It's hard to fall asleep with an empty and growling stomach, and it can be tempting to reach for something quick and tasty late at night to quench a craving.
First things first, it's important to note that late-night snack often leads to overeating, which can contribute to weight gain, according to an April 2015 review in Nutrients.
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That said, if you weren't able to eat enough during the day or need a snack to tide you over until morning, there are plenty of healthy snacks to help curb your hunger before bed. The key is choosing foods that are low in calories and high in volume to leave you feeling full without pushing you over your daily calorie limit.
Here are a few healthy options to have on hand when late-night hunger strikes.
Eating protein-rich foods and enough calories during the day can help you feel satiated into the evening if you want to prevent overeating at night.
1. Veggies and Hummus
To get the greatest amount of food for the fewest number of calories, choose snacks that are high in water and fiber. Vegetables fall into this category.
A cup of raw carrot sticks, celery, bell peppers, snap peas, cucumbers, broccoli or zucchini provides between 25 and 50 calories. In addition to helping you feel full, vegetables also provide vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep you healthy.
Use raw veggie sticks to scoop up 1 to 2 tablespoons of hummus or try making this Fresh Green Onion Dip made with nonfat Greek yogurt, garlic and scallions.
2. Fruit and Nut Butter
Fruits are another great late-night snack. Typically, they are low in calories and high in fiber. If you're craving something sweet, opt for a serving of fruit, because the natural sugar in fruit can help satisfy your sweet tooth.
Consider eating a whole, raw fruit such as an apple, pear, orange, banana, cherries, berries or grapes. These whole foods provide roughly 80 calories per cup. You could also dice a variety of fruits to make a mixed fruit salad.
If you need a little more than plain fruit, try dipping sliced fruit in a small amount of low-fat yogurt or peanut butter. Be cautious of your portion size with peanut butter, though, as it has about 95 calories per tablespoon, per the USDA.
Dried figs, dates and prunes are other healthy bedtime snack choices, but keep portion sizes in check, because dried fruit packs more calories than fresh fruit.
3. Protein-Rich Foods
Another way to curb evening hunger is to eat protein-rich foods. Like fiber, high-protein foods move more slowly through your digestive tract, keeping you feeling full longer.
One good high-protein option is mixed nuts; it is important to be aware of your portion size, though, as an ounce provides roughly 170 calories, per the USDA.
Low-fat dairy products such as yogurt or cottage cheese also make a good snack. Choosing the low-fat varieties helps you cut down on calories from these foods. A cup of plain, low-fat yogurt has about 150 calories, while a cup of low-fat cottage cheese has 190 calories.
Eggs are another excellent source of protein. A large hard-boiled egg gives you only about 75 calories, per the USDA.
If you're in the mood for a crunch, try subbing chips or crackers for healthier snacks with fewer calories. Popcorn without butter serves up just 31 calories per popped cup.
Use garlic powder, black pepper or other low-calorie seasonings to give your popcorn more flavor.
A bowl of warm oatmeal can be a filling late-night snack. Oatmeal is a whole-grain food and an excellent source of fiber, with 4 grams per half cup uncooked.
A serving of plain oatmeal has about 160 calories, per the USDA, and is low in fat and sugar. Cook your oats in water, and season them with cinnamon and a splash of milk to keep calories low.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Protein: Moving Closer to Center Stage
- McKinley Health Center: Smart Snacks
- USDA: "Peanut Butter"
- USDA: "Mixed Nuts"
- USDA: "Yogurt, plain, low fat"
- USDA: "Cheese, cottage, low fat"
- USDA: "Egg, whole, cooked, hard-boiled"
- USDA: "Oatmeal, instant, plain, made with water, no added fat"
- Nutrients: "The Health Impact of Nighttime Eating: Old and New Perspectives"