Are Bed Time Snacks Healthy?
To eat before bed or not eat before bed? That is the question…no longer with these 21 healthy bed time snacks if hunger strikes.
Many health blogs, bro-science and personal trainers will tell you that “eating at night is bad”—scaring you with claims that it “slows metabolism,” “makes you gain weight,” or “spikes insulin (blood sugar) levels.”
For instance, a 2013 study found that, out of the 420 overweight and obese participants enrolled in a five-month weight loss program, the ”late eaters” (people classified as eating their biggest meal after 3pm) lost “significantly less weight” and took longer to lose it, than the “early eaters”, (those who ate their main meal before 3pm).
Another study from 2005, found that late-night eating (within 3 hours of bed time) was positively linked to indigestion and acid reflux
However, many of these claims and “research” have been skewed!
The missing links the “Don’t-Eat-Late-At-Night” myth often fails to consider is the OVERALL intake of food and eating patterns of people—throughout the day—plus heathy digestion.
Were these people eating balanced, real foods throughout the day (or dieting all day long, to then “binge” or overeat at night)?
Did they support their digestion with probiotics, digestive enzymes and/or hydro-chloric acid, or were they 3 in 4 Americans who already had some sort of “digestive dysfunction” to start?
What were they eating for their late night meal anyways?—Pizza and ice cream, or salmon or chicken with veggies and sweet potatoes?
As you can see, research CAN be skewed. There are healthy bed times snacks.
Nevertheless, newer more cutting edge research—digging deeper—has found that late night eating is NOT as detrimental as once thought.
In this research review, Kimsy & Ormsby, 2015, of more than 70 studies, the authors sought to look at BOTH sides of the “late night eating” dilemma to understand the real truths.
Nighttime consumption of a small snack of both single nutrients or mixed-meals does not appear to be harmful, and actually may be more beneficial for muscle protein synthesis and metabolism.
In other words: The “don’t eat before bed” myth is so 1992.
Other research confirms these finding, debunking many common myths about late night eating you, too, may have believed. For instance:
Myth: Carbs Are Bad to Eat at Night
Truth: Real food carbs—eaten with dinner, or a small snack—can promote more balanced insulin levels over night, improved sleep and boosted mood (raising serotonin ), greater fat oxidation (fat burning).
Myth: Eat Your Biggest Meal at Noon
Truth: Ever wonder why you feel sleepy after lunch time or why that 3 pm energy slip hits? Digestion takes lots of work (on all your body systems) , and when eat a larger meal mid-day, or don’t balance our meals throughout the day, our digestion can take energy away from your other energy needs. Eating lunch is not a “bad” thing, but strictly aiming to eat a “bigger” meal mid-day and restrict calories at night can leave you feeling lethargic. In addition, since cortisol levels are higher typically during the day (when you’re in “go mode”), this can equally slow down the rate at which you digest your food (since your body is more stressed out with higher cortisol patterns). Eating at night can allow you to absorb and fully digest the nutrient rich foods you eat.
Myth: Late Night Eating Makes You Gain Weight
Truth: The real reason people “gain weight” when they at at night? They typically restrict their food during the day, setting them up for more stress (cortisol) and metabolic dysfunction, plus a feeding frenzy or “earning their food” mentality at night after “being good all day.” There is not ONE optimal time for every human body. Since our schedules, genetic makeups and lifestyles are all completely different, the ideal times of day we eat are different too. Whereas a 23-year-old fitness enthusiast may thrive upon eating three meals and a snack or two during the day, another person may thrive upon intermittent fasting—eating their food for the day in a 8-12 hour window, and another person, say an emergency room nurse who is up at 5 a.m. for her shift thrives off of eating earlier in the day.
Myth: Late Night Eating Gives You Acid Reflux & Won’t Digest
Truth: Not necessarily. While, optimal digestion DOES happen in “rest and digest” mode (i.e. sleep) and eating too much or too close to bed can negatively impact the quality of your sleep, for others, eating a bed time snack or meal before bed actually improves their ability to sleep (especially if it has the amino acid Tryptophan or Magenisum in the meal). Moreover, digestion doesn’t suddenly stall if you eat at night—(particularly if you’re not overly full). Ultimately, this is where self-experimentation happens. Do you feel worse or better if you eat close to bed? Let that be your guide.
Bonus Digestion Tip: If you DO eat closer to bed, or feel fuller prior to bed, try propping your head semi-upright to rest can be beneficial for supporting the “north to south” process of digestion. In addition, healthy digestive practices can help promote improved digestion if you eat closer to bed as well, including: taking probiotics and eating fermented foods daily, chewing your food well, digestive enzymes, hydrochloric acid (if you get ‘reflux’ or have low stomach acid) and/or apple cider vinegar, etc.), and, of course, eating real foods.
THE BOTTOM LINE
What matters more than eating at night or not?
- What you eat over the course of 24-hours in a day (consistently); and
- Your digestion—Are you digesting the foods you eat (regardless of whether or not you eat at night)?
In other words: If you are eating appropriate amounts of food, for your body type and health (no matter the time of day), PLUS digesting your food well, then “late night eating” is not a bad thing.
BED TIME SNACKS: YAY OR NAY?
So should you eat before bed?
Yes and no.
The bigger question is: What type of hungry are you?
Are you just eating or snacking because it’s a habit or a craving?
Are you hungry—at a cellular level—because you ate at 6 p.m., and it’s now 10 or 11 p.m.?
Did you not fuel your body with enough fuel throughout the day?
Did you have a tough workout today or yesterday, and your body is needing some extra replenishment?
Some days will be “yes” and some days will be “no.”
If you are hankering a bedtime snack, reach for foods with:
- Magnesium—Mineral that relieves insomnia, relaxes muscles, calms you, decreases cortisol—your “stress hormone”, or
- Tryptophan-Amino Acid that calms your brain and helps you sleep
Need some ideas for Bed Time Snacks:
Some optimal bed time snacks at night (for boosting sleep hygiene) include:
- Herbal or Cinnamon Tea (optional stir in MCT oil or 1 tbsp. Grass-fed Butter)
- Coconut Yogurt
- Homemade Avocado “pudding”
- Avocado & Grapefruit with sea salt
- Goat’s milk yogurt or fermented plain, full-fat yogurt
- Kefir or Goat’s Milk Kefir with frozen blueberries
- Grass-fed cottage cheese
- Chia-seed pudding
- Baked apple slices with cinnamon and coconut oil
- Beef isolate protein powder or collagen protein + carob powder blended in almond milk or coconut milk
- Homemade spinach dip with cucumbers
- 1/2 green tipped banana with coconut butter or almond butter
- Canned wild salmon and wild caught tuna
- Pastured eggs (scrambled)
- Turkey roll-ups
- Homemade kale chips with dried cranberries and olive oil
- Handful raw soaked cashews, almonds or walnuts
- Toasted pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
- Square 80-100% dark chocolate
- Pumpkin Muffins
- Turkey or Beef Jerky (nitrate-free)
- 14 oz. artichoke hearts, drained
- 3 cups baby spinach, wilted (steamed)
- 1/2 yellow onion, minced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 thick slices of bacon or turkey bacon, diced
- ½ cup full-fat coconut milk
- Sea salt and back ground pepper
Fry the bacon in a skillet over a medium- until the bacon begins to brown. Add in onion and garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add in the artichokes and spinach and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool. Pour in the coconut milk and combine well. Refrigerate for at least 30 min.
Chia Seed Pudding
- 1 ripe banana, peeled
- 1/4 cup full-fat coconut milk
- 2 tbsp chia seeds
- Dash of vanilla extract, alcohol free
Blend banana and coconut milk and vanilla in blender, then add chia seeds and blend further. Pour into a container and chill for an hour to let the chia seeds expand.
Chocolate Avocado Pudding
- 1 medium ripe avocado
- 2-3 tablespoons carob powder (for AIP) or organic cocoa powder
- 1-2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- pinch of sea salt
- 3-4 tablespoons of coconut milk OR almond (carageenan free)
- 1 scoop (2 tablespoons) collagen peptides (optional)
Add avocado, carob (or cocoa), maple syrup, vanilla, and salt to the bowl of a blender. If using espresso powder, dissolve it in milk. Add milk to blender. Blend until very smooth and creamy. Taste
- 3/4 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 6 pastured eggs
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a standard muffin tin with 12 parchment or silicone baking cups. Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir well with a whisk to break up any clumps. Spoon in to muffin tins and bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown on the edges.