Nighttime Snacking: To Snack or Not to Snack

Nighttime Snacking:  To Snack or Not to Snack

It's past dinner time and there's a great series on Netflix.  Do we grab a snack, or is it too late?  Will it affect my sleep?  So much debate these days about whether eating later in the evening is good or bad for you, whether or not eating in the evening causes weight gain, or if it interrupts or helps with sleep.  Between intermittent fasting, which I do a lot, or the managing glucose levels with small meals throughout the day theory, and all of the other philosophies in between, what should we do? 

Generally I try focus on doing things in moderation, and I try to make whatever I do count.  So when it comes to nighttime snacking, if I do eat a snack before I go to bed, I try not to eat too much and isn’t too high in calories, or in fats, which can cause stomach upset, and I do it a couple of hours before bed which also helps avoid indigestion or reflux.

In keeping with making my choices count, I choose foods that taste good and that are satisfying, and I also try to choose foods that have some added “benefit.”  Foods that do double-duty to help me relax and reduce anxiety, sleep better and longer, and can help rebuild muscle and other tissue.  Foods that are high in complex carbohydrates, contain Tryptophan, increase Serotonin and Melatonin contribute to a better, sounder, more relaxed night of sleep.  Sound too good to be true?  Read on.  Below are a few ideas for delicious nighttime snacks with benefits.


Hummus is super high in protein with three grams for every two tablespoons,” Dr. Daryl Gioffre, a New York City-based nutritionist says that “Chickpeas are high in lysine and tahini is a rich source of the amino acid methionine. Individually, these foods are incomplete proteins, but when you combine them to make hummus, they create a complete protein.” Complete proteins contain all 9 amino acids, including Tryptophan, which helps the body to make Serotonin and Melatonin, which are both critical for quality sleep.  Whole grain crackers and veggies are both good sources of complex carbohydrates that will break down slowly in your system, controlling blood sugar spikes that might mess with your sleep.


We already know that Greek yogurt is a great source of protein—17 grams of protein in about 6 ounces of Greek Yogurt!  What you may not know, though, is that it can also be a great nighttime snack that can pave the way to a better night’s sleep.  The calcium in yogurt helps your brain use tryptophan and melatonin.  Instead of adding something sugary to your yogurt, better to add fresh fruit and some sliced or slivered almonds.


Bananas are high in potassium and magnesium.  Magnesium increases GABA, which encourages relaxation as well as sleep. Low GABA levels in the body can make it difficult to relax. Magnesium also plays a key role in regulating the body's stress-response system.  Nut butters contain Tryptophan, which transforms into Serotonin, which is critical for mood and sleep.  So, the banana and nut butter combination is a delicious, satisfying combination that can’t help but lead to a better night’s sleep!


Probably one of the easiest nighttime snacks that has a high impact on a good night’s sleep is a handful of nuts.  Thanks to the high protein content and source of healthy fats, nuts can help regulate blood sugar levels, reduce inflammation, and satisfy hunger.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, Almonds and Walnuts contain even contain Melatonin!   Remember, though, nuts are high calories—about 200 calories per ¼ cup-- so moderation is key! 


Oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast anymore!  Oats are another “complex carb” that will keep you feeling fuller, longer and that will be absorbed slowly into your system.  According to a Columbia University Study, complex carbs actually work with your brain to release the Serotonin, which soothes you into a more relaxed state and helps produce Melatonin.  Adding other sleep-supporting foods like almonds and other nuts, milk  and bananas to your oatmeal will not only turn your oatmeal into a real treat, but the combination will make an already-effective sleep inducing nighttime snack even more effective at bringing on a peaceful night’s sleep!

These are just a few go-to nighttime snacks that are delicious and that have added benefits that can lead to a better night’s sleep.  Enjoy and make your snacking count!

Be Well!


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