Healthy Nighttime Snack Options
Snacking can be a good thing, but it has to be done carefully. Often times we pick out fat-packed, sugar- or salt-filled, and totally unhealthy foods to meet our snacking needs. Many times we overeat and consume a lot more calories and food then we need (this is also an important issue). Finally, there is a time for snacking and a time to be careful in your snacking. The midnight snack is often a bad one to consume because the digestive system slows down after you go to sleep. However, if you are careful you can snack healthy even at night.
Watch What You Eat and How Much You Eat
The first thing you need to do is watch what you eat. This can be hard because a lot of night time snacking is done with cravings. Usually they are broken into salty (potato chips) or sweet (chocolate and ice cream). You can make food choices for snacking in a similar way. Replace the unhealthy options with low-fat options either in the salty or sweet category. Here are some good options.
- Popcorn: As long as it isn't really high in butter content. If you are popping your own, pop it in a little oil and then add a sprinkle of salt or popcorn flavoring. If microwaving it, choose a light butter or a low fat butter option. These are often less salty as well. Plus, don't get carried away, watch your portions.
- Nuts and seeds: Often ladened with salt and high protein content it is a food that should fill you up fairly quickly. Because of this, choose only a handful to get rid of your craving or to help fill you up.
- Cheese: You can have a small amount of cheese (low-fat is best). This includes string cheese, cheese slices, and even cottage cheese.
- Veggies with dip: Most dips are horrible for you, and full of fat. However, you can make a great dip from low fat sour cream or better yet plain yogurt. Add seasonings and herbs of your choice (light on the salt). This is a low fat option that will taste fantastic and you can then dip your carrots, cucumbers, and celery in it!
- Pickles: It may sound like an unusual snack, but it is salty, tasty, and low in calories.
- Salty rice cakes: Crunchy and available in a wide range of flavors. Finish with a small glass of milk, juice, or tea and you should be feeling good.
- Pretzels: A low fat healthy crunchy salty option. Don't dip them unless you make a low fat dip from low fat sour cream or plain yogurt or choose low fat ranch.
- Fruit: There are a lot of good options including bananas, melons, and berries.
- Cereal: Having a small bowl of cereal can make you feel full and fulfill your sweet tooth. Pick on that is low in calories and fat, with just a bit of sweet to it.
- Toast with honey or jam: Make toast and skip the butter. Add a bit of jam or honey for a healthy and delicious twist.
- Sweet flavored rice cakes: Crunchy and satisfying. Finish it with a small glass of milk or juice and you should be feeling pretty good.
- Yogurt: Have a small bowl or dish of flavored yogurt. There are tons of options to choose from and even the varieties that are regular have very little fat and only a few calories. Worried about fat and calories, no big deal choose a low fat or no fat option.
- Low fat graham crackers: Sweet and tasty in a few different flavors. Be careful how many you eat though.
Often times a good night time snack is complete with the perfect drink. Soda may be tempting, but really unhealthy. Here are a few options that are better for you. However, you should think moderation.
- Milk: Aim for less fat and choose a lower fat or no fat option (skim, 1%, 2%). Have six ounces. It is just under a cup and should help fill you up.
- Juice: Make sure you are drinking real juice (100%) and not a small portion type of juice with lots of added sugars.
- Tea: Whether you like it hot or cold a good cup of tea can help make for a good night. Choose something herbal or decaffeinated so it doesn't keep you up. If you like it sweetened add a tablespoon of honey rather then sugar.
Tips for Limiting Nighttime Snacking
Sometimes late night snacking has to do with cravings (usually for junk foods) and the activities that we participate in (TV lends itself to snacking), but then there are times when night time snacking has to do with actually being hungry. The first thing night time snackers need to make sure of is that they aren't snacking because they are hungry.
- Eat well at each meal.
- Snack between meals, but never enough to skip a meal.
- Don't replace a meal with a large snack, this will only lead to more snacking.
- Drink plenty of water. Often times we mistake thirst for hunger. If we drink 8-10 glasses of water each day we are likely to cut back on our food consumption.
Other things you can do to help cut back on your late night snacking include:
- Eat a small desert with dinner. You are likely to want something sweet later if you don't and your desert at dinner (even pie, chocolate, ice cream) will be better for you then rather then after dark and closer to bedtime.
- Make yourself small snacks. This will force you to get up and make more if you want more. You are less likely to do it a lot.
- Watch only a small amount of TV or skip it all together. TV watching makes it easy to snack. Reading a book, playing games, and other night time activities (going for walks, taking a hot bath, and relaxing on the porch) don't lend themselves to snacking as easily.
Late night snacking can really ruin a good diet. Finding healthy options is important. Don't forget that amount of food consumed at night is also important. Pick foods that are good for you, eat small amounts, and work towards limiting your night time snacking for a healthier you!