It’s late. You haven’t eaten in hours. Your stomach grumbles. And suddenly that pint of Ben and Jerry’s buried in the back of your freezer is calling your name.
You grit your teeth and try to tough it out, but you’ve been here before and you know willpower isn’t going to save you. It’s like hanging onto the edge of a cliff by your fingertips. Eventually, you get tired, your resolve falters, and you fall into a binge—gobbling up the whole pint in a matter of minutes.
The impulse to have a midnight snack seems so natural. But all of the leading health authorities say it’s terrible for you, especially if you want to lose weight. What gives?
Well, what if I told you there’s a way to have the occasional midnight snack and still maintain a healthy weight, or even burn a few pounds?
The fact is, you can. It just takes a little planning and knowledge. Today I’ll share 14 foods and beverages that you can snack on at night without worrying about gaining weight. Replace whatever your usual late night temptation is with these, and I guarantee you’ll keep hunger at bay while maintaining that slim waistline you’re after.
Here Are 14 Guilt Free Midnight Snacks
Aside from satisfying your late- night cravings, a nice glass of warm milk can also help you sleep better because of its tryptophan content which stimulates serotonin production in the body and induces sleep. You can even add vanilla- flavored protein powder to a cup of skimmed milk and blend the mixture with ice to make a healthy milkshake[i].
Hand-popped popcorn makes a great midnight snack as long as you eat the plain kind and stay away from those with too much salt and flavored powder. Instead, try sprinkling some red chili powder, cinnamon, or masala for a unique flavor. Adding a mixture of cayenne pepper, and nutritional yeast is another great way of enjoying your popcorn without feeling guilty or packing on more pounds. Just make sure your popcorn is of the whole grain variety so it’s healthier for you[ii].
- Breakfast Cereals
Whole grain breakfast cereals, grains, and oatmeal may be breakfast food, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them at night, as well. Wheat flakes, muesli, bran flakes, and rolled oats, among others, are rich in fiber and protein and are great with yogurt or skimmed milk1. You can even throw in some blueberries and strawberries to the mix which are filled with antioxidants and can do wonders for your body6. You can’t go wrong with these healthy snacks as long as you stay away from anything with too much carbohydrate content as this can cause your blood sugar levels to shoot up and keep you from sleeping comfortably through the night[iii].
A single serving of yogurt contains enough calcium and vitamin D to meet 20% of your recommended dietary allowance. It is also packed with protein and has low sugar content, but can still leave you feeling full. You can also add some berries, walnuts, flax seeds, and chia seeds to your snack for that added boost of flavor[iv].
- Nuts and Seeds
Aside from having a high antioxidant and fiber content, they can also help stimulate your secretion of serotonin leaving you feeling full and giving you a good night’s sleep. Pistachios are a great choice as they have a much lower salt content than most processed snacks. Almonds are another good alternative. Densely packed with nutrients, they are an excellent way to get your fix of fiber, protein, magnesium, and vitamin E. Pumpkin seeds, on the other hand, are a good source of vitamin B, protein, zinc, iron, and magnesium[v].
Fruits are one of the best things you can snack on when you get your late- night cravings and hunger pangs. Aside from their high nutritional value, they are also quick to eat and require minimal preparation – just cut and peel them and they’re ready to go. For example, bananas are rich in potassium, which prevent cramps, and can be eaten as is, spread with peanut butter, or even dipped in chocolate. Fresh apples are great with a few tablespoons of peanut butter, almond butter, or any other nut butter. This snack tastes best when the apple is chilled and crisp. Cantaloupes, like most other fruits, contain a lot of water, which means you get lots of beta- carotene without having to worry about calories. You can also try raspberries with yogurt and honey or strawberries with cream, which are also a great source of fiber.[vi]
Dried fruits are another great late-night snack option. Apricots, figs, prunes, and dates are rich in various nutrients and will do wonders for your health. Also, frozen fruits are tasty and healthy snacks that you can reach for at night without feeling guilty. If you’re not up for just plain fruit, you can toss them in the blender with some yogurt and make a low- fat smoothie instead. To satisfy your sweet tooth, you can also slice up some bananas, sprinkle them with cinnamon and coconut shavings, and bake them or let them sit in the freezer until your next hunger pangs hit you late at night.[vii]
Vegetables are high in nutrients, water content, and antioxidant levels which make them very effective in preventing dehydration. Try munching on some crunchy baby carrots with a side dip of nonfat Greek yogurt, garlic salt, and pepper. Of course, you can always opt to snack on other salad veggies like celery, radishes, broccoli, or cucumber instead and use dips like hummus, salsa, or guacamole. Another tasty snack would be sliced tomatoes sprinkled with feta and olive oil which is a light and refreshing way to keep your stomach and taste buds happy.[viii]
- Lean Meat Sandwiches
Making yourself a sandwich is another healthy and guilt- free snack option for your late-night cravings. A single slice of whole grain bread should be just enough to keep your tummy filled. You can also spread a bit of peanut butter or low- fat cream cheese on the bread to make it tastier. Sliced ham, turkey, or any other lean lunch meat will also make a great healthy filling for your sandwich[ix].
If your hunger pangs are extra strong or you’re up for something a little more indulgent, try adding tomato, mustard, onion, spinach, lettuce, and avocado to your lean meat sandwich to tide you over until morning. Just make sure not to eat too much or your late- night snack might turn into a full meal, sabotaging your diet.
- Cottage Cheese
Not only is cottage cheese filling, but it’s also packed with high levels of casein and whey protein which keep you full and at the same time work to build and repair your muscle tissues. Snacking on this will really help your body regenerate itself as you enjoy a good night’s sleep. If you want something extra tasty, you can also toss in a variety of berries and some walnuts, almonds, or any other kinds of nuts you prefer[x].
As an extra alternative, you can also snack on a few sticks of string cheese. These sticks are also rich in protein that rid you of your hunger pangs, and as a little added bonus, pulling the strings apart as you eat them is a fun distraction.
Rich in protein and fats that can keep you full, eggs are another guilt- free food item you can snack on to battle your midnight cravings. Not only are they quick and easy to prepare, but they are also very diverse when it comes to how you can cook and serve them. Omelettes are a popular choice and can be mixed with onion, peppers, mushrooms, and cheese to make them more flavorful. You can even add in a few extra egg whites to get more protein.
If you’re not quite in the mood for an omelette, you can try hard- boiled eggs instead. With only 80 calories each, these are faster and easier to eat and can even be prepared in batches. Boil a whole batch over the weekend and store them in your fridge to last you an entire week. Another idea is to put slices of hard- boiled eggs on crackers and sprinkle with salt.
One more option is to cook two egg whites and serve them on a slice of whole wheat toast. The protein from the eggs and the carbohydrates from the bread will give you enough energy while still being light enough for a midnight snack.[xi]
Just because it’s for kids doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it as a snack, too. You can easily make gummy treats from scratch using recipes you can find online. Make sure to use recipes with healthy ingredients such as raw honey and lemon, lime, or orange juice. Gelatin candies are packed with high levels of protein, as well as collagen, the nutrient responsible for making hair shinier, nails stronger, and skin smoother. Gelatin is also great for helping the body recover from digestive disorders and also contains amino acids that control hormone imbalances and increase metabolic rate. Probiotics, which work to keep pathogens in check and under control, can also be found in gelatin. As an added bonus, these probiotics help shape your cravings and continue to make vitamins for your body, even after you have ingested them. So go ahead and indulge yourself in a little Jello when hunger strikes at odd hours of the night.[xii]
- Sprouted Tortilla Chips and Homemade Dips
Chips don’t always have to be bad for you! Sprouted tortillas[xiii] cooked in coconut oil are not only healthy, but delicious too. These tortillas are great because sprouted grains are much easier for your stomach to digest and have more nutritious ingredients than regular processed chips. Coconut oil, on the other hand, has numerous health benefits including better metabolism, more efficient vitamin D and calcium absorption, lower risk of yeast infections, increased thyroid health, decreased cholesterol levels, and protection against flu and infections[xiv].
To make your chips tastier and more satisfying, you can whip up a small serving of homemade dips to go with them. There are many quick and easy recipes for dips that you can find online and replicate, including mango salsa, guacamole, and butter hummus, among others[xv]. If you’re not too keen on chips in the first place, you can always substitute them with high-fiber crackers instead.
- Nut Butters
Nut butters make a very satisfying treat because they have a lot of healthy, nutritious ingredients but still taste like a great dessert. All natural almond butter makes a great spread, especially on top of a whole grain bagel. You can even use it as an ingredient for a homemade milkshake if you want something a bit different.
Peanut butter is another good option. If you’re feeling a little creative, you can make yourself some peanut butter protein balls and pop them in the freezer until you’re ready to eat them. These balls are made of healthy ingredients including vanilla protein powder, milk, and dark chocolate. Of course, you can always use any other kind of nut butter if peanut butter isn’t to your liking and these treats will turn out just as well.[xvi]
The key is watching your portion size. You don’t have to eat a lot of these nutrient dense snacks to ease your late night hunger.
- Trail Mix and Granola Bars
A handful of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits make a very healthy and filling snack. You can find trail mix at almost any grocery store, but you can just as easily make your own batch as well. This treat contains high levels of good fats and oils, and is also rich in antioxidants that do wonders for your body and skin. If you want something more compact, a granola bar will do just the trick.[xvii]
And don’t forget to drink water. Dehydration is one of the biggest reasons you feel hungry. You may actually just be mistaking your thirst for hunger. Drink a glass of water whenever you feel hungry in the middle of the night, and your stomach will most likely settle down. You can also drink a glass right before bed to avoid waking up in the middle of the night hungry. If plain water won’t cut it for you, try squeezing some lime or adding a slice of lemon in your glass for added health benefits. A slice of cucumber will also be good for your skin[xviii].
[xiii] Is It Primal? – Popcorn, Corn Tortillas, Rye, and Other Foods Scrutinized, Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple, Retrieved April 18, 2015.
[xiv] Recipe: Homemade sprouted tortilla chips fried in healthy coconut oil, Robin Konie, Thank Your Body, Retrieved April 23, 2015.