Maybe you ate dinner early or you stayed up late and now you’re hungry again. Or you just really want a snack to go with Netflix. But you’ve also heard it’s not great to eat right before bed, so what’s the best thing to snack on when you’re starving at night?
We checked in with registered dietician Abby Langer and registered dietician Despina Hyde, diabetes expert at NYU Langone Weight Management Program, to find out.
Sure, your metabolic rate slows down a bit, but it doesn’t stop, says Langer. Yes, when it comes to weight management, it’s better to eat your biggest meals around the time of day you’re most active, but in general, your total calories matter more than the timing. And a reasonable snack that satisfies your hunger before bed isn’t enough to derail your healthy eating efforts. The only time Langer really suggests restricting nighttime eating is if you’re exhibiting symptoms of binge-eating disorder and having a cutoff time at night is helpful for you.
If you’re going to eat before bed, pick something relatively light and leave some buffer time before you lay down.
Avoid a too-big meal, since your body will have to work harder to digest, which might actually keep you awake. But if your schedule leaves you with no choice but to eat dinner close to bedtime, Hyde suggests something that’s about 40% veggies, 40% carbs, and 20% protein.
And don’t go immediately horizontal after you eat — spend some time sitting up reading, watching TV, doing the dishes, whatever. This reduces your risk of indigestion and acid reflux, says Hyde. If you notice any acid reflux symptoms, don’t eat within an hour of laying down, says Langer.
And avoid anything fatty, spicy, super sugary, or caffeinated.
Capsaicin, which makes food spicy, can cause indigestion and discomfort, which wrecks your sleep. And foods with a lot of oil or fat (like deep-fried anything) will also take forever to digest. Not only will this keep you up, but it also means those acidic stomach juices are around for longer while your body is horizontal, which can cause acid reflux, says Hyde.
Sugar also isn’t great for sleep, so try to avoid things with lots of added sugar like candy or chocolate. If you’re really craving something sweet, something with naturally occurring sugar like fruit or dairy are better options.