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Best Things to Eat … If You Need a Midnight Snack

Karen Solomon
by Karen Solomon
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Best Things to Eat … If You Need a Midnight Snack

Breakfast was at 8, lunch blew past you at noon, and dinner was unsatisfying at 6. Alas, it’s bedtime and that monster in your gut is gurgling feed me in a full-blown snack attack. What’s a calorie-counting guy or gal to do — without breaking the calorie bank?

For one, don’t judge yourself. Hunger happens, sometimes even after you’ve brushed your teeth. A late-night snack can actually help you sleep, balancing out digestion and hormones to help your body relax and rest. When it comes to late-night snacking, moderation is key. Digestion slows down at slumber time, so too much of anything — even a good thing — can make you uncomfortable or disrupt your digestion.

Before you venture forth into an all-out bunny slipper buffet, take a pause and learn how to snack responsibly. We’re here to spoon-feed you some delicious, satisfying, low-calorie, late-night bites to tame the hungry beast within.

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One of our favorites is a hot cup of bouillon or broth (about 50 calories) or Thai tom yum soup made from paste (50–100 calories for 1–2 tablespoons of paste stirred into a mug of hot water). We’ve noticed warm food feels more filling than cold, and the volume of the liquid tricks your stomach into thinking it has ingested something hearty.


Carbohydrates are often praised for their ability to help us sleep in small doses; they help increase the level of tryptophan in the blood, a hormone that helps us count the zzz’s. There’s a slice of whole-grain toast, of course. Or there’s popcorn with around 30 calories per popped cup. Pop it in the microwave and add a rounded teaspoon of olive oil for another 50 calories. And our pal the crunchy pretzel? Just 120 calories for 22 pretzels. Dip them in the yellow mustard of your choice for extra zing. A whole-grain cereal with a half-cup of milk can have as little as 160 calories — just be sure to read the label before you pour.


Of course fruits and vegetables are calorie-counting friendly and often full of fiber, making them a great late-night choice to sate your snacking. The classics should not be messed with: a stalk of celery stuffed with a tablespoon of natural peanut butter (or nut butter of your choice) hovers around 110 calories. A cut-up apple beneath a scant sprinkling of granola or hot cocoa mix really satisfies a sweet tooth without tipping the scales (and it’s less than 110 calories!) Feeling like some late-night kitchen wizardry? Squeeze a lemon over a diced carrot, celery stalk and apple; add two tablespoons of diced walnuts. You’ll have a stunning faux-Waldorf salad for less than 200 calories. Take that, hunger!


While bedtime is not protein power-boost time, a little bit of dairy can go a long way in helping you feel full enough to count some sheep. A half of a banana sliced into a cup of plain yogurt, or 1/2 cup of blueberries spooned into a cup of cottage cheese all truly satisfy for less than 200 calories. Or, beat hunger-induced insomnia with a stick of string cheese — meditatively peeling one string at a time — at just 80 late-night calories.

However you crunch the numbers, embrace a sensible choice in the late-night snack of your dreams.

Written by Karen Solomon, the author of Asian Pickles; Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It; and Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It (Ten Speed Press/Random House). Her writing and recipes have appeared on Saveur.com, in Fine Cooking, Prevention, Men’s Health, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Yoga Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Sponsored by - Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop!
About Orville Redenbacher's SmartPop!

The best tasting popcorn starts with the best ingredients that’s why Orville Redenbacher’s begins with Orville’s exclusive, 100% whole grain, non-GMO popcorn that pops up light and fluffy. Plus, Orville Redenbacher’s is the only leading brand of microwave popcorn with no artificial preservatives, flavors or dyes in all our products.

About the Author

Karen Solomon
Karen Solomon

Karen is the author of Asian Pickles; Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It; and Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It (Ten Speed Press/Random House). Her writing and recipes have appeared on Saveur.com, in Fine Cooking, Prevention, Men’s Health, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Yoga Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. You can also find her leading food tours for Edible Excursions through her neighborhood in San Francisco’s Mission District.


19 responses to “Best Things to Eat … If You Need a Midnight Snack”

  1. Avatar Honza Jaroš says:

    So there is no recommendation for protein shake before going to bed?

    • Avatar Andrew Hung Safabakhsh says:

      It states, “While bedtime is not protein power-boost time…” in the last articles labeled “A BIT OF DAIRY”

  2. Avatar Michael Johnson says:

    Dairy is the root of a lot of health related problems and diseases. Think twice before consuming [at night]. Just read How Not to Die. Best book on the science of health.

  3. Avatar Carolee Belkin Walker says:

    Lately this has been me as I’ve been having an early dinner and then I’m so hungry at bedtime I don’t feel like I’ll get quality sleep. This makes me think about and have compassion for people who go to bed hungry every night. So I was happy to see some carb-protein balance here. I’ve been having PB&J on a brown rice cake (or 2). Thnx for the great suggestions!

  4. Avatar randigb says:

    Why eat fruit (apples, blueberries) before bed? Aren’t they pretty high in sugar content?

    • Avatar Allie says:

      Because fruit “really satisfies” the sweet tooth of the author of this post. Clearly focused post listing low-calorie options, not low in sugar.

    • Avatar Shonnie Payton says:

      Actually apples and any type of berries, grapefruit, pears are all low in sugar especially Berries.. I like to eat grapefruit at bed to cut the hungry and also burn the belly fat why sleeping ..

  5. Avatar braydensnana says:

    I work third shift and even if I eat something at work, I am starving when I get home. This is the worst part of the day for me to eat wrong. I am not a big fruit fan, cottage cheese,blueberries. Cheese and half a banana just don’t cut it. Any ideas?

    • Avatar Julie Young says:

      I worked 12 hour night shifts for 6 years. I always had a bowl of “Better oats” instant oatmeal when I got home in the morning. It was warm and slightly sweet, very satisfying, quick and easy. Only 100 calories. I’m on days now but I’ll still have a bowl occasionally before bed. I figure its better than eating ice cream before bed.

  6. Avatar William E Ott II says:

    thank you for this for those nights when the sandman takes a brief hiatus from my sleep cycle and my
    REM turns into rum ball cravings.

  7. Avatar Karen Mx says:

    How does one “round” a teaspoon of olive oil? Bedtime hardly the time to be cleaning a mess off the kitchen counter.

    • Avatar Allie says:

      Set your meds up in the morning, or schedule something differently to avoid late-night kitchen disasters.
      But – yeah I don’t know what a “rounded” teaspoon of olive oil is (I’m not much of a baker but I am a cook and a food writer/recipe writer). They must mean something like “It’s ok if it is a little more than a teaspoon technically is”. Trying to sound fancy! 🙂

  8. Avatar Tammy Brown says:

    Actually there have been quite a few studies that show the benefits of having 20-30 grams of protein before bed so a protein shake that is not high in calories can be a great option.

  9. Avatar Not Shaunette says:

    Apples aren’t a good choice if you want to sleep soon afterwards. Apples are as good (arguably better) as coffee for waking you up. So that midnight snack could keep you up for a couple more hours.

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