It’s well after dark and your stomach is rumbling.
The challenge is figuring out what you can eat that’s quick, tasty and won’t cause you to pack on the pounds.
Fortunately, if you’re truly hungry, a small, nutrient-rich snack under 200 calories is generally fine at night (
Some snacks even contain compounds that may help you sleep better (
Here are 15 excellent and healthy late-night snack ideas.
Consider adding tart cherries like Montmorency or their juice to your late-night snack options.
A few, small studies suggest that they may help you sleep better. What’s more, they have anti-inflammatory benefits and may offer protection against inflammation-related conditions like arthritis and heart disease (
In a recent study, a small group of older women with insomnia drank 8 ounces (240 ml) of 100% tart cherry juice or a placebo drink at breakfast and 1–2 hours before bedtime.
After two weeks, an on-site sleep test showed that those drinking cherry juice slept nearly one and a half hours more at night, compared to the placebo group (
Tart cherries contain the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, but only a relatively small amount.
However, they also contain the phytochemical procyanidin B-2, thought to protect the amino acid tryptophan in your blood, which can be used to make melatonin (
An 8-ounce (240-ml) glass of 100% tart cherry juice or one-third cup (40 grams) of dried tart cherries have around 140 calories (
Summary Tart cherries and their juice make an ideal late-night snack since studies suggest they may help you sleep better. Eight ounces (240-ml) of 100% tart cherry juice or one-third cup (40 grams) of dried tart cherries have around 140 calories.
One study in healthy men found a more than 4-fold increase in melatonin blood levels within two hours of eating two bananas (
Bananas are one of the few fruits known to be relatively rich in the nerve messenger serotonin, some of which your body converts to melatonin.
Summary Snacking on a banana dipped in almond butter may help increase your body’s melatonin levels to support a good night’s sleep — all that for only about 165 calories.
This fuzzy-skinned, sweet-tart fruit is nutritious and figure-friendly.
Two peeled kiwis pack only 93 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 190% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C (17).
In addition, kiwis may help you sleep better.
The fruit was put to the test in a study in 24 adults with sleep difficulties. Participants ate two kiwis one hour before bed every night. Sleep diaries and a sleep wrist watch were used to track sleep.
After one month, people noticed a 35% decrease in the time it took them to fall asleep. They also slept about 13% longer and 5% better (
Kiwis are one of few fruits containing a good amount of the nerve messenger serotonin, which has a relaxing effect and can help you fall asleep faster. Serotonin also helps curb carb cravings (
Though larger studies are needed to confirm the sleep benefits of kiwi, there are plenty of other reasons to enjoy this fruit in the meantime.
Summary Kiwis are a light, satisfying snack that’s rich in vitamin C. Two peeled kiwis pack only 93 calories. They’re also a natural source of serotonin, which promotes relaxation and helps curb appetite.
Pistachios stand out among other nuts for their high levels of sleep-promoting melatonin.
Though all plant foods are thought to naturally contain this substance, few have as much as pistachios (
For comparison, the amount of melatonin typically recommended to aid sleep is 0.5–5 mg (
Summary A handful (1 ounce or 28 grams) of shelled pistachios packs as much sleep-promoting melatonin as a dietary supplement, at only 160 calories.
Smoothies are an easy and tasty way to sneak in protein-rich milk before bed.
Pineapple has been found to boost melatonin levels as well (
Summary A milk-based smoothie supplies protein for muscle repair and tryptophan, which is used to make sleep-promoting brain chemicals. An 8-ounce (240-ml) smoothie with low-fat milk and pineapple packs only about 160 calories.
The red-orange color of these sweet-tart berries hints at their rich supply of antioxidants, including carotenoids.
Goji berries also contain a bit of melatonin, which may help you sleep (
In a preliminary, two-week study, participants drank 4 ounces (120 ml) of goji berry juice or a placebo beverage.
More than 80% of people in the goji berry group reported improved sleep quality, and about 70% found it easier to wake up, while around 50% reported feeling less tired. People in the placebo group reported no such benefits (
Larger, more rigorous studies are needed to confirm these sleep benefits, but goji berries are a simple, nutrient-rich snack, in any case.
One-fourth cup (40 grams) of dried goji berries has 150 calories. You can eat them like raisins or add them to trail mix or cereal (
Summary Goji berries are an antioxidant-rich snack, which may aid good sleep. One-fourth cup (40 grams) of these tasty, dried berries has only 150 calories.
This means that the compound can be used to make serotonin and melatonin, which aid sleep.
Summary The combo of protein from cheese and carbs from crackers supports steady blood sugar levels and the production of sleep-supportive brain chemicals. What’s more, 4 crackers and 1 stick (28 grams) of reduced-fat cheese pack only 150 calories.
Hot cereal isn’t just for breakfast. It’s also a great way to wind down at night.
Hot, whole-grain cereals like oatmeal are good sources of fiber. Plus, they’re generally a healthier choice than cold, more refined products.
You can also think outside the box by turning cooked barley or whole-grain rice into hot cereal with the addition of milk and toppings like cinnamon, nuts or dried fruit.
Prepare whole grains that require longer cooking times in advance and store them in your fridge for a few days. Simply add a bit of water and reheat the grains when you’re ready for a late-night snack.
Besides satisfying your hunger, oats, barley and rice (especially black or red rice) are natural sources of melatonin (
Summary Just about any cooked whole grain can be combined with milk or other toppings for a healthy late-night snack. The melatonin in grains like oats and barley supports sleep, and a 3/4 cup (175 grams) of cooked oatmeal made with water only has 124 calories.
You can buy trail mix pre-made or purchase your favorite ingredients individually and make your own.
Since trail mix ingredients are generally calorie-dense, it’s important to watch your portion size. A one-fourth-cup (38-gram) serving of trail mix averages 173 calories (34).
Besides supplying healthy fats, B vitamins and minerals, certain trail mix add-ins may even support sleep.
For example, walnuts, sunflower seeds and dried cranberries have been noted for their melatonin contents (
Summary Some trail mix ingredients, such as walnuts and dried cranberries, contain sleep-promoting melatonin. A one-fourth-cup (38-gram) serving averages 173 calories, depending on the mix. Measure your trail mix portions to avoid excess calories.
Your body needs calcium to make melatonin from the amino acid tryptophan (
Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, is also rich in protein, particularly casein.
If yogurt is your snack of choice, opt for plain and flavor it with unsweetened fruit, such as berries or peaches.
Summary Yogurt is a good source of protein, which helps curb hunger. It’s also rich in calcium, which has been linked to better sleep. A 6-ounce (170-gram) container of plain, nonfat yogurt has only 94 calories.
Tortillas can be filled in any number of ways to satisfy late-night hunger.
For a simple snack, warm one whole-grain tortilla, top it with hummus, unsweetened nut butter or sundried tomato spread, roll it up and enjoy.
If you need something a little heartier, try adding leftover chopped chicken breast, leafy greens and dried cranberries.
Summary A small, whole-grain tortilla is a blank slate for a healthy late-night snack, at only 94 calories. Just add nutritious toppings or fillings, such as hummus and leftover chicken breast, and enjoy.
Pumpkin seeds are also rich in tryptophan (
Eating some carbs like half an apple or some raisins together with pumpkin seeds encourages your body to route the tryptophan in the seeds to your brain to make melatonin.
In a small, preliminary, one-week study, some participants consumed 250 mg of tryptophan from pumpkin seeds daily, plus carbs in the form of a nutrition bar. These people slept 5% better and spent less time awake (
In comparison, people who received 250 mg of supplemental, drug-quality tryptophan powder and carbs in a nutrition bar slept 7% better. A control group who ate a carb-only snack did not report improved sleep quality (
Larger studies are needed to confirm these results. Still, it’s encouraging that tryptophan from a food, such as pumpkin seeds, may have a similar effect to pure, supplemental tryptophan.
Summary Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium and tryptophan, which may help support sleep, particularly when eaten with carbs, such as raisins or fresh fruit. A 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of pumpkin seeds has 146 calories.
Edamame, which are unripe, green soybeans, can be purchased fresh or frozen.
For a simple, late-night snack, toss fresh or thawed, shelled edamame with a bit of salt and pepper. You don’t even need to cook them. A half-cup (113-gram) serving has 150 calories (
Alternatively, you can buy dry-roasted edamame, which is similar to fully mature, roasted soybeans (soy nuts). One-fourth cup (30 grams) has 130 calories (
Edamame is a good source of protein, which includes a notable amount of the amino acid tryptophan (
To help shuttle the tryptophan to your brain to make melatonin, pair the edamame with carbs.
For example, use edamame instead of garbanzo beans in your favorite hummus recipe and spread it on whole-grain toast or pair dry-roasted edamame with dried fruit.
Summary Green soybeans, known as edamame, are a good source of protein, including the amino acid tryptophan. Buy them fresh, frozen or dry-roasted. One-half cup (113 grams) of fresh edamame has 150 calories, while dry-roasted edamame are higher in calories.
Eggs are incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of snacks, depending on how much time and effort you want to put in.
For example, keep some hard-boiled eggs on hand in your refrigerator for a quick snack or to turn them into egg salad as a spread for crackers.
There are also many grain-free, scrambled-egg muffin recipes online. These tasty treats can often be frozen and reheated at a later point in a muffin pan or your microwave.
One large egg has just 72 calories and supplies 6 grams of hunger-satisfying protein, including 83 mg of tryptophan (45).
Summary You may not think of eggs as a snack, but they’re quick to cook and a good source of protein, which helps tame your hunger. One large egg has just 72 calories.
If you’re looking for a large snack serving that doesn’t pack a lot of calories, reach for fresh strawberries.
One cup (166 grams) of sliced strawberries has only 53 calories. At that rate, you could enjoy two cups and still stay well below the recommended 200-calorie limit for late-night snacks (46).
Alternatively, pair a cup (166 grams) of sliced strawberries with 1 ounce (28 grams) of brie. The cheese adds 94 calories and about 6 grams of hunger-satisfying protein (47).
Keep in mind that brie and other types of soft cheese are not recommended for pregnant women. Eating soft cheese carries a risk of listeria infections, which may cause miscarriage (
Summary Fresh strawberries are great when you want a visually-satisfying, large serving for few calories. Pairing them with brie provides protein to help satisfy hunger longer. One cup (166 grams) of strawberries with a 1-ounce (28-gram) side of brie has only 147 calories.
If you’re truly hungry late at night — rather than just bored or stressed — eating a snack under 200 calories shouldn’t tip the scales.
Whole, minimally processed foods like berries, kiwis, goji berries, edamame, pistachios, oatmeal, plain yogurt and eggs make easy, tasty and healthy late-night snacks.
Many of these foods even contain sleep-supportive compounds, including tryptophan, serotonin, melatonin, magnesium and calcium.
The most important thing is to keep healthy snacks on hand that you enjoy. You’ll be less tempted to run to the convenience store or hit the nearest fast-food drive-through for an unhealthy, high-calorie snack before bed.