Don’t sacrifice your weight-loss efforts to a late-night snack attack—but a word to the wise: there are a few snack food exceptions, even during after hours. Conventional wisdom says that eating after a certain hour in the day (usually starting in the evening till breakfast the next day) will mean going to bed with a fuller stomach, at an hour when metabolism is slowing down, resulting in less effective digestion and more weight gain. Yet, there are, in fact, certain foods that have proven to be exceptions to the rule.
That means there are ways to feed that late-night craving while still keeping the nutrition on track. Which is the reason for this article—to help you get through.
So, feel free to try eating the following 25 foods, which may help satiate the craving without adding pounds to your waist:
1. Frozen grapes
If you are a late-night snacker with a bit of a sweet tooth, frozen grapes may provide the satisfaction without ruining the weight loss effort. They are low in fat, relatively low in calories, and retain the majority of their nutrients after the freezing process. Fresh grapes are great as well, but frozen grapes are a better option, as they are more solid and take more effort to eat, stretching out your snack time.
Feel free to try other frozen fruits, as well, but make sure it is fresh. Canned or processed fruit may come in sugary syrup which will do way more harm than good.
Almonds are a powerhouse of a snack any time of day, but they can be especially good before bedtime. This is largely because almonds have a healthy dose of magnesium, which helps to relax the muscles and improve deep sleep cycles. Almonds also contain tryptophan and calcium, both of which help to produce melatonin.
If you feel like you’re under too much stress to sleep, be sure to take advantage of almonds’ stress-relieving benefits, as well. Almonds contain niacin, a B-vitamin that aids in stress management and can reduce anxiety.
Cherries not only satisfy your post-dinner sweet tooth; they help you get a better night of sleep, too. Cherries are a natural source of melatonin, the sleep-regulating hormone. They are also loaded with antioxidants, which can help fight inflammation and encourage weight loss. Drinking a glass of tart cherry juice before bed can also improve quality and duration of sleep, according to a 2010 study.
4. Sunflower seeds
Relax before bed with a sunflower seed snack. Full of the amino acid tryptophan, sunflower seeds can help you manage stress and stimulate the chemicals in your brain that help you to doze off. Just a handful will do.
Pistachios provide a hunger-satiating trio of plant protein, fiber, and healthy fat. They take longer to eat because of, obviously, their shell, which is important because the slower you eat, the less you will consume.
6. Pumpkin seeds
Take advantage of the beneficial oil that’s derived from pumpkin seeds, especially if you seek both wellness and natural beauty. Pumpkin seed oil can work wonders on both inner and outer beauty, thanks to its rich vitamin A and E content, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, zinc, and a host of potent antioxidants.
7. Air-popped popcorn
Popcorn is very low in calories, especially when you go for the low-fat kind without any butter, which truly makes it a bona fide healthy snack. Butter is basically just fat and adds so many more calories than one may realize.
It’s important to get popcorn that you can air pop, though. Air-popped popcorn is made from whole grain corn, which provides fiber and complex carbohydrates for energy and stamina.
8. Cooked green soybeans
Known as edamame in Japan, these green beans are high in protein and fiber. They also contain tryptophan, which can help you relax before bed. Edamame are basically immature soybeans, and just like other soy products, they’re especially helpful for postmenopausal women who are dealing with hot flashes during the night.
9. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is practically the perfect before-bed snack. It’s rich in casein protein, a slow-releasing protein that keeps you feeling full all night and will even help you grow muscles while you get your beauty rest. Plus, it contains the sleep-inducing tryptophan to help you fall asleep.
10. Baby carrots
When your urge for something crunchy kicks in, you can replace that bag of potato chips with baby carrots (not as tasty, we know). Baby carrots are a quick finger food that makes for easy munching. They’re low in calories and high in fiber, so they’ll fill you up better than chips while satisfying your urge to chew on something. Carrots can also provide more than double the daily recommended intake of vitamin A.
11. Green tea
For literally thousands of years, green tea has been consumed for a wide range of benefits: from better mental health to improved digestion. It also guarantees a quickened metabolism—especially when you enjoy a cup before bed. According to a 1999 study, green tea can increase metabolic fat-burning by up to 40%, while a more recent study suggests that it has a boosting effect on fat-burning hormones, such as norepinephrine.
Hint: drink it an hour before bedtime so you don’t have to wake up to use the bathroom.
RELATED: 10 Drinks that can help shed some weight while you sleep
12. Hardboiled eggs
Eggs are a great source of protein and are considered one of the best foods to eat at night to lose weight. One large egg contains only about 78 calories and is very high in nutrients. You can slice up two eggs before bedtime for a satiating snack.
13. Nonfat greek yogurt
Not all yogurts are created equal. Greek yogurt is superior, thanks to its high protein and low sugar content. The protein is filling and can help you grow lean muscle while you snooze. The feeling of fullness can carry over into the morning, so you won’t accidentally overeat. Greek yogurt’s high calcium, low sodium content is also beneficial. Having too much sodium is harmful to the body and leads to hypertension and, eventually, heart disease.
14. White-meat turkey
You probably know how people joke about Thanksgiving food coma. Well, there’s some truth in that. Turkey contains tryptophan, a protein that stimulates melatonin to get your deep sleep on. More importantly, eating protein before bed helps to stabilize blood sugar rather than spike it while you’re asleep. Plus, lean meat won’t add too many extra calories to your day, so this choice is fantastic for weight loss.
15. String cheese
String cheese is somewhat more processed than other cheeses, but it makes for a satisfying, low-calorie snack. One serving has a well-balanced combination of fat and protein at just around 80 calories. Plus, it contains a decent dose of tryptophan. Partly-skim mozzarella, for example, has more than 600 mg of this amino acid to help you catch more Zs.
Did you know bananas also have tryptophan? The amino acid will help put you to sleep quicker, and the fiber will keep you satisfied. At about 100 calories each, this sweet fruit will surely wreck any sugar cravings you might have after dinner. Try freezing an unpeeled banana and mashing it up to create a tasty, ice cream-like treat.
17. Kiwi fruit
Kiwi fruit is a great treat to satisfy a sweet tooth without loading up on calories and sugar. They are also helpful for getting a good night’s sleep too! In a 2011 study, volunteers ate two kiwi fruits one hour before bed for four weeks. What the researchers found was a drastic increase in their sleep duration, quality, and a reduction in time spent getting to sleep.
18. Grape tomatoes
Sweet and portable, grape tomatoes are also low in calories and rich in a number of nutrients that are good for your health. Eating potassium-rich foods like grape tomatoes can boost your body’s ability to excrete sodium, restoring fluid balance and lessening pressure on blood vessels.
19. Sweet potatoes
Some say sweet potatoes are a sleeper’s dream. Not only do they provide sleep-promoting, easy-to-digest carbohydrates, they’re also loaded with potassium, a muscle-relaxant.
20. Whole-grain crackers
Whole grain crackers contain a lot of fiber, which can greatly help with the digestion. The impact isn’t going to be immediate, so you don’t have to worry about it ruining any sleep. They also have iron, which plays a key role in converting fat into energy. Having this as a snack will make you feel much more energetic and spry throughout the next day.
21. Whole grain toast with guacamole
Toast a slice of whole-grain bread and top it with two tablespoons of guacamole for both healthy fat and fiber. Avocado is also high in magnesium, just the kind of mineral you need to ease into dreamland. On a chemical level, magnesium helps pacify a racing nervous system, getting you calm and relaxed faster. It also regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides the body’s sleep-wake cycles so you’re less likely to wake up in the middle of your sleep.
22. Fortified cereal
What’s better than ending the day the same way it started? Allow a bowl of fiber-rich whole grain cereal to keep you satiated while at the same time melting fat. Add a cup of low-fat milk for the extra dose of tryptophan, calcium, and vitamin D.
23. Chocolate milk
Chocolate milk may seem like a sweet indulgence, but it’s actually an ideal weight-loss beverage. The calcium can help burn belly fat, and the important nutrient gets absorbed better thanks to milk’s vitamin D. The protein content is filling, and it can help you recover after an evening exercise session. A glass of milk also puts you to sleep faster, thanks to the tryptophan. You have to choose a brand that doesn’t have too much added sugar or have a high amount of syrup as an ingredient, though.
24. Whole grain toast with peanut butter
Peanut butter is packed with monosaturated fats, which help prevent heart disease and are much less likely to be stored as body fat. Put these healthy fats to use as a bedtime snack; it will neither make you feel heavy nor make you feel sluggish before bed or when you wake up in the morning. Peanut butter will also slow the digestion, making you feel less hungry when you wake up, and prevent you from heading to the fridge for a midnight snack.
25. Black olives
Try black olives if you want to feel full for a marginal number of calories. Tucked inside each olive is healthy, monounsaturated fat, which helps boost good cholesterol and reduces the risk of blood vessels hardening. Olives also contain oleic acid, which can help to lower blood pressure and improve overall cardiovascular health.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietician before making any changes to your diet.