Having the occasional late-night snack won't pack on the pounds, but according to many studies, if nighttime noshing becomes a habit, it might. Yet, when the clock strikes twelve and you're still wide awake, it's often unfeasible to resist raiding your kitchen from top to bottom. Although a box of donuts or a pint of ice cream might seem like your only hope to get you through the night, don't succumb!
Foods high in sugar can prevent you from getting a good night's sleep because they can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and your waistline. Foods which release serotonin in the brain through an amino acid known as tryptophan are associated with a calming, anxiety-reducing effect and even drowsiness, helping you to fall asleep. Simply put, serotonin helps to alleviate stress, sending you off to a peaceful night's sleep. Replacing those sugar-laden snacks with healthy alternatives will allow you to drift off to dream land guilt free.
The Fix: Whole grains are a low-fat way to trigger some insulin production which will induce sleep without weight gain. Dairy products and lean protein contain the magic tryptophan, an amino acid that also helps the brain produce serotonin and melatonin.
The Food: 2 whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese 1/2 whole-wheat pita with 2 slices of lean turkey breast 1 packet instant oatmeal or 1/2 cup high-fiber cereal with 1/2 cup warm skim milk
The Fix: These nutty snacks are full of magnesium and B vitamins, both of which help promote serotonin - the relaxing neurotransmitter. Natural sugars in apricots boost blood-glucose levels, which sag while you sleep. The most "serotonized" fruit is the banana. Bananas are high in vitamin B6, melatonin and serotonin which help us feel drowsy.
The Food: 1 oz of pistachios and 8 dried apricots 1 oz almonds and an apple 1/2 Banana with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
*Chamomile Tea: Okay, so this isn't a snack. Chamomile has a mild sedative effect and is well known among the sleeping problems crowd. The oatmeal cookie triggers insulin but has some other good side effects.
Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.