I totally understand the dilemma you are in! We’ve been told not to eat too much before going to bed. That ideally, dinner should be your last meal of the day, and not to snack after 7pm. But sometimes we are feeling a bit hungry as the clock ticks down the time to bedtime. Going to bed hungry might result in waking up during the night and not being able to get back to sleep. Eating something too heavy or too much might result in unsettled sleep as your body is digesting while it should be resting.
First of all, let’s look at the fact that it might not be food that your body is longing for. You might simply just be dehydrated. Try first to have a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea. Wait about 20 minutes to see if that accomplished what your body was asking for. Another tried and true tip is to go brush your teeth. Most of us don’t like to eat or drink anything with freshly brushed and flossed teeth!
If neither of those tips cure you, try to look for something small and on the lighter side:
- A piece of fruit with either a handful of nuts and seeds, or a thumb-size of cheese
- A handful of nuts and seeds on their own, or simply a scoop of natural nut butter
- ½ cup of plain yogurt or cottage cheese with added fruit
- Some cut up raw veggies with hummus, tzatziki or mashed avocado
- 1-2 tuna boats on a romaine lettuce leaf, or tuna salad with raw veggies
- 5-10 shrimp dipped in seafood sauce
- 1-2 boiled eggs
- Small portion of crackers (Ryvita, Mary’s, etc.) with natural nut butter
Though not necessarily all perfect options, they all contain some protein, carbohydrate and/or good fat. The key is to keep your portion on the smaller side. Don’t take the bag of nuts or box of crackers out to your tv….this leads to mindless eating. Rather, put some on a small plate. It allows you better control.
What I strongly recommend is that you don’t go for anything with minimal nutritional value, or too heavy or large. This would include items such as:
- Ice cream, frozen yogurt, chocolate, candy, etc.
- Fried foods such as fries, onion rings, deep fried pickles, chicken wings/fingers, etc.
- Burgers or hot dogs, pizza, subs, pitas
- Nachos with salsa, sour cream, cheese and/or meat sauce
- A larger plate of cheese and crackers
All of these are either loaded with sugar, bad fats or include lots of refined grains (white flour). All of this in your gut while you are trying to sleep is likely only going to stress out your digestion while it should be resting. It is key to give your body a break from foods during the night when possible. And while all this busy digestion is going on inside of you as you are sleeping, there is a really good chance your sleep will be disturbed as well. And not much feels worse than waking from a troubled night of sleep.
So, keep your snacks small, healthy and goal focused!