A nutritious late-night snack, such as fruit, eggs, and edamame, may provide health benefits. Some contain compounds that might even help you sleep better.
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.
If you’re truly hungry, a small, nutrient-rich snack under 200 calories is generally fine at night (4).
Some snacks even contain compounds that may help you sleep better (5).
Here are 14 excellent and healthy late-night snack ideas.
Consider adding tart cherries like Montmorency or their juice to your late-night snack options.
A few older studies suggest that they may help you sleep better. What’s more, they have anti-inflammatory benefits and may protect against inflammation-related conditions like arthritis and heart disease (
In a recent study, a small group of older adults with insomnia drank 8 ounces (240 milliliters) of 100% tart cherry juice or a placebo drink at breakfast and 1–2 hours before bedtime.
After 2 weeks, an on-site sleep test showed that those drinking cherry juice slept nearly 1.5 hours more at night than the placebo group (10).
Tart cherries contain a relatively small amount of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
However, they also contain the phytochemical procyanidin B-2. It’s thought to protect the amino acid tryptophan in your blood, which your body can use to make melatonin (10).
Tart cherries and their juice make an ideal late-night snack since studies suggest they may help you sleep better. Eight ounces (240 milliliters) of 100% tart cherry juice or a 1/4-cup (40 g) of dried tart cherries have under 160 calories.
One study in healthy men found a more than 4-fold increase in melatonin blood levels within 2 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 (16).
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 190 calories.
This fuzzy-skinned, sweet-tart fruit is nutritious and low in calories.
Two kiwi fruits pack only 84 calories, 4 g of fiber, and 142% of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin C (
In addition, kiwis may help you sleep better.
The fruit was put to the test in a small study involving 24 adults with sleep difficulties. Participants ate two kiwis one hour before bed every night. The study participants used sleep diaries and a sleep wristwatch to track sleep.
After 1 month, people noticed a 35% decrease in the time it took them to fall asleep. They also slept about 13% longer and 5% better (22).
Kiwis are one of the 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 (23).
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.
Kiwis are a light, satisfying snack that’s rich in vitamin C. Two peeled kiwis pack only 84 calories. They’re also a natural source of serotonin, which promotes relaxation and helps curb appetite.
Smoothies are an easy and tasty way to sneak in protein-rich milk before bed.
Pineapple boosts melatonin levels as well (
A milk-based smoothie supplies protein for muscle repair and tryptophan, which is used to make sleep-promoting brain chemicals. An 8-oz (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 like carotenoids.
In a preliminary, 2-week study from 2008, participants drank 4 oz (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.
A 1/4-cup (40 g) of dried goji berries has 139.6 calories. You can eat them out of hand like raisins or add them to trail mix or cereal (
Goji berries are an antioxidant-rich snack, which may aid good sleep. One-fourth cup (40 g) of these tasty, dried berries has 139.6 calories.
This means that the compound can be used to make serotonin and melatonin, which aid sleep.
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 g) 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.
Whole grain cereals like oatmeal are good sources of fiber. Plus, they’re generally more nutrient-dense than ready-to-eat breakfast cereals.
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.
Just about any cooked whole grain can be combined with milk or other toppings for a healthy late-night snack. A 3/-cup (175 g) 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-g) serving of trail mix averages 173 calories (
Besides supplying healthy fats, B vitamins, and minerals, certain trail mix add-ins may even support sleep.
Some trail mix ingredients, such as walnuts and dried cranberries, contain sleep-promoting nutrients. A one-fourth-cup (38-g) 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.
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-oz (170-g) container of plain, nonfat yogurt has only 104 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 chopped chicken breast, leafy greens, and dried cranberries.
A medium whole grain tortilla is a blank slate for a healthy late-night snack, at only 140 calories. Just add nutritious toppings or fillings, such as hummus and leftover chicken breast, and enjoy.
Pumpkin seeds are also rich in tryptophan (45).
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, 1-week study from 2005, some participants consumed 250 mg of tryptophan from pumpkin seeds daily. They also had 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, like pumpkin seeds, may have a similar effect to pure, supplemental tryptophan.
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-oz (28-g) serving of pumpkin seeds has 158 calories.
Edamame are unripe, green soybeans. They 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 (78-g) serving has 94 calories (
Alternatively, you can buy dry-roasted edamame, which is similar to fully mature, roasted soybeans (soy nuts). A 1/4-cup (30 g) has 130 calories (
Edamame is a good source of protein, which includes a notable amount of 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. Spread it on whole grain toast, or pair dry-roasted edamame with dried fruit.
Green soybeans, known as edamame, are a good source of protein, including tryptophan. Buy them fresh, frozen, or dry-roasted. One-half cup (78 g) of fresh edamame has 94 calories, while a 1/4-cup (30 g) of dry-roasted edamame has 130 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 for a quick snack. You can also turn them into egg salad and spread them on 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 g of hunger-satisfying protein, including 83 mg of tryptophan (
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.
Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C.
One cup (166 g) 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 (
Alternatively, pair 1 cup (166 g) of sliced strawberries with 1 ounce (28 grams) of brie. The cheese adds 94 calories and about 6 grams of hunger-satisfying protein (
Keep in mind that brie and other types of soft cheese are not recommended for people who are pregnant. Eating soft cheese carries a risk of listeria infections, which may cause miscarriage (52).
Fresh strawberries are great when you want a visually satisfying, large snack for a few calories. Pairing them with brie provides protein, which helps satisfy hunger longer. One cup (166 g) of strawberries with a 1-oz (28-g) 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 make easy, tasty, and healthy late-night snacks.
Many of these foods even contain sleep-supportive compounds.
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.