Watermelon with salt. Who knew?!
Yes, it's okay to eat before bed. "Enjoying a small and nutritious snack could help you fall and stay asleep by stabilizing blood sugar levels," says Lisa Hayim, RD, and Founder of The Well Necessities. "When blood sugar is low, or even too high, we become anxious and irritable, which will not promote sleep. Make sure you steer clear of anything greasy, fried, caffeinated or sugar-laden." (Her personal go-tos? An apple with a tablespoon of nut butter or half a banana with four crushed walnuts). Read on for delicious nutritionist-approved snacks next time you're feeling hungry before heading off to dreamland.
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1. Raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
I like that [they] contains tryptophan, the amino acid that turkey made famous and helps boost serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter that regulates many aspects of the human body, including sleep)," says Lauren Manaker RD, Reproductive Health Dietitian and Owner of NutritionNowCounseling.com. "They are high in monounsaturated fats and contain fiber to help me stay full, and contain many nutrients like copper, zinc, and magnesium." These crunchy seeds are also satisfying and tasty, too.
2. Greek yogurt
You don't need to give us another excuse to eat this rich, creamy yogurt. "I love eating my Greek yogurt as an evening snack. Its balance of carbohydrates and protein help me to stay fuller longer. My favorite flavor is coconut because it has just enough sweetness to satisfy my sweet tooth," offers Leigh Tracy, RD, Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
Yup, you have our experts' permission (See also, #5)! "Although many people think that carbohydrates before bed will lead to weight gain, carbohydrates before bed can actually be a healthy choice. They not only help stabilize blood sugar and [help] avoid you waking from hunger, but also they could potentially help you sleep better," says Megan Ostler, RD, nutritionist for personalized health company and innovators, iFit.com.
"Carbs increase the hormone insulin, which may play a role in promoting good sleep though increasing tryptophan to the brain, which makes serotonin. That isn’t to say you should carbo load before bed...I usually recommend 15–30 grams, and your snack should still be within your calorie allowance for the day." Ostler's favorites bedtime snacks? They all pair carbs with a little healthy fat and protein: Cottage cheese and whole grain crackers, avocado toast, or an apple with toast and peanut butter.
"It's a whole grain, plus contains fiber which supports good digestive health," shares Carissa Bealert, RD, a nutritionist based in Orlando and Boston. "It's also a good snack volume-wise, meaning you will visually see a full bowl and your body will think you had enough [of a] snack vs. a small stack of potato chips that will have more calories and fat and less fiber." Buy unflavored popcorn; the flavored varieties tend to contain more added salt and questionable ingredients. If you want a flavor boost, sprinkle on spices or nutritional yeast before eating.
5. Oatmeal with raisins and almonds
Feel free to sprinkle on a little cinnamon, too. "Oatmeal takes minutes to prepare and [is] full of slow releasing carbohydrates — perfect to aid a solid night’s sleep!" advises Valerie Agyeman, RD, Founder of FlourishHeights.com.
6. Salted watermelon
"There’s nothing better than fresh summer watermelon with a dash of salt. It may sound crazy, but adding a dash of salt to the juicy melon brings out the sweetness," says Natalie Rizzo, RD, a nutritionist based in New York City. "Plus, it’s low in calories and high in water, so it’ll help you stay hydrated while sleeping." We don't know about you, but we're pretty excited to try this out.
7. Roasted carrots and sunflower seed butter
"This slightly unusual, but delicious, combo is one of my favorites because it combines carbohydrates with a little bit of protein, and isn't too filling, which is important before bed," notes Chelsey Amer, RD, a virtual dietitian based in NYC and creator of CitNutritionally.com. Sometimes, she'll slip a few chocolate chips into the sunflower seed butter for an added hit of sweetness.
Hungry for bedtime yet?