Fitness + Well-being

7 healthy midnight snacks to help you get back to sleep

Going to bed hungry and waking up with a rumbling tummy in the middle of the night is no fun. So if you’re hungry before bedtime, is it OK to grab a snack? Yes, but it should be on the smaller side (100 to 200 calories), versus a meal. “Larger portions of food late at night can lead to bloating, and can cause or worsen reflux and heartburn,” Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness in New York City, told Fox News.

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And not everything is fair game: Opt for picks higher in carbs and protein, versus ones loaded with fat or fiber — as you’ll want to digest your snack quickly and get back to sleep. “Carbohydrates cause insulin to release, which helps tryptophan enter your brain and bring on sleep, while the protein will help keep you satiated and ensure you won't wake up hungry in the middle of the night,” Rumsey said. Give these seven dietitian-approved bedtime snacks a nosh:

1. Hardboiled egg
“Keep a stash of hardboiled eggs in your fridge, and they will come in handy for your late-night snacks,” said Rumsey, who suggested slicing the egg, sprinkling it with black pepper, and placing it atop whole-wheat toast. “The whole-wheat bread provides carbohydrates, while the egg contains high-quality protein.” The egg also offers a bonus boost of vitamin D, an important nutrient for building and maintaining strong bones. 

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2. Roasted chickpeas
Whip up a batch of these beans during the day, and you’ll have a sleep-helping snack at the ready. Try this Spiced Roasted Chickpeas 5 Ways recipe, and you can season the chickpeas with anything from Italian seasoning to a combo of paprika and cayenne. A half-cup portion offers carbohydrates and tryptophan  to help you sleep, as well as filling protein.

3. Raisin bread
“When I have a hankering for a late-night snack, I usually want something sweet,” Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, owner of Nutrition à la Natalie in New York City, told Fox News. “Rather than indulging in something loaded with sugar, I reach for a slice of Dave’s Killer Bread Raisin the Roof! whole-grain bread. Unlike typical raisin breads made with white flour, this one contains organic whole grains like rolled oats.” Top it with a tablespoon of peanut butter for extra protein and healthy fats if you’re really hungry.

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4. Trail mix
Make your own single-serve portion in seconds: Combine ¼ cup dried fruit with a dozen almonds. “The dried fruit provides carbohydrates, while almonds are rich in magnesium, a mineral needed for quality sleep,” Rumsey said. “If your body's magnesium levels are too low, it can be harder to stay asleep.”

5. Sweet popcorn
If you’re hankering for chocolate at bedtime, try dressing up your popcorn with cocoa powder. This is a favorite of Rizzo’s. “Since chocolate has caffeine that may keep me awake, I opt for cocoa powder sprinkled on top of popcorn,” she said. “This sweet and savory snack has just 40 calories per cup.” Give her Spicy Cocoa Popcorn a try.

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6. String cheese and berries
Make a mini snack plate of string cheese, plus a handful of berries. The cheese provides protein to keep your tummy from mid-sleep rumblings — and the berries offer carbohydrates. Plus, they also happen to be rich in health-helping antioxidants.

7. Mini sandwiches
"I love to make little bite-sized sandwiches out of whole-wheat crackers,” Rizzo said. “My go-to is cottage cheese and berries for a mixture of salty and sweet. This late-night snack is healthy and light.” The whole-wheat crackers provide quality carbohydrates, while the cottage cheese is packed with protein.

Amy Gorin is freelance writer and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.