8 healthy foods for midnight snacking

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 (2011 Christopher Boswell)

Midnight snacking— we’ve all done it at some point, but the good news is that if you haven’t eaten your calories for the day, late night nibbling won’t make you gain weight. The key is to make sure it’s healthy and portion controlled.  

So whether you’ve got a hankering for something salty, sweet or crunchy, here are 8 picks to get your fix without sabotaging your diet.

1. Popcorn
You might think it’s as bad as popping open a bag of chips, but one serving of popcorn is low in calories, has antioxidants, whole grains and fiber to keep you feeling full.

“Popcorn is very satiating,” said Keri Gans, a registered dietitian nutritionist, and author of “The Small Change Diet.”

In fact, a recent survey from ConAgra Foods found people were more satisfied after eating reduced-fat and low-fat popcorn, compared to when they ate a granola or fruit and nut bar.

2. Cherries
Sweet, a bit tart and filling, cherries are a healthier way to nosh at night. What’s more, the melatonin in them may help you fall asleep faster. In fact, a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that tart cherry juice may help insomnia. Pay attention to portions because the sugar can add up fast: one cup, or 12 cherries, is a serving.

3. Almonds
Almonds have protein, fiber, and magnesium, which make them a healthy choice. It’s easy to devour a bag in one sitting so buy them in a pre-portioned snack size or fill a shot glass for just the right amount.

4. Granola (cereal)
Granola has whole grains and B vitamins but the fat, calories and sugar can add up quick. Instead, look for granola cereal that is low in sugar and high in protein, Gans said. Add some milk which has L-tryptophan and can help you sleep.

5. Yogurt
Greek or regular low-fat yogurt has protein and fat to keep you feeling fuller longer. Most varieties are filled with added sugar, so buy plain and add fresh fruit, vanilla or cinnamon.  

6. Frozen bars
“If your pattern is that you crave something sweet at night, choose a food that isn’t that decadent,” said Allison J. Stowell, registered dietitian for Guiding Stars.

Look for frozen Greek yogurt bars or low-fat ice cream bars. Choose varieties that are under 100 calories and look at labels to buy those with the least amount of ingredients.

7. Cheese and crackers
The combination of complex carbohydrates and protein will give you the energy you need if you have to stay awake. Choose 100 percent whole grain crackers and low-fat cheese, but watch your portions.

“Too much protein will make it harder to digest,” Gans said.

8. Cauliflower
Need something to warm you up on a cold winter’s night? Steam and puree cauliflower and add some veggie broth for a filling, soothing treat.  

Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at