Breakfast was at 8, lunch blew past you at noon, and dinner was unsatisfying at 6. Alas, it’s bedtime and that monster in your gut is gurgling feed me in a full-blown snack attack. What’s a calorie-counting guy or gal to do — without breaking the calorie bank?
For one, don’t judge yourself. Hunger happens, sometimes even after you’ve brushed your teeth. A late-night snack can actually help you sleep, balancing out digestion and hormones to help your body relax and rest. When it comes to late-night snacking, moderation is key. Digestion slows down at slumber time, so too much of anything — even a good thing — can make you uncomfortable or disrupt your digestion.
Before you venture forth into an all-out bunny slipper buffet, take a pause and learn how to snack responsibly. We’re here to spoon-feed you some delicious, satisfying, low-calorie, late-night bites to tame the hungry beast within.
One of our favorites is a hot cup of bouillon or broth (about 50 calories) or Thai tom yum soup made from paste (50–100 calories for 1–2 tablespoons of paste stirred into a mug of hot water). We’ve noticed warm food feels more filling than cold, and the volume of the liquid tricks your stomach into thinking it has ingested something hearty.
A FEW CARBS
Carbohydrates are often praised for their ability to help us sleep in small doses; they help increase the level of tryptophan in the blood, a hormone that helps us count the zzz’s. There’s a slice of toast, of course. Popcorn has just 130 calories for 1/4 of an unpopped cup. Even if it’s popped with a rounded teaspoon of olive oil, that adds another 50 calories. To make it more satisfying, a tablespoon of nutritional yeast adds just 20 extra calories, plus a ton of flavor and some very toothsome B vitamins to boot. And our pal the crunchy pretzel? Just 120 calories for 22 pretzels. Dip them in the yellow mustard of your choice for extra zing. A whole-grain cereal with a half-cup of milk can have as little as 160 calories — just be sure to read the label before you pour.
FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Of course fruits and vegetables are calorie-counting friendly and often full of fiber, making them a great late-night choice to sate your snacking. The classics should not be messed with: a stalk of celery stuffed with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice) hovers around 110 calories. A cut-up apple beneath a scant sprinkling of granola or hot cocoa mix really satisfies a sweet tooth without tipping the scales (and it’s less than 110 calories!) Feeling like some late-night kitchen wizardry? Squeeze a lemon over a diced carrot, celery stalk and apple; add two tablespoons of diced walnuts. You’ll have a stunning faux-Waldorf salad for less than 200 calories. Take that, hunger!
A BIT OF DAIRY
While bedtime is not protein power-boost time, a little bit of dairy can go a long way in helping you feel full enough to count some sheep. A half of a banana sliced into a cup of plain yogurt, or 1/2 cup of blueberries spooned into a cup of cottage cheese all truly satisfy for less than 200 calories. Or, beat hunger-induced insomnia with a stick of string cheese — meditatively peeling one string at a time — at just 80 late-night calories.
However you crunch the numbers, embrace a sensible choice in the late-night snack of your dreams.