Lisa writes: “I work fairly late, getting home at 9 pm most evenings. I usually squeeze in a salad in between clients around 5:30-6 pm. By the time I get home I’m usually hungry again. I’m always searching for healthy things to eat at that time, so I don’t grab a pint of Ben and Jerry’s from the freezer. Can you offer any suggestions?”
I am a bit of an expert in late night snacking–even though I know that runs contrary to conventional nutritional wisdom. There is some research suggesting that eating more of your calories earlier in the day can help with weight loss. But it’s not the same for everyone. I’ve found that as long as my total intake over the course of the day isn’t excessive, having a late night snack doesn’t seem to sabotage my efforts. Your mileage may vary.
See also: Does it Matter What Time you Eat?
At the same time, you don’t want to go to bed with a stomach full of heavy food or all jazzed up on sugar. Here are four of my favorite bedtime snacks.
- Popcorn. This is my number #1 night-time snack and the obvious choice when you want something to crunch on while watching a movie. Unlike chips or other salty snacks, where a serving is one handful, you can crunch through an entire bowl of popcorn for a couple hundred calories. I pop mine in a brown paper bag in the microwave and season with olive oil and salt, smoked paprika, or nutritional yeast. Here’s my recipe.
- Cereal and Milk. Ironically, I never eat cereal for breakfast, because I find that something higher in protein, such as a smoothie or eggs, gets me a lot further. The only time I eat it is (occasionally) right before bed, when dinner is just feeling too far in the past to get me through until morning. This is not license to break out the Cap’n Crunch, however. Stick with cereals that are lower in sugar and contain some fiber. I like Cheerios and Wheaties.
- Banana “Fro-Yo”. There’s actually no “yo” involved–simply frozen bananas processed into the texture of soft-serve ice cream. I was frankly skeptical until my dietitian friend Ryanne served it one night at a dinner party. You would not believe how deliciously creamy frozen bananas can be. You can buy a special machine, but my food processor works just as well. (Tip: peel your bananas BEFORE freezing.)
- Stuffed Dates. Sometimes you just need something sweet and chewy. This is why I do not keep Swedish Fish in my house. But I do keep a tub of dried dates from the health food store around. They’re actually a little TOO sweet for me all by themselves. But two or three stuffed with (or dipped in) a teaspoon of peanut butter? Sweet dreams! Cream cheese or goat cheese work well, too.
Do you have a favorite not-too-decadent bedtime snack? Post your ideas below.