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8 Healthy Night Snacks That Are Satisfying and Sleep-Promoting – Real Simple

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It’s all too common to feel nagging hunger pangs in the hours between dinner and bedtime. But night time snack foods and drinks are notorious for being less-than-healthy—it’s so easy to reach for the most convenient and tastiest foods you’ve been craving after making more nutritious choices all day. And while certainly delicious, certain midnight snack options can also negatively impact sleep and leave you wanting more. This conundrum adds further insult to injury, as healthy sleep is a cornerstone to health and wellness.

Don’t worry—it’s not a crime to need a snack before bed, and there are tons of delicious and healthy night time snack options out there. Here are some great food choices that are satisfying, nutritious, and support optimal sleep, too.

Nutrients for Healthy Night Snacks

Foods with these nutrients aren’t just healthy for you, but also support a good night’s rest—so they’re perfect healthy night snacks. When midnight hunger comes knocking, reach for:

Fiber

Fiber supports optimal health by regulating the blood sugar response, lowering cholesterol levels, encouraging healthy digestion, increasing satiety after eating (ideal for evening snacks!), and supporting the gut microbiome. A thriving gut microbiome supports the immune system, brain health, and several other body systems. And interestingly enough, a 2022 study showed that fiber’s positive impact on the microbiome may be linked to better sleep by supporting the gut-brain axis and reducing symptoms of several sleep disorders. Fiber is found largely in plant-based foods including fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.

Magnesium

One of the most common dietary supplements for those with sleep troubles is magnesium. “Magnesium, found in nuts, seeds, spinach, and tart cherry juice, may improve sleep quality so that you feel more rested and may help you fall asleep faster,” says Bianca Tamburello, RDN, registered dietitian at FRESH Communications. A 2023 review on this key mineral supports these benefits. Though further research is warranted, magnesium-rich foods are undoubtedly healthy additions to your after-dinner snack, too, as they promote better bone, heart, and metabolic health.

Vitamin D

Ever elusive vitamin D is essential for optimal immune, heart, metabolic, and bone health, but emerging research is also finding it to be super beneficial for sleep. This is thanks to a handful of proposed mechanisms, including: 

  • Vitamin D’s role in serotonin and melatonin production that are essential to healthy circadian rhythms.
  • Vitamin D receptors on the brain stem that play an important role in sleep.
  • Vitamin D’s impact on certain pain disorders (like restless leg syndrome) that may negatively impact sleep.

These impacts have been found in a multitude of studies, but are well summarized in this 2022 systematic review published in Nutrients. Some great dietary sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, salmon, swordfish, tuna, sardines, beef liver, egg yolk, fortified orange juice, fortified dairy and plant milks, and fortified cereals.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

“Research shows that omega-3 supplementation may improve sleep for those eating few omega-3 rich foods,” Tamburello says. This could be thanks to the fatty acid’s role in melatonin regulation. “Eating more foods high in omega-3 fats like salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds, may improve sleep by promoting higher melatonin levels,” she adds. Plus, omega-3s promote heart, brain, and immune health, among many other impressive benefits.

Antioxidants

Antioxidant-rich micronutrients like plant compounds, vitamin E, and vitamin C are also food additions to a bedtime snack. They help reduce inflammation, promoting overall health and immunity, while also aiding in pain alleviation that may interfere with quality shut-eye. Foods especially high in antioxidants include berries, citrus fruit, leafy greens, beets, nuts, seeds, and whole grains—though most plant-based foods contain at least some.

Tryptophan

We’ve all heard the common trope that the tryptophan found in turkey is to blame for the Thanksgiving nap many of us take after the big meal. And as it turns out, some of this may be true. “Tryptophan, which is often associated with turkey, but also found in dairy, chicken, and fish, can help boost serotonin levels to positively impact sleep,” Tamburello explains.

Melatonin

“Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by the body to promote sleep, but can also be found as a supplement and in foods including tart cherry juice, walnuts, almonds, oats, and grapes,” Tamburello says. And there’s plenty of evidence to back this up, with research pointing to its role in improving symptoms of sleep disorders, while also helping you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Healthy Night Snacks That Are Good and Good for You

Handful of Walnuts or Almonds

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Walnuts are packed with sleep-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, while both almonds and walnuts are filled with fiber, antioxidants, melatonin, and magnesium—plus a bit of plant protein, too.These nutritional perks will encourage overall health, satiety, and sleep. Plus, if you opt for lightly salted nuts, it can help to curb your salty cravings after dinner.

Mini Smoothie Bowl With Tart Cherries

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The satisfying sweetness of a smoothie bowl is perfect after dinner. Smoothies are also an ideal vehicle for sleep-inducing additions like tart cherries (or tart cherry juice), frozen berries, grapes, and even oats.

Smoked Salmon on Whole Wheat Crackers

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The unctuous fattiness of smoked salmon will not only help curb your night-time hunger and salt cravings, but it may also promote better sleep. This is due to its omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Salmon from Chile is especially beneficial in this regard as it is particularly high in omega-3s. Smoked salmon is nothing short of a *chef’s kiss* when served on whole wheat crackers with a swipe of cream cheese and a sprinkle of fresh dill.

Overnight Oats With Chia Seeds

Antonis Achilleos

Overnight oats can save the day at night—not just at breakfast time. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, melatonin, magnesium, fiber, and antioxidants found in ingredients like oats and chia seeds. Top with berries and a splash of milk to help with those sugar cravings.

Turkey Roll-Ups

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The tryptophan found in turkey (and chicken!) will help you have a more complete night’s sleep, making turkey roll-ups the perfect slightly salty night time snack. Whip it up with nitrate-free, low-sodium deli turkey, lettuce, tomato, your condiments of choice, and maybe a slice of cheese.

Yogurt With Fruit and Granola

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A bowl of protein- and calcium-packed yogurt, topped with fruit, granola, or some chopped nuts, is always a satisfying snack, and even more so with a sprinkling of omega-3-rich chia seeds or hemp hearts. The tryptophan and vitamin D found in yogurt, especially, will also promote healthy sleep.

Fresh Veggies and Cottage Cheese Dip

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Crunchy foods are a common craving in the hours after dinner. High-fiber popcorn and protein-filled edamame are excellent choices, but don’t sleep on fresh-cut veggies and a satisfying dip. Dip them in vitamin D and tryptophan-rich cottage cheese to promote sleep and add an irresistibly savory bite. I top my cottage cheese with everything bagel seasoning for extra flavor. If you’re really not a cottage cheese fan, hummus, yogurt dip, or guacamole are delicious, savory, filling options too!

Popcorn

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If you need something truly zero-fuss—just a light, airy, crunchy bite—reach for a few handfuls of plain or lightly salted popcorn. This snack is technically a whole grain that’ll provide a bit more fiber than other late-night, bagged snacks like potato chips or pretzels. Try a pre-bagged option from the grocery store that’s easy on the sodium levels, made with little to no oils, and doesn’t have any or much added sugar.

Foods to Avoid if You Want a Healthy Night Snacks

On the other side of the coin, certain foods can disrupt nightly sleep or leave us still-hungry and lacking satisfying nutrients.

  • Alcohol, high-sugar products, ultra-processed foods: These include alcohol, ultra-processed foods, and added sugars. As pro-inflammatory agents, these foods can hurt sleep quality, potentially causing stomach upset, interfering with normal sleep patterns (as is the case with alcohol and added sugar), or promoting spikes in energy, which added sugar tends to do.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine-rich drinks and foods—certain teas, coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate—should also be approached with caution post-dinner, as caffeine is a stimulant that promotes stamina and wakefulness.
  • Spicy foods and high-saturated fat foods: “Additionally, spicy foods and hard-to-digest high-fat foods can cause acid reflux if eaten too close to bedtime, interfering with healthy sleep patterns” Tamburello adds. 

More Healthy Night-Time Snacking Tips and Considerations

“If you feel that you’re ravenous soon after dinner, it’s possible that you’re restricting too much,” Tamburello says. “For maximum nutrition and filling power, aim to make half your plate a fiber-rich veggie, a quarter of your plate a lean protein, and a quarter of your plate a whole grain or complex carbohydrate.” This winning combination of nutrients should leave you feeling satisfied well after you’ve finished your meal.

If sugar cravings or salt cravings hit you at night, it’s important to look at the whole picture of your daily life—these cravings can be brought on by stress, habitually consuming higher amounts of these foods regularly, dehydration, and (ironically) poor sleep habits. The healthy snacks highlighted below should help to curb some of these cravings, while practicing mindfulness can be beneficial, too. The practice of mindfulness helps us tune into our bodies to determine whether we’re actually hungry, experiencing an empty craving, snacking out of a behavioral habit, or actually have another need, like drinking more water.

What’s the Best Time for a Nightly Snack?

In terms of when the best time for a night time snack is, “some research suggests that eating four to six hours before bed is best to prevent digestion from interfering with sleep, while other experts recommend eating up to 2 hours before bed,” Tamburello says. In other words, there are several schools of thought, and it really depends on you, your appetite, and other contextual factors. “The bottom line: If you’re hungry, you should eat something,” she says.

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