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  • Richard Burner

The Ultimate Guide to Late Night Healthy Snacks

Updated: Feb 8

Late Night Healthy Snacks Guide


Multiple Studies reveal that weight gain and poor sleep are linked to late-night snacking. While we don’t encourage eating before sleeping, by choosing the right foods you can minimize the negative impact on your sleep quality, and still feel satisfied.


Thou Shalt Rules

  1. Thou shalt stop snacking and eating at least 45 minutes before going to sleep

  2. Thou shalt not consume caffeinated beverages or snacks

  3. Thou shalt avoid overly processed foods

  4. Thou shalt not consume foods high in sugar, fats, salt, or are overly spicy

  5. Thou will consume foods that are easy for your body process and avoid overeating



Now that that's out of the way, Here are what some of the experts are saying: More than 1/3rd of all Americans are sleep deficient, so any late night habits should not impact your sleep. Getting more minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron on your plate can help kickstart the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep regulation. Research shows that some specific foods — like cherries, nuts, and oats — specifically contain sleep-promoting properties and get you off to dreamland sooner.


Researchers also note that some foods contain Tryptophan, famous for the post turkey dinner exhaustion. And we've all heard of warm milk's ability to send us off to dreamland. Do you know why it's true? Dairy foods contain tryptophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other good sources include nuts and seeds, bananas, honey, and eggs.


First we will cover a few standalone items to snack on, and then we’ll cover a few of our favorite healthy late night snacks, and recipes.


Standalone Snack Foods



Almonds

Almonds contain high doses of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleeping and waking cycle.


A 1-ounce (oz) serving of whole almonds also contains 77 milligrams (mg) of magnesium and 76 mg of calcium, two minerals that may help promote muscle relaxation and sleep.


Almonds are also a healthful evening snack, as they are high in good fats and low in sugar and saturated fats.




Warm milk

Warm milk is a common home remedy for sleeplessness. Milk contains four sleep-promoting compounds: tryptophan, calcium, vitamin D, and melatonin.


However, the childhood association that many people have between a warm cup of milk and bedtime may be more effective than tryptophan or melatonin in promoting sleep. Like a cup of tea, having a warm cup of milk before bed can be a relaxing nightly ritual.



Kiwifruit

Some research has looked at the link between kiwi consumption and sleep. In one small study, people who ate two kiwifruits 1 hour before bedtime for 4 weeks experienced improved total sleep time and sleep efficiency and also took less time to fall asleep.



Walnuts

Walnuts contain a few compounds that promote and regulate sleep, including melatonin, serotonin, and magnesium. Walnuts also contain high levels of potassium, and melatonin and are an easily digestible energy source.




Tart cherries

Cherries are rich in four different sleep-regulating compounds: melatonin, tryptophan, potassium, and serotonin. Researchers speculate that antioxidants called polyphenols in tart cherries may also influence sleep regulation.


In a 2018 review on the health benefits of cherries, the authors found a positive correlation between improved sleep and cherry consumption.


The researchers also concluded that the anti-inflammatory properties of cherries might help reduce pain after strenuous exercise and improve cognitive function.


Tart cherries also make a good snack before bed because they are rich in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin E.




Fatty fish

Fatty fish may help improve sleep because they are a good source of vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, two nutrients that help regulate serotonin. Serotonin is largely responsible for establishing a fixed sleeping and waking cycle.


In a 2014 study, participants who ate 300 g of Atlantic salmon three times a week for 6 months fell asleep more quickly and functioned better during the day than those who ate chicken, beef, or pork with the same nutritional value.


The researchers concluded that these benefits were primarily due to an increase in vitamin D levels, as well as possible improvements in heart-rate regulation due to the omega-3 content.




Figs

Figs contain a derivative of benzaldehyde which has been reported to be highly effective at shrinking cancer tumours. Figs also contain vitamin A, vitamin B9, vitamin C and vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc.


Figs are rich in potassium and fibre which helps to stabilize the blood pressure of the body and they have anti-diabetic and anti-tumour properties and can reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol. They can also curtail appetite and improve weight-loss efforts hence helping with obesity and fig juice is also a potent bacteria killer in test-tube studies.


Figs promote good sleeping habits and protect against insomnia. They increase energy, promote stronger bones and are helpful in treating constipation due to their laxative effect. They also have an analgesic effect against insect sting and bites. The fruit is also given as a cure for piles and diarrhoea.


Figs lessen the acids in the stomach and therefore are great for pregnant women. They also increase sexual desire and promote overall longevity and good health.




Pistachios

An analysis conducted by researchers Dr. Jack Losso and Millicent Yeboah-Awudzi found that American pistachios contain significant amounts of melatonin, much higher than most fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes and seeds.



The study was significant due to the fact it showed pistachios contain relatively high levels of melatonin compared to other foods and that researchers identified two protective bioactive compounds, lunasin and the Bowman-Birk Inhibitor, which have anti-inflammatory, anti-angiogenic activity that may help manage type 2 diabetes. Additionally, researchers proposed that these compounds together, with other protective compounds found in pistachios, such as lutein, zeaxanthin and polyphenols may support overall health.


“Pistachios are a highly nutritious snack containing not only melatonin, but a wide variety of vitamins and antioxidants that benefit an individual’s overall health and wellness,” said Losso.




Prunes

Prunes are loaded with Vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium; these help make the hormone, melatonin, which regulates sleep.




Warm Tea

Particularly with Chamomile and Valerian root have proven to help with sleep for many.


The herb chamomile is a traditional remedy for insomnia. Researchers think that a flavonoid compound called apigenin is responsible for chamomile’s sleep-inducing properties.


Apigenin seems to activate GABA A receptors, a process that helps stimulate sleep. Although research has found only weak evidence that chamomile may improve sleep quality, having a warm cup of tea can be a soothing ritual to help a person mentally prepare for bed.


Similarly results from multiple studies indicate that valerian — a tall, flowering grassland plant — may reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and help you sleep better. Valerian root contains a number of compounds that may promote sleep and reduce anxiety.


These include valerenic acid, isovaleric acid and a variety of antioxidants. Valerian has received attention for its interaction with gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a chemical messenger that helps regulate nerve impulses in your brain and nervous system.



Healthy Late Night snack Recipes


Turkey Wrap

A very time efficient but elegant snack, a wrap is like a sandwich but with less carbs, and always a handy option. We recommend a low-sodium turkey deli meat or slice up a rotisserie breast. Turkey packs tons of minerals and vitamins, and is one of the top proteins for sleep. Wrap it up in a whole-grain tortilla, and pack it with baby spinach, and shredded carrots, and your other favorite veggies. Avoid too much mayo or other processed sauces.

Whole-Grain Cereal and Warm Milk

Embrace your inner eight-year old and pour yourself a bowl of cereal. The twist is warming up the milk! The carbs in cereal help keep you sated at night and milk provides a few vitamins. Just make sure you’re choosing a lower-sugar whole grain variety.

Cottage Cheese and Walnuts

Mixing together about half a cup of cottage Cheese and mixing in crushed walnuts is a very tasty, and healthy snack. With Tryptophan found in both cottage cheese and the walnuts, and a lot of protein this will surely satisfy your cravings and help you nod off.


Hummus and Whole grain crackers or Veggies

We knew there was a reason we loved chickpeas. “They're packed with protein—three grams for every two tablespoons,” Dr. Daryl Gioffre, a New York City-based nutritionist and author of Get Off Your Acid, tells us. “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? Basically, they keep you full, which means no more tossing and turning with 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.


Greek Yogurt, Fruit and Whole Grain Granola

This is the author's personal favorite. This is a great standin option for dessert, and is a healthy snack to boot. Greek yogurt is a great source of protein, but we had no idea that it could help us catch some z’s, too. 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.


Whole Grain Crackers and Cheese

Whole grains provide fiber and vitamins, and cheese adds protein, calcium, and fat. Evidence is stacking up in favor of full-fat dairy, so don’t be afraid of the fats in whole cheese


Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich

Another of the authors absolutely go to’s. We recommend pairing a whole grain, or sprouted bread (Ezekiel bread) with a high quality peanut butter and a sliced up banana. Sometimes we layer the Peanut butter and banana on one piece of bread, and leave the top open. You can also tag team raisins for the bananas.


Celery and Tuna

This one may be a little controversial but mix a small spoonful of mayo, with tuna, and add a little salt and dill. Cut the celery into 2 ½” to 3” sticks and fill them with your tuna mix. This is tasty and mostly healthy. A way to take it up a notch is to get rid of the mayo, and add a small squirt of lemon juice, salt and pepper. It’s a little more “dry feeling” but it’s balanced nicely with the water in the lettuce.


Rice Cakes with Almond Butter

They’re easy, healthy and satisfying. And at 35 calories per rice cake, go ahead and load up your plate. Add a tablespoon of natural almond butter for 101 calories and 9.5 grams of healthy fat. Rice cakes contain natural fiber and almonds contain melatonin - and they taste great together.


Chips and Guacamole

Avocado is a good source of magnesium, and studies show that the nutrient helps improve people’s quality of sleep. Some whole grain chips and a healthy homemade guacamole are a tasty late night snack sure to not wreck your sleep.




Things to Avoid


Coconut Oil

Using this trendy oil for your stir-fry seems like a good idea, but it can have a negative impact on Z’s. A study in the Journal of Sleep Research suggests that consuming hexadecanoic acid, a saturated fat found in coconut oil, may interfere with your ability to clock a solid eight. Instead, opt for olive oil, which only contains unsaturated fat and boasts additional heart health benefits.


Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce


When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, you’ll want to pass on this pasta topper. The acidity in the tomatoes can cause heartburn for those who suffer from acid reflux, and tomato sauce also contains the amino acid tyramine. This triggers the brain to release norepinephrine, a stimulant that boosts brain activity and inhibits sleep.


Chocolate

Although you may only eat a small amount, chocolate naturally contains caffeine, which may be problematic for those who aren’t used to consuming it regularly. Like tea, this sweet treat also has the stimulating compound theobromine. But don’t panic—if you have to get your fix, white chocolate is a good substitute, as it’s naturally caffeine-free.


Alcohol

We know: Nothing tastes as good as a cold beer after a long run or a glass of wine at the end of a busy day. But hear us out: While alcohol is a natural depressant that may help you feel drowsy, it actually makes it difficult to go into a deep sleep, which affects how rested you feel in the morning. Plus, a hangover is definitely not the way you want to start a long run. There’s nothing wrong with some alcohol in moderation, but be conscious of your consumption during training blocks or before a big event like a race.


Soda

It’s no secret that this sugary stuff isn’t great for anyone’s diet, especially a runner’s, but regularly consuming soda, which has both caffeine and sugar, has been linked to short sleep duration.


The mindset behind food Choices and how to feel satisfied

Mindfulness is a powerful way to bring balance into every aspect of how we eat. It cultivates inner wisdom—awareness of how our body and mind are reacting—and outer wisdom—making wiser use of nutritional information to satisfy your needs and preferences.


Use this approach at a snack time that occurs regularly and when you are alone, so you can fully focus on your experiences. You can then use these practices almost anytime you have an urge to eat, but especially if you are turning to late night snacking as a relief for a long and difficult day.


Here’s a mindful-eating technique to use when you want a snack. Use this approach at a snack time that occurs regularly and when you are alone, so you can fully focus on your experiences. You can then use these practices almost anytime you have an urge to eat.


Five Step Mindfulness Process


1. Stop for a moment and bring your awareness to your breath. Slow down by taking two or three deeper breaths. You can close your eyes if you want. Tune your awareness into what is leading you to want to eat. Are you physically hungry? How hungry? How do you know that? Or are you just stressed—or bored—or perhaps you just got home and saw a box of crackers left out on the counter? There might be several triggers to your urge. Simply notice what they are. If you are physically hungry, give yourself full permission to have a snack.


2. Choose your snack mindfully. Consider what is calling you. What would be satisfying? What would you enjoy—to help you relax, bring comfort, or satisfy your hunger? Do you want something sweet, something crispy, something savory? Are the crackers still calling you, perhaps with a little cheese? Or do you really want some ice cream? Give some thought to this, because you will be more satisfied and less likely to eat more than if you’d just grabbed the first thing in front of you.


3. Use outer wisdom to consider how much to eat. Before going to bed around 200 calories is a good target to aim for.


4. Combine with inner wisdom. Savor the food, eating it slowly and without doing anything else. Pay attention to enjoying the food, to the pleasurable signals your mouth and taste buds are sending you. You’ll be surprised how satisfied you are from a smaller amount of food, both because you are fully paying attention (rather than also opening the mail or leafing through a magazine) and because you are giving yourself permission to enjoy this small amount of food.


Pay attention to enjoying the food, to the pleasurable signals your mouth and taste buds are sending you.


5. Be flexible. Another day or another time you may want to try different techniques. Be curious and self-accepting. Bring these practices to other snack times, then gradually into meal times. Explore how the quality of your experiences of food and eating shift when you bring a mindful, accepting, and open awareness to them.


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