If you've never had an intense craving for a midnight snack, but didn't know which foods are OK to eat at night and won't upset your stomach — consider yourself lucky. Whether you can't fall asleep, you have to stay up late working, or your dinner just didn't cut it, sometimes it's necessary to go ahead and have that late night meal. Despite the many warnings that you should stay away from eating late hours in the day, there are foods that will make it easier on your stomach to fall comfortably asleep afterwards.
"From a metabolic standpoint, there is really no reason not to eat food in the evening," says Ashvini Mashru, MA, RD, LDN to Bustle over email. "However, eating in the evening is a problem for many, not because of the way food is metabolized, but because of the quantity of food that is often eaten."
Mashru suggests beginning with a glass of water, as dehydration is often mistaken as hunger. If you're still hungry, considering eating a "mini-meal" with a definite start and finish, rather than mindlessly grazing on snack foods. "Devouring a bag of chips, cookies, or a pint of ice cream can occur when your mind is somewhere else," says Mashru.
Next time hunger strikes at night, try eating these seven foods, which will help fill you up without disrupting your sleep or upsetting your stomach.
1. Cottage Cheese & Fruit
"Cottage cheese is excellent protein source, can offer you sustained energy, satiate your hunger, and help curb your sugar cravings," says Mashru. "Protein is going to be much more filling than sugary or starchy foods, leaving you less likely to raid the kitchen again an hour later."
2. Cheese & Crackers
"Milk products such as low fat cheese contain tryptophan, which can help promote sleep," says Mashru. Pairing tryptophan with a complex carbohydrate allows the tryptophan to become more readily available to your brain, and it will also make for a more balanced and filling snack, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine.
Edamame is another good source of protein, and like milk, it contains tryptophan, which can help relax you before bed. "Soy products are especially helpful for postmenopausal women, who deal with hot flashes during the night," says Mashru.
"Nuts are a great source of protein and also a good source of magnesium, which helps you fall asleep and helps your muscles relax," says Mashru. "Almonds can also keep your blood sugar level stable while you’re sleeping."
5. Pumpkin Seeds
"Pumpkin seeds contain a healthy dose of magnesium, which is a natural relaxant," says says Vanessa Fitzgerald, nutritionist at Indie Fresh, to Bustle over email. "They are high in potassium which helps with maintaining blood pressure and fluid regulation."
"Guacamole contains a good amount of magnesium as well as healthy fat, making it an ideal nighttime snack," says Fitzgerald. Pair it with vegetables or a piece of toast for a nutritious combination.
7. Turkey Slices
"[Turkey has] high amounts of tryptophan," says Fitzgerald. "This is one of the reasons why we fall into that food coma after Thanksgiving. A few fresh deli slices will help you to feel satiated at night."
Midnight snacking, getting some vitamins in, feeling great... not such bad right-before-bed activities, am I right?