Eating past 8 p.m. has gotten a bad rap! In reality, the reason you may have gained (or not been able to lose) weight probably has more to do with what you are eating and how much you are eating rather than the time of day you are eating. Noshing at night, if done healthfully, can offer some surprising benefits. Eating the right protein at night can help you build muscle while you sleep. Eating low-glycemic carbs at night can help control your blood sugar the next day and even help you regulate your appetite. Here are 16 snacks that are OK to eat at night. Some are not-so-guilty pleasures, some are great snacks to have after a light dinner and others make fantastic post-workout snacks (for those of you who work out at night).
1 HIGH-PROTEIN “CAKE BATTER”
Everyone loves cake batter. Dieters everywhere covet the delicious, rich, creamy consistency. But this indulgence doesn’t need to be off-limits. This high-protein version will satisfy the strongest late-night cravings — and it packs in 19 grams of protein! Combining vanilla protein powder and heavy cream with pumpkin spice gives a warm flavor and spicy feel, but you can pick any flavor of your like.
2 COCONUT-MANGO CREAM
Who doesn’t like cold and creamy desserts? Unfortunately, most of the standard store-bought frozen desserts are packed with calories and sugar. Here is a simple dessert that uses frozen mango and coconut milk to make a dish your friends will rave about. To make it vegan, opt for a vegan protein powder like hemp, brown rice or pea.
3 NO-BAKE HONEY PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES
These simple-to-make no-bake cookies contain the great flavor combination of peanut butter and chocolate, along with a little hint of sweetness from honey. The addition of oats adds a punch of fiber and plant protein that makes them very satisfying. This recipe works well with miniature muffin tins as well. It makes about eight cookies — so one tin is more than enough. Tip: To cut down on calories, you can make 16 half-size cookies instead.
4 DARK CHOCOLATE
Chocolate is often seen as a forbidden food — but not all chocolate is created equal. There is a big nutritional difference between your average convenience-store chocolate candy and cacao-rich dark chocolate. The dark chocolate lacks the high added sugar content of traditional chocolate and instead provides you an antioxidant punch that has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve insulin sensitivity, fight inflammation and improve your mood. Next time you need to wind down at night, have an ounce of your favorite dark chocolate (70 percent cacao or greater).
5 BCAA SLUSHY
A slushy is a classic childhood treat. But as adults we may tend to avoid these high-sugar concoctions laden with questionable food dyes. Here’s a better, no-added-sugar version that contains branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), which can help decrease muscle soreness and stimulate muscle growth. Watch out for brain freeze!
6 STRAWBERRY-BANANA “ICE CREAM”
Ice cream is a great late-night treat, but with half a cup packing almost 200 calories, this treat becomes off-limits fast. A great alternative to traditional ice cream is to make it with frozen bananas. Mashed frozen bananas provide an ice-cream-like consistency without the added sugars, fat and calories. Here’s the simple recipe: Slice up two very ripe bananas and one cup of strawberries. Place them in the freezer until frozen. Once frozen, blend the strawberries and bananas in a food processor on high until an ice-cream consistency is achieved. Voila, vegan ice cream! If you’re serious about your banana ice cream, you might want to check out the Yonanas machine, a kitchen appliance designed for making banana ice cream.
Pistachios in the shell are an excellent nighttime snack because the shelling process requires some work, consequently slowing down how fast you can eat them. The slower you eat, the less you will consume. Another bonus with pistachios is that you get to eat more nuts per ounce (49 nuts) than any other nut. The combination of getting to eat more and having to eat them slower makes pistachios one of the best options. In addition, nuts come with a unique nutritional package because they contain fiber, biotin, vitamin B6, thiamin, folate, unsaturated fats and plant sterols, all of which makes them highly nutritious as well as satisfying. If you are looking for something more, you can pair pistachios with goat cheese or a fruit like raspberries.
8 NOT YOUR AVERAGE MILKSHAKE
With the right kind of protein, you can make thick and creamy milkshakes without excessive calories and fat. The key is to add casein protein powder or a milk protein powder blend (which will contain whey and casein). The biochemical properties of casein cause it to act as a thickener. Casein has been shown to have anti-catabolic properties, helping prevent excessive muscle breakdown after an intense workout. This nutrient-powered milkshake packs about 40 grams of protein and one-third of the recommended daily amount of calcium.
9 CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER COTTAGE CHEESE
The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is arguably one of the best flavors in existence. This simple snack combines those two great flavors along with a creamy texture from cottage cheese. In addition, it provides a high dose of casein protein. Casein is the slower-digesting milk protein (whey being the other milk protein) and has been shown to boost recovery while you sleep when taken later at night.
10 RASPBERRY GREEK YOGURT POPS
Popsicles are a simple after-dinner snack, but if you buy them at the grocery store they’re essentially sugar and food dye. With this simple recipe for frozen Greek yogurt pops, you can do much better; it’s a nutritional treat with minimal prep. Greek yogurt is regular yogurt’s nutritionally superior sibling, with typically double the protein and half the carbs per serving. To make frozen Greek yogurt pops, mash three-quarters of a cup of raspberries in two cups of 2% plain Greek yogurt. Portion this mixture into popsicle molds and place in the freezer for several hours until completely frozen.
11 PUMPKIN SEEDS
The hallmark of a good nighttime snack is a food that will fulfill a nagging craving while at the same time helping you to relax, unwind and get ready for bed. Roasted pumpkin seeds meet this challenge. One serving of pumpkin seeds contains almost 50 percent of your recommended intake of magnesium. Magnesium is an essential mineral that is used in more than 300 reactions in your body. One key area that magnesium addresses is relaxation. Magnesium is a relaxant, and high-magnesium snacks are ideal for helping you unwind at night. And the slight saltiness of roasted pumpkin seeds curbs your salty-snack craving that is usually quelled with potato chips. Next time you want to munch on something while watching your favorite TV show, reach for a quarter-cup of roasted pumpkin seeds.
12 WARM MILK AND HONEY
Warm milk has long been used as a sleep aid, making it a good late-night snack choice if you have trouble dozing off at night. It’s interesting to note that, despite people swearing by the effectiveness of a warm glass of milk aiding in relaxation efforts, the effect may be more psychological than physiological. It was once thought that the tryptophan in milk led to increases in the feel-good hormone serotonin. However, the additional amino acids in milk can actually prevent the tryptophan from preferentially getting into your brain. Adding honey to your warm milk will slightly boost the sugar content of your snack. This extra sugar is easily digested and can stimulate hormones that drive the formation of serotonin, making your warm milk assist in your sleep efforts from a psychological and physiological perspective.
13 FROZEN BLUEBERRIES
The cold sweetness of frozen blueberries is very refreshing at the end of the day. Frozen blueberries are packed with just as many high-powered antioxidants as their fresh counterparts because they are flash frozen at peak ripeness. Blueberries are one of the best foods that you can eat for your health. Research has shown that the nutrients in blueberries can help improve brain function and heart health. If your diet can afford the extra calories, adding two tablespoons of cream ups the richness and sweetness of the treat.
Nuts have been traditionally pitted as a “bad” snack food for weight loss due to their high fat content. But a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who ate almonds lost just as much weight at 18 months compared with people who abstained from eating almonds. In addition, people who ate almonds experienced greater improvements in their total cholesterol and triglycerides — two key cardiovascular disease risk factors. Almonds are also another food that is high in magnesium. One ounce of almonds (about a quarter-cup) can be snacked on raw, roasted or seasoned with your favorite spice like curry or chili powder.
15 BERRIES AND CREAM
The combination of berries and cream is a simple and satisfying dessert. By substituting full-fat plain Greek yogurt for the cream, you can still enjoy a high-protein version of this luscious dessert. Top half a cup of full-fat plain Greek yogurt with a quarter-cup of blackberries and a quarter-cup of raspberries.
16 KALE CHIPS
Kale chips give you that great salty crunch without the extra fat and calories you’d get with regular potato chips. Kale chips also provide vitamins K, A and C and the cancer-fighting phytochemicals called carotenoids. These are all things you don’t get from potato chips. Kale chips taste best when they are freshly baked. The prep time is so minimal that you can easily whip up a batch while you are making dinner to enjoy them later in the evening.