ounce) is plenty for a light snack, amounting to around 160 calories.
If dried fruits are more up your alley, goji berries are an ideal midnight treat. Renowned as a superfood, goji berries are full of antioxidants and vitamins. It even has a unique antioxidant known as Lyceum barbarum polysaccharides. It has been proven to reduce risk of heart disease, cancer and promote skin cell regeneration. Goji berries can also help maintain your blood sugar levels late at night, allowing you to sleep undisturbed. Since the berries also contain Vitamin A and C, your immune system benefits as well.
Serving suggestion: At 98 calories a handful, dried goji berries can be enjoyed on their own for a quick snack. You can also use it as a topping on a midnight meal like oatmeal or yoghurt.
Crackers and Cheese
Packing both carbohydrates and protein, this classic combination can be a healthy and filling option to satisfy your late-night hunger. Cheese contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps the body make melatonin. Low fat cheeses in particular are high in tryptophan. Its high levels of calcium also help reduce stress and stabilise nerves, allowing you to rest better. Bran crackers are high in fibre while being low in sugar and salt. Both crackers and cheese can keep blood sugar levels regular for a good night’s sleep.
Serving suggestion: Pair three bran crackers with a one-ounce (28g) piece of hard cheese like cheddar for a savoury snack that’s only around 200 calories.
Popcorn isn’t reserved just for movies when it can be a satisfying and light late evening treat. Its high fibre content ensures that you’ll be filled, while its low Glycaemic Index (GI) can maintain blood sugar levels. In addition to sleep promoting tryptophan, popcorn is a great source of polyphenols. These antioxidants have been shown to promote blood circulation and better digestive health. Make sure that you prepare your own air-popped popcorn, as packaged popcorn may not provide the same health benefits. They’re often full of additives such as hydrogenated oils which can impact heart health.
Serving suggestion: Amounting up to only 165 calories, you can pop your own corn on the stove. Use 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 20 g of popcorn kernels and ½ a teaspoon of salt. You can even add in a sprinkle of parmesan.
Greek yoghurt can be a refreshing and nutritious option for nocturnal snackers. High in protein and low in sugar, this dairy treat is filling and won’t disrupt the glucose level in your blood. Much like cheese, Greek yoghurt is high in tryptophan, ensuring that you’ll be sound asleep. It’s also full of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that promote healthy digestion and good immunity.
Serving suggestion: Greek yoghurt boasts a low calorie count, with only 59 calories per every 100g serving. You can even top it off with your favourite selection of fruits and nuts for a punch of flavour.
Oatmeal is a wholesome snack that will ease you back into sleep while providing a boost of nutrition. Not only is it rich in tryptophan, oats are complex carbs with a high fibre content. This means that there will be no drop in blood sugar levels as you sleep. Milk added to your oatmeal can boost tryptophan levels, helping to induce melatonin production. Adding in fruits like bananas can also elevate the flavour profile. Bananas, for example, are high in potassium, helping to relax muscles and lower brain activity.
Serving suggestion: Make a serving of simple oatmeal (at 154 calories) with a 48g of rolled oats, 125 ml of milk, a dash of salt and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Cook for 3 minutes and garnish with sliced bananas, dried berries and a drizzle of honey.
Eggs are a quick nourishing snack that is versatile. They’re a great source of tryptophan and Vitamin D and contain substantial levels of protein. The calcium and zinc present in eggs also help the immune system. It also stabilises blood glucose, increases metabolism and satiates hunger, letting you sleep well.
Serving suggestion: At only 70 calories, a hardboiled egg is a fast and filling treat that can be prepared and stored away in advance. You can also prepare a simple scrambled egg and pair it with a toasted piece of whole-grain bread for more variety.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you can’t indulge. With a myriad of health benefits, swapping out milk chocolate for dark chocolate would be a smart snacking choice. Chock full of tryptophan, this sweet treat can help produce both melatonin and serotonin, improving both sleep and mood. It also has calcium, magnesium and plenty of fibre. Dark chocolate also contains theobromine, a compound that acts as a relaxant and regulates cardiovascular activities.
Serving suggestion: Break off 2 to 3 squares (1 ounce) of chocolate and enjoy a sweet treat that’s only 170 calories. Make sure that the chocolate is 70 per cent to 85 per cent cacao, with no added sugar.
Vegetables and Dip
If you want something a little fresher, you can opt for vegetables dipped in a creamy dip. Carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers are a great option here. Carrots contain alpha carotene, which is a compound proven to increase duration of sleep. Tomatoes also have a sleep-inducing nutrient known as lycopene. When whipping up a dip, stick to Greek yoghurt or cottage cheese-based variety. Hummus is also a delicious option. Chickpeas (in hummus) contain tryptophan and folate, both help to regulate sleep patterns.
Serving suggestion: Veggies are very low in calories so have a hearty serving with around 2 tablespoons of hummus (which adds in 50 calories).
By Thiyashi Koththigoda