The Best Foods to Satisfy Nighttime Cravings, Nutritionists Says
Feel fuller for longer to skip those diet-derailing snacks.
Following a healthy diet during the day—when your busy schedule helps keep you on track—can present fewer obstacles than in the evening hours when the rules relax. Once things wind down and nighttime cravings ramp up, it's all too easy to reach for unhealthy foods. If you're looking to stop nighttime cravings, Lindsay Wengler, MS, RD, a dietician and owner of NYC's Olive Branch Nutrition, says you may want to consider if you're over-restricting during the day.
"When we don't get enough nutrients or energy, our bodies can signal intense hunger or cravings, which tend to be more apparent later in the evening when things begin winding down," she tells Best Life.
To make healthier choices in the evening hours, she says it helps to reflect on the eating habits that lead us up to that point and strategically add nutrient-dense foods into the mix. Ready to stop derailing your diet in the evening hours? Read on for the best 10 foods to satisfy nighttime cravings, according to nutrition experts.
10 Best Foods to Stop Nighttime Cravings
1. Greek yogurt
Michelle Saari, MSc, RD, a registered dietitian with EHealth project, says Greek yogurt makes an exceptionally healthy snack to satisfy nighttime cravings.
"Greek yogurt is not only rich in protein but also contains a good amount of calcium and probiotics. The high protein content slows down digestion, making you feel fuller for longer, and helps in stabilizing blood sugar levels," she explains. "It's a great snack that can be sweetened with a bit of honey or topped with berries for a late-night treat."
A smoothie can feel like a treat despite packing in the nutrients. In particular, Dan Gallagher, an ISSA Certified Nutritionist working with Aegle Nutrition, recommends having a protein smoothie that includes bananas, along with any other fresh ingredients that you find delicious and satisfying.
"Protein powders usually run around 15-20 grams of protein, which will help you skip the cravings. Bananas are high in magnesium and potassium, which will help you relax and prepare you for bed," he tells Best Life.
3. Chia seeds
Saari also recommends eating chia seeds, which can give you a feeling of satiety to last throughout the night.
"Chia seeds are filled with nutrients, packed with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and protein. When soaked, chia seeds expand and form a gel-like substance, promoting a feeling of fullness," she explains. "Their high fiber content helps in slow sugar absorption, which can prevent blood sugar spikes."
Eating oats at any time throughout the day can help lessen nighttime cravings.
"Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber, particularly beta-glucan, which has been shown to regulate appetite and improve blood sugar control," notes Saari. "Eating a small, warm bowl of oatmeal in the evening can provide a comforting, satiating effect, helping to curb night-time cravings."
Adding avocado to your diet is another way to help curb unhealthy evening cravings.
"Avocados are rich in monounsaturated fats, which are heart-healthy and can keep you satiated. The presence of fiber in avocados also helps in maintaining steady blood sugar levels," says Saari.
The dietician recommends eating it on a piece of whole-grain toast, combining complex carbohydrates and healthy fats to provide lasting fullness.
6. Cottage cheese
Next, Gallagher recommends trying cottage cheese as a hearty yet healthy snack.
"High in protein and paired easily with fruit like pineapple and peaches, it will keep you feeling satisfied and prevent you from reaching for unhealthy foods," he says.
There are many health benefits to eating a small handful of nuts every day, including better heart health and a lower risk of heart-related mortality. Saari says that even a modest serving can help fill you up and help ward off nighttime cravings.
"Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are not only rich in healthy fats but also contain protein and fiber. This combination can help in keeping you full for a longer period. Nuts have a low glycemic index, which means they have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels, making them an ideal snack for blood sugar control," she tells Best Life.
Adding lentils or other legumes to your diet is another way to stop yourself from reaching for unhealthy nighttime snacks.
"Lentils are a great source of plant-based protein and fiber," Saari explains. "They can help in stabilizing blood sugar levels and provide a sustained feeling of fullness, which is beneficial in preventing late-night snacking."
The dietician recommends incorporating them into a light evening meal like a soup or salad.
9. Apple slices with peanut butter
For another snack that feels like a treat, Gallagher recommends having sliced apples with peanut butter.
"Peanut butter has a moderate amount of protein, but it has more fat, which will help keep you satiated. Apples are always a healthy choice and are high in vitamins and minerals," he says.
Finally, Saari recommends eating salmon, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein.
"Salmon can be a fulfilling dinner option that keeps you satisfied throughout the evening. The protein content in salmon aids in slowing digestion, which helps in curbing cravings, while omega-3 fatty acids contribute to overall health," the expert says.
"If you incorporate all of these foods into your diet, and ensure that you eat meals filled with protein, healthy fats, and fiber, you can ensure that you won't be reaching for high calorie, low nutrient value foods in the evening," she adds.
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