Anyone who gets hit with a late-night snack attack probably worries a little bit about eating after dinner—especially if they’re trying to lose weight. But have no fear! Nighttime snacks can be a completely healthy addition to your daily diet.
Just consider a few simple guidelines: First, ask yourself why you want to eat. “Are you snacking because you feel hungry or because you are bored or watching TV?” says Melissa Prest, M.S., R.D.N., C.S.R., L.D.N. Give your dinner about an hour to digest and then check in with your motives before scavenging through the fridge.
When you do snack, it’s all about keeping your kitchen stocked with healthy bites, so you’re not left aimlessly staring into the refrigerator (and reaching for unhealthy choices) before bed. “Plan snacks just like you plan other meals,” says Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. Plan out your full day of meals (snacks, too!) at least a day or so in advance to keep healthy eating on track, Newgent says.
A weight loss-friendly snack should include a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, and come in between 100 to 200 calories, says Angel Planells, M.S. R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A combination of macronutrients helps you feel fuller from smaller portions—and that’s because the protein and fiber fills you up and helps to lessen the impact carbs have on your blood sugar, he explains. Just don’t eat within an hour of hitting the hay, or you may be in for some digestive upset overnight, adds Newgent.
These five dietitian-approved snacks are perfect options for your next nighttime nosh:
For a sweet and salty combo, try an easy mix of dried fruit and nuts. Dried tart cherries with pistachios or raisins with peanuts are two quick and easy combos, says Newgent.
“The combination of protein and fiber in this snack duo is notably satiating,” she says. Half an ounce of pistachios (about 25 kernels) contains 81 calories and almost three grams of protein. Pair that a quarter cup of unsweetened dried cherries (65 calories) for a snack that totals 146 calories.
Blend half a very ripe mango (or half a cup of any fruit you like), three quarters of a cup of plain Greek yogurt, water, and ice for a delicious, probiotic-packed drink, recommends Newgent. The mango has about 100 calories and the yogurt adds 75 calories to the mix.
If you’re not feeling an icy beverage, mix the fruit into a bowl of plain yogurt instead. Prest also likes adding a tablespoon of hemp or chia seeds to her yogurt bowl for a boost of plant-based protein and fiber.
Veggies and Bean Dip
Newgent loves this pick because it’s a delicious source of plant-based nutrients and soluble fiber. With just 50 calories in two tablespoons of hummus and another 50 in a cup of carrot sticks, this snack is an easy, low-calorie option. Just portion out your hummus and put the container away!
Apple and Nut Butter
Prest recommends an apple with one tablespoon of nut butter for a mix of carbs, protein, and fat that comes in around 150 calories. A tablespoon of unsalted peanut butter contains almost four grams of protein and eight grams of unsaturated fat.
If you’re looking for something salty, swap the greasy chips for three cups of air-popped popcorn, says Prest. You can even top it with sea salt or nutritional yeast seasoning for some extra flavor. Nutritional yeast is used as a cheese replacement in lots of vegan diets and packs lots of B vitamins and some protein.
You can snack on a full three cups of air-popped popcorn for just 92 calories, with that sprinkle of a tablespoon of nutritional yeast adding three grams of protein for just 20 calories.
Pin this handy infographic and never stare aimlessly into the fridge at night again: