10 Healthy bedtime snacks

by Naomi Tupper on November 9, 2012 · 4 comments

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What are good snacks to have before bed?

If you are in the habit of eating your evening meal fairly early on, you may feel that you need a snack before bed to keep you going through the night and prevent you from waking up.  However, in order to avoid disrupted sleep or unwanted weight gain, it is essential to choose the right type of snack to ease night time hunger.

Do you really need a snack?

The evening is a common time for even the most dedicated dieters to break down and reach for a mindless snack.  It is generally a time when we relax, and it is often easy to find yourself nibbling on not so healthy foods whilst sitting in front of the television, which if overdone can lead to serious weight gain.

Before you get yourself a bed time snack, it is important to think about if you are really hungry.  Are you simply eating mindlessly as a way to relax or indulge after a hard day?  Will you wake before breakfast if you don’t have a snack or is it just extra calories you don’t really need?

If night hunger is a true problem for you, then a snack may be necessary.  However, it is important to make this snack as nutritious as possible and relatively low in calories and fat to avoid unwanted weight gain.

Good bedtime snack options for health and good night’s sleep.

Whether your sleep is affected by your food intake at night is a personal thing.  Some people will sleep well no matter what, whilst others will find certain foods make sleep more difficult.

If you need a pre-sleep snack, you may need to try a few different options to see which works the best for you.  Above all, bedtime snacks should be healthy, nutritious and ideally low in calories, particularly if you are watching your weight.

Carbohydrate based snacks are thought to be the best option to get a good night’s sleep, as they are thought to raise levels of tryptophan in the blood, which consequently increases serotonin levels in the body.  This makes us feel tired, which is why we often feel drowsy after a large carbohydrate based meal.

Health wise it is best to choose carbohydrates based on whole grains, as these provide more fibre, minerals and vitamins than refined sources.  They are also likely to keep you fuller for longer, and thus less likely to need raid the fridge in the middle of the night.

Protein based foods have also been suggested to induce sleep, although there is some controversy in this area, with some claiming as protein is harder to digest it may in fact disrupt sleep.  For some people a small protein based snack may be a good bedtime option and will help fill you up, but make sure it is also low in fat to avoid excess calories and disrupted digestion.

Be careful of snacks that may seem nutritious but are easy to overeat, for example nuts.  Always choose unsalted, raw varieties and limit the serve size to a small handful.  Almonds are thought to be beneficial for a good night’s sleep due to their high magnesium content, which may act to promote sleep.  See also: Best healthy nuts and seeds

Nutritious Bedtime Snack Options

  • A banana
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain cereal (use low fat milk)
  • Whole grain crackers (can also add a thin spread of peanut butter)
  • A hardboiled egg
  • A handful of unsalted almonds
  • A couple of slices of wholegrain toast with a spread of almond butter or a thin slice of low fat cheese.
  • Cottage cheese or low fat yogurt mixed with fruit- cherries are thought to be particularly good for a restful night as they are naturally high in melatonin, a sleep inducing chemical.
  • A glass of low fat milk
  • Plain pop corn

What to avoid before bed.

Caffeine

We all know caffeine is a stimulant which has the effect of waking us up.  Therefore it makes sense to avoid this before bed.  For some people, a coffee a couple of hours before sleeping makes no difference to their quality of sleep, whilst for others, anything after lunchtime will lead to a rough night.

Alcohol

Whilst some swear that a glass of wine before bed is the perfect way to get a good night’s sleep, however, studies have shown that while the initial effect of alcohol may be to put us to sleep, it generally disrupts sleep later on in the night.  This means we may wake un-rested and sleep deprived.  Alcohol is also empty calories that provide very little nutritional value, and certainly will not fill you up.

Large, heavy meals

Again this is a personal thing, but many people find a heavy meal too close to bed can disrupt sleep.  Meals that are high in fat should also be avoided as these are likely to promote acid reflux.  For this reason, as well as for weight management, bedtime snacks should be low in fat and small.

Packaged Snack Foods

These foods are high in sugar, fat and salt, none of which are the best option for a good night’s sleep.  Not only this, but they are also calorie dense and provide little to no nutritional value, meaning they can easily cause weight gain without contributing anything to your health.  Snacks such as potato chips, chocolate and flavoured crackers can also be incredibly addictive and it is often difficult to stop at a small portion.

References used in this article

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Naomi Tupper
About the author

Naomi studied Nutrition and Dietetics and Biotechnology. She is a certified dietician with experience in Type 2 diabetes and menu planning for weight loss. Naomi is a contributor for our Diet and Nutrition sections. You can connect with her on Facebook and Google+

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