We've all caved in and gotten a late night snack just before bedtime. Maybe you have insomnia and think filling your belly will get you on the express train to dreamland. Or maybe you're snacking to unwind after a stressful day at work, a calamitous break-up or an unsuccessful raid with your guild on World of Warcraft.
It's tempting to scarf some junk food, but you should avoid the potato chips, candy bars and ice cream. Research shows that late night snacking can lead to potential weight gain. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, it makes your sleep more restless, resulting in fatigue the next day, in which you overeat in a fruitless attempt to boost your energy.
But going to bed hungry isn't an option, either. So, what should we do? Nutritionist Janet Brill, author of Blood Pressure Down, suggests the following eight healthy bedtime snacks. They'll not just cure your hunger pains; they'll also help you lose weight.
1. String cheese
Don't be skeptical because it's processed. One serving of string cheese contains protein, fat and eighty calories, which is pretty low. Brill says it also contains the amino acid tryptophan, which makes you feel more drowsy. Whether you eat string cheese by chomping it or peeling it - such a divisive issue - the important thing is that you're eating it.
Now, don't use "cereal" as a loophole and grab one of those sugar-bombs like Cookie Crisps and Honey Smacks. That will just keep you awake, in addition to being unhealthy. Brill recommends cereal that gives you about 200 calories or less per bowl, whole-grain no frills fare, such as oatmeal, corn flakes and bran flakes. And for a little more of that relaxing tryptophan, pour some milk.
3. Non-fat Greek yogurt
Speaking of tryptophan, you can get a good dose of that soporific amino acid from nonfat Greek yogurt. I know, it's not fun as grabbing a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Munky, but it's a good source of protein, which your body needs. Brill adds that yogurt also calms your stomach, so you're less likely to wake up with heartburn or indigestion.
4. Two slices of white turkey meat
Are you tired of hearing about tryptophan yet? That amino acid that puts more people to sleep than CSPAN is also found in turkey. If you're a meat-eater, you've probably felt the effects of these food comas, after binging on turkey at Thanksgiving. Brill recommends just a few slices, as they won't give you more than 200 calories.
5. Apples and peanut butter
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, because it's a great source of fiber. If you add peanut butter, it makes the snack more delicious and provides your body with protein. "The protein in the peanut or almond butter also fills you up without feeling heavy in your stomach," says Brill.
6. Baby carrots
Brill says this nutritious snack will fill you up, at the low low cost of four calories per carrot. And if you're not a baby carrot lover, just pretend they're Cheetos. They look kind of similar.
Bananas have a ton of fiber, only 100 calories and more of that sweet, sweet sleep-inducing amino acid tryptophan. And also, since you just have to unpeel them, you don't create dirty dishes or silverware. They're the perfect snack. Just ask the monkeys.
8. Non-fat chocolate pudding cup
That's right - this list isn't all fruits and veggies. It sounds too good to be true, but yes, Brill recommends a nonfat chocolate pudding cup. One single serving only contains 90 calories. So enjoy! Just make sure it's non-fat, and stick to one cup. And no, you can't get a bucket or a giant bowl and call it a cup!
Now that you know most healthy bedtime snacks, you should have no problem hitting the hay and as an additional benefit, you might even lose some weight. Sweet dreams!