Trying to go to bed with a growling tummy can interfere with falling asleep and getting a quality night of shut-eye. The trick to a healthy late-night snack is to choose one that's filling enough to satisfy, but light enough to prevent a calorie surplus, which can lead to unwanted weight gain. Here are five good options.
Kiwi and pistachios
Eating kiwi on a daily basis is tied to substantial improvements to both sleep quality and quantity, research shows. In one study, men and women who struggled with sleep disturbances ate two kiwis one hour before bed for four weeks. Sleep diaries and wristwatches that measured sleep revealed that the kiwi eaters fell asleep over 35% faster, slept more soundly and experienced a 13.4% increase in total sleep time. The addition of an ounce of pistachios adds bonus antioxidants, plant protein, healthful fat and minerals. And this nut is a top source of sleep-promoting melatonin, packing more than any other nut.
Avocado egg salad
Mash half an avocado and toss with a hard-boiled egg or two and a handful of chopped veggies, like minced kale or shredded zucchini. In addition to high-quality, easy-to-digest protein, eggs supply tryptophan. Plus, avocado is another top source of potassium. Both provide bonus antioxidants and key nutrients, like vitamin D and choline in the egg yolk, and vitamins E and K and magnesium in the avocado.
Hummus with raw veggies
Reach for a quarter cup of either traditional chickpea hummus or a version made from black beans, lentils or white beans. Scoop it up with a cup of sliced bell pepper, cucumber, grape tomatoes or your other favorite veggies. One study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that participants with a higher intake of fiber and lower consumption of sugar and saturated fat spent more time in restorative, slow-wave sleep. A legume (the umbrella term for beans, lentils, peas and chickpeas) plus veggie combo perfectly fits the bill for a healthy snack.
Mashed banana with pumpkin seeds
A comfort food for many, bananas have been shown to boost blood melatonin levels. They're also packed with potassium, which supports healthy blood pressure, heart function and muscle contractions. Potassium helps prevent muscle cramps too. Mash and garnish this fruit with an ounce of pumpkin seeds, which supply plant protein, fiber, heart-healthy fat, zinc for immunity and healing, and magnesium. The latter mineral helps induce a state of calm and relaxation that prepares your body for sleep and plays a role in melatonin regulation.
Baked sweet potato
The antioxidant-rich carbs in sweet potato boost serotonin, a brain chemical that triggers relaxation — making this root veggie an ideal healthy late-night snack. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of immune-supporting vitamins A and C. One cup with the skin, about the size of a tennis ball, also provides 950 milligrams of potassium — more than twice the amount in a medium banana. Enjoy as is or drizzle with a mixture made from 2 teaspoons of warm water, 1 teaspoon of pure maple syrup and a pinch of ground cinnamon.