If you've been dissuaded from snacking after 8 p.m., you'll be glad to learn that there aren't many negative effects of eating late at night — as long as you're choosing the right foods. Prioritizing nutrient-dense foods can help promote muscle recovery, regulate appetite and control blood sugar. So, if you're craving something to munch on, try one of these nine healthy late-night snacks.
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1. High-Protein 'Cake Batter'
Although everyone likes to steal a few tastes of cake batter while they're baking, it's not necessarily the healthiest (or safest) snack. But this indulgence doesn't need to be off-limits. With protein powder as its base, this high-protein cake batter can help promote satiety.
Eating protein before bed can actually help boost your metabolism, according to a small January 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. After giving participants whey or casein protein before bed, researchers found that the macronutrient had a positive effect on metabolism the next morning.
Get the High-Protein 'Cake Batter' recipe and nutrition info here.
2. Coconut-Mango Cream
Who doesn't love ice cream after dinner? Unfortunately, most of the standard store-bought varieties are packed with sugar, which may hinder your sleep. This simple dessert uses frozen mango and coconut milk to quench your ice cream cravings. To make it vegan, opt for a vegan protein powder like hemp, brown rice or pea.
The coconut milk in this recipe helps give the dessert its creamy consistency but may also help you catch better Zzzs. Coconut milk is high in magnesium, providing about 88 milligrams per cup, which may help improve sleep quality, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Get the Coconut-Mango Cream recipe and nutrition info here.
3. No-Bake Honey Peanut Butter Cookies
These simple, no-bake cookies contain everyone's favorite flavor combination: peanut butter and chocolate — with a little honey for a touch of sweetness. This recipe is low in saturated fat and doesn't contain too much sugar, either!
The oats in these cookies add some fiber and plant protein. Fiber is a great nutrient to incorporate into your late-night snack, as it can help keep hunger at bay. Fiber helps slow down how quickly food is broken down in your system, promoting regular digestion and satiety, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Get the No-Bake Honey Peanut Butter Cookies recipe and nutrition info here.
4. Popcorn Snack Mix
For those that prefer a savory snack late at night, popcorn is a great, satisfying go-to. Combining popcorn with pistachios and semi-sweet chocolate chips makes this a healthy late-night snack that won't derail your day of mindful eating.
Nuts (pistachios, included) are a great source of healthy unsaturated fats, according to the Mayo Clinic. Unsaturated fat is not only filling but may even benefit your heart health by helping to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Not to mention, eating nuts has been associated with lower levels of inflammation in the body.
Get the Popcorn Snack Mix recipe and nutrition info here.
5. Not Your Average Milkshake
With the right kind of protein, you can make thick and creamy milkshakes without excessive calories and fat. The key here is to use casein protein powder or a milk protein powder blend (which will contain whey and casein).
If you usually exercise in the evening, this milkshake also makes a great post-workout snack. Casein has been shown to have anti-catabolic properties, helping prevent excessive muscle breakdown after an intense workout, according to an August 2012 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Drinking casein before bed can help boost overnight exercise recovery, deeming this sip a smart snack to enjoy at night.
Get the Not Your Average Milkshake recipe and nutrition info here.
Read more: Your Ultimate Guide to Gaining Lean Muscle
6. Chocolate Peanut Butter Cottage Cheese
This simple snack combines those two great flavors (peanut butter and chocolate, of course) along with a creamy texture from cottage cheese. In addition, cottage cheese supplies casein protein, a slower-digesting milk protein (whey being the other milk protein) and has been shown to boost recovery while you sleep when taken later at night.
Get the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cottage Cheese recipe and nutrition info here.
7. Sweet and Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
The hallmark of a good nighttime snack is a food that will fulfill a nagging craving while helping you to relax, unwind and get ready for bed. Roasted pumpkin seeds definitely meet this challenge.
One ounce of pumpkin seeds contains about 20 percent of your recommended intake of magnesium. This essential mineral is linked to promoting muscle relaxation and good sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Also, the slight saltiness of roasted pumpkin seeds can curb your salty snack craving without you having to reach for greasy potato chips. So next time you want to munch on something while watching your favorite TV show, reach for a quarter-cup of roasted pumpkin seeds.
Get the Sweet and Spicy Roasted Pumpkin Seed recipe and nutrition info here.
Read more: 10 Healthy Snacks You Can Make at the Office
8. Berries and Cream
The combination of berries and cream is a simple and satisfying dessert. By replacing standard cream with full-fat plain Greek yogurt, you can get a high-protein dessert with less fat and sugar. This nosh is less than 100 total calories!
Yogurt is a smart food for your digestive health, making it the perfect post-dinner dessert. A natural source of probiotics, yogurt is full of friendly bacteria, which can also help boost immune function and nutrient absorption, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Get the Berries and Cream recipe and nutrition info here.
9. Kale Chips
Kale chips give you that great salty crunch without the extra fat and calories you'd get with regular chips. Kale is an incredibly nutrient-dense food, high in vitamins A, C and K.
One cup of raw kale will provide more than 100 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin K, according to the National Institutes of Health. This vitamin helps produce protein in the bones, which prevents weakening in the bones over time, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Get the Kale Chips recipe and nutrition info here.
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Night-time Consumption of Protein or Carbohydrate Results in Increased Morning Resting Energy Expenditure in Active College-Aged Men."
- USDA: "Nuts, Coconut Milk, Raw"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Sleep and Magnesium Supplements"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Fiber"
- Mayo Clinic: "Nuts and Your Heart: Eating Nuts for Heart Health"
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: "Protein Ingestion before Sleep Improves Postexercise Overnight Recovery"
- USDA: "Seeds, Pumpkin and Squash Seeds, Whole, Roasted, Without Salt"
- National Sleep Foundation: "Power (Down) Vitamins: Promote Better Sleep With Magnesium"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Health Benefits of Taking Probiotics"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin K"