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The best foods to eat when those late-night cravings hit

Woman with a bowl of yogurt and granola on a white background.
Daria Shevtsova/Pexels

You spend the day eating healthy, nutritious foods like lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, but when the midnight munchies hit, all you want to do is snack on junk food. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there, but it’s not ideal if you’re trying to stick to a specific diet. A 2017 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that late-night snackers tend to have a higher percentage of body fat than those who stop eating earlier in the day. 

But when you want a snack, you want a snack, and you should never forgo eating when your body is telling you it’s hungry. Going to bed on an empty, rumbling stomach will only keep you up at night, and it can cause disordered eating and exacerbate body dysmorphia. Therefore, the best late-night snacks will keep you full until morning and provide the nutrition your body needs to keep functioning. 

If you want healthy snacks for your cravings that won’t interfere with your diet or lifestyle, read on. Keep in mind, it’s okay to have a bag of potato chips! Moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle, and self-deprivation can lead to disordered and dangerous binges.

Channel your inner Bugs Bunny and snack on baby carrots

Baby carrots are the perfect, low-cal snack when you want something crunchy. Tear into a bag of baby carrots instead of reaching for those salt-laden potato chips. They’re high in fiber, so they’ll also keep you fuller longer. One serving of baby carrots contains three grams of fiber, one gram of protein, and zero grams of fat. Best of all? Baby carrots only have 40 calories per serving, if you’re counting. 

Dunk them in two tablespoons of your favorite ranch dressing for an extra tangy punch!

Make your own Greek yogurt parfait

You don’t have to give up dessert if you have a sweet tooth. Mix up a creamy, dreamy parfait using fat-free Greek yogurt and berries. You can use fresh berries, but we prefer them frozen for an extra bite of crisp, cool sweetness. Layer a serving of nonfat Greek yogurt over your favorite berries for a healthy, sweet dessert that provides 12 grams of protein. You can also drizzle it with honey for a touch of sweetness.

Go bananas

Bananas are the perfect snack when you’re feeling peckish but don’t want to dirty up more dishes. One medium banana provides 450 mg of potassium, 2.6 grams of fiber, and 0.3 grams of fat. 

Fallon Michael/Unsplash

Warm up with oatmeal

Because oatmeal contains complex carbohydrates that break down slowly, you’ll feel full until breakfast after a piping hot bowl. According to Columbia University, carbohydrates release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation, helping you drift off to sleep. Calorie and nutrition content depends on your choice of oatmeal, but this tasty, nutritious snack averages around 150 calories per serving. Take an opportunity to make it your own by adding berries, honey, or dark chocolate.

Boost melatonin naturally with tart cherries

Tart cherries are a low-cal, fat-free snack that can help you fall asleep faster by promoting your body’s melatonin production. One-quarter cup of tart cherries contains 100 calories, one gram of fiber, and one gram of protein. A word of caution: tart cherries pack a whopping 19 grams of sugar into every serving, so they’re not the best snack for diabetics. 

Add some spice to your life with wasabi almonds

Almonds are one of the healthiest snacks around. They’re rich in protein, fiber, and magnesium, which may promote drowsiness, so it’s great for bedtime. If you want a snack with a kick, opt for spicy wasabi almonds, which contain three grams of fiber, six grams of protein, and clock in at 170 calories per serving. 

Nosh on plant-based dip with veggies

The perfect option for vegans, vegetarians, and veggie-lovers is a small scoop of a plant-based dip like guacamole that will keep you full until your next meal. Guacamole contains two grams of fiber per serving, and it’s also packed with folate, an essential B-vitamin that regulates DNA and RNA production. 

Late-night snacking doesn’t have to spoil your diet or leave you with an upset stomach. Choose nutrient-dense foods in place of empty calories, and your bedtime munchies will provide health benefits like important vitamins and minerals. You don’t have to deprive yourself of your favorite foods with these healthy treats; From sweet desserts to salty nibbles, there’s a nutritious snack to suit every craving. 

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Mary Johnson
Mary Johnson is a writer and photographer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her work has been published in PawTracks and…
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