Feeling hungry at night is the worst, especially when the painful grumblings of your empty stomach keep you awake at night. Fear not, you don’t need to go hungry anymore. Yes, you can actually eat past your dinner time. Wait, what? You thought it was bad to eat late at night?
In this post, with the help of registered Dietician, Abby Langer and Despina Hyde, a diabetes expert at NYU Langone Weight Management Program, we’re going to debunk some myths surrounding eating late at night and provide you with some snack ideas even your mom would approve of (bye, bye Pringles…)
Is it true that you won’t burn off anything you eat before going to bed?
Not quite. Sure, your metabolic rate will slow down a bit before you go to bed, says Langer, but it doesn’t stop completely. You don’t need to worry about that snack ‘automatically turning into stored fat’ either. A well-balanced snack that suppresses your hunger isn’t going to derail your efforts.
When it comes to weight management and shedding those extra pounds, the total amount of calories you consume throughout the day matters more than when you eat them.
Timing is not your enemy when it comes to weight loss, although Langer does recommend eating your largest meals when you’re most active during the day. The only time Langer recommends restricting nighttime eating is if you’re exhibiting binge eating symptoms and struggle to control your appetite.
In short, if you’re genuinely hungry, you should eat. It’s as simple as that. Listen to your body cues.
Always Starving Before Bed? There might be something else going on…
But what if you notice that you’re always hungry before going to bed? Well, this could be a sign that you’re not getting enough calories or protein to fill you up during the day. “If you restrict too much or fast during the day, your body will tell you it’s starving,” says Hyde.
This intense hunger can lead to serious late night bingeing, especially on high-carb, high sodium and high-fat (saturated!) foods because your body craves that instant kick of energy.
What’s best to eat before going to bed?
Not a heavy meal that’s for sure. A heavy meal makes your digestive system work harder which could cause cramping, bloating and even acid reflux in some cases. Ouch.
‘’If you notice any acid reflux symptoms, don’t eat within an hour of lying down’’, says Hyde. Oh, and avoid anything spicy, super sugary or caffeinated. Instead, it’s best to graze on lighter snacks that are high in fiber, are around 200 calories and contain complex carbs.
If you’re craving something sweet, opt for something containing natural sugars as opposed to refined sugars such as chocolate or sweets. “Complex carbohydrates like whole-grain breads are great because they release serotonin when digested, which helps calm you down,” says Langer.
11 Dietician Approved Late Night Snacks to Kick Hunger To the Curb
1. Banana with Peanut Butter
Serving Size – 1 Medium Banana, 1-2 Tablespoons of Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter is high in monosaturated fats which help to suppress the hormone which causes feelings of hunger. Snacking on a banana dipped in peanut butter may also help increase your body’s melatonin levels which naturally support a good night’s sleep — all that for only about 180 calories.
2. Turkey Slices on Bread
Serving size – 2–4 slices turkey breast, 1 piece whole grain toast, 2 tomato slices or 6 cucumber slices
Naturally high in protein, turkey makes on whole grain toast, a complex carb, makes a great late night snack. Lean, white meats are preferred over red, fattier meats at night due to their effect on the digestive system.
3. Hummus & Wholegrain Crackers
Serving size: 5 Tablespoons of Hummus, 4-6 crackers, or 2 slices of bread
Hummus is packed with protein—three grams for every two tablespoons. Plus, they’re high in lysine and tahini, both of which are a rich source of the amino acid methionine. Why is this so important? Basically, it keeps you feeling fuller for longer, which means no more tossing and turning with a rumbly stomach. Why not add hummus as a dip with raw veggies or Ezekiel bread or wholegrain crackers.
4. Fruit & Nut Mix
Serving size: Handful of nuts, palm full of fruit
Feeling lazy? Don’t want to cook late at night? We hear you. A small handful of nuts and fresh fruit is perfect thanks to the high protein and healthy fat content. Nuts, especially organic ones, ‘’are nutritional powerhouses that can help regulate blood sugar level, fight inflammation, decrease hunger pangs, and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease’’, says Dr. Gioffre, specialised nutritionist and author of Get off your Acid.
Raw almonds, pistachios and macadamias make great choices. Add in a palm full of sweet fruit, and you’ve got a great snack.
Serving size: 2-3 Cups
Craving your favorite chips? Swap out those salty snacks for its healthier cousin, popcorn. Popcorn is naturally low in calories – a whopping three-cup serving clocks in at about 100 calories—so you can snack without feeling guilty.
Oh, and there’s also the complex carb factor again—a whole-grain bedtime snack will fill you up much longer than a cookie or bowl of ice cream…as tempting as that sounds. If you want to be super healthy, invest in an air popper, which pops the kernels with air instead of oil or butter.
6. Strawberries & Dark Chocolate
Melt some dark chocolate, high in anti-oxidants and overall better for your health, over some sweet strawberries for a sweet tasting dessert. Perfect for when you’re craving something ‘naughty’, but don’t want to splurge on junk food.
7. High Fiber Cereal & Milk
Ah what we like to call the ‘sad snack’, the one you don’t want to eat but know is good for you. Whilst you might (will) prefer pizza over cereal, you’ll want to keep the bran cereal handy for those quick late night cravings. Super high in fiber, not only will it fill you up, but the added milk will provide you with a healthy dose of calcium, a natural sleep promoter. Sweet dreams!
8. Avocado or Hard Boiled Egg on Crispbread
Good news for all you avo-worshippers! 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 digestive system in check.”
Want to bring it up a notch? Gioffre suggests making your toast with sprouted bread, tomato, extra-virgin olive oil, cumin, sea salt, crushed black pepper and jalapeño for a little extra kick. Part midnight snack, part gourmet meal.
9. String Cheese or Babybel
When it comes to sleep, cheese may sound like a surprising choice, especially if you’ve been told that ‘dairy leads to nightmares’. But, cheese is high in calcium, which has been tied to better sleep. It’s also loaded with protein, and some tryptophan and melatonin for good measure. Pair a string of cheese or 2 Babybels with some whole-grain crackers or apple slices for the ultimate protein-carb combination.
10. Whole Grain Toast & Nut Butter
The oldie, but goodie. Slather some nut butter such as almond of peanut onto a slice or two of whole grain toast for the perfect carb-fats ratio. Filling, nutritious and oh so nutty!
11. Protein Smoothie
A milk-based smoothie supplies protein for muscle repair and tryptophan, which is used to make sleep-promoting brain chemicals. Try mixing some fresh fruit such as kiwis and pineapple (a thermogenic food which promotes fat burning), with 8 ounces of low-fat milk for a filling 160 calorie snack.
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