What are healthy late night snacks?
The goal in our Eat Well program isn’t to put low-fat or low-carb or low-anything food into your body. Prepackaged diet food is not the definition of healthy snacks. When you get late night cravings, what to eat is real food! The goal is to put REAL food into your body. If you are eating real foods for lunch and dinner, and there is a good chance that your body has started to acclimate to real foods, and you might even be craving them. You can use these same ideas for easy midnight snacks.
The diet industry has done a good job positioning frankenfoods as “healthy.” Consider traditionally marketed “diet foods” like protein bars, granola bars, fat free snacks, low calorie cookies, and sugar free candy. These foods won’t help you lose weight if you are looking for healthy late night snack ideas. Think about the difference again between 200 calories fat free potato chips (1.5 ounces), and 200 calories of broccoli (20 ounces). A few ounces of potato chips, even if they are fat free, aren’t going to fill you up. Twenty ounces of broccoli is two heads of broccoli. It would be very hard to eat that much broccoli in a DAY!
Instead of buying your next package of “diet” cookies when you get a late night craving, just make a homemade batch of cookies and have two, and share the rest with your neighbors. Real food! Here is another article about real foods.
Better Late Night Snack Ideas
I encourage you to look through the frankenfoods in your pantry (pre-packaged foodstuff consisting of powders and potions and long chemicals in the ingredient list) and toss the ones you don’t want, all the unhealthy midnight snacks.
Notice that I didn’t say, “Throw out everything you have ever considered in your list of awesome late night snacks.” Throwing out all prepackaged foods will leave you feeling deprived and cause that very human brain of yours to rebel, and trigger a Twinkie craving. Let’s skip that step.
Instead, go through your pantry and ask yourself, “Do I want to eat this for a healthy late night snack?” Throw anything away that you don’t want to eat. When I did this step, we had about 30 boxes of macaroni and cheese in our pantry. I had the kids open up all of the boxes, throw out the mystery cheese powder, and pour all of the pasta into a pasta container. My kids still make mac and cheese for a quick snack when they are hungry, but they make it with real cheese and usually put in a can of tomatoes. Real foods!
Upgrading Kid Snacks
For our Eat Well family members with kiddos at home, this is for you. As a working mom wanting convenience, I used to stock my pantry and fridge with the easiest possible late night snacks for my kids, but they weren’t always healthy. Boxes of mac and cheese, ramen noodles, hot dogs, and frozen burritos to name a few.
Once our family started cooking healthy late night dinner, my older children and teenagers learned how to cook right along with me. Without prompting them, they naturally started cooking real foods for themselves when they are hungry and need a healthy midnight snack. My 14year old who used to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for himself now regularly makes roasted carrots as his go-to snack. He started doing this without any instruction from me!
The secret is to have good foods on hand, and have your kids cook with you so they know how to make a few basic recipes.
Upgrading Your Own Healthy Late Night Snacks
Let’s look at your own regular snacking habits. What are your go-to snack choices?
Here are some late night snacking habits that I had in the past, just so you won’t be tempted to judge yourself.
- A spoonful of peanut butter with a pat of butter (I went on a keto diet and this is the habit it created!)
- Tuna on saltine crackers
- Hot dog with sauerkraut, heated in the microwave
- A can of refried beans with cheese on top (I blame keto again)
My current healthy late night snack habits are pretty simple:
- Cashews or almonds
- Yesterday’s leftovers
I mostly find that I don’t snack much because I’m not hungry between meals much. I don’t get many uncontrollable cravings because I am not deprived. If I want a cookie, I’ll have a cookie. When I do get the munchies after dinner though, I always have blueberries in the fridge as an easy go-to snack.
Look through Your Fridge & Freezer
Take a quick scan of your fridge and freezer and throw anything out that you don’t feel great about putting into your body. My family used to regularly stock our freezer with late night junk food ideas including pot stickers, fried egg rolls, chicken nuggets and other easy freezer fare. We stocked our fridge with hot dogs, pudding snacks, and sugary yogurt. If you have fresh fruits and veggies on hand and build a habit of eating these first, you won’t have a desire to throw fried mystery meat into the microwave.
Sometimes it is hard to throw out freezer food because it feels like such a waste of money and a waste of food. Consider the alternative though; putting that extra, fried, chemical-infused food into your body instead of the garbage can. Your health is worth more than the $5 bag of food.
Repeat it as a mantra while you throw things out if you need to:
- My health is worth more than $5.
- My health is worth more than $5.
Your Late Night Snacking Habits will Start Changing
Once you start cooking and eating real foods for dinners, and eating real foods for your late night snacking, chances are you will see some marked differences in your food preferences. You might notice you don’t have the junky food cravings you used to. You might not want to eat fast food at all any more! You might have discovered like my teenage son did, that roasted carrots with some salt and garlic are actually BETTER than french fries.
What you may NOT have seen is your weight drop. At all. Please don’t be discouraged, and don’t worry about the weight at all. If you have weight to lose, you probably gained it slowly. Many people gain two to three pounds a year after becoming an adult. If you are thirty, you may have gained ten pounds since you were twenty. If you are fifty, you may be carrying around an extra thirty pounds or more that slowly accumulated over the years.
Please do not worry about previously held body goals (losing x amount of pounds, having a 27” waist, etc). Instead focus on building a healthy, sustainable lifestyle by eating healthy, real foods. If you do that, slowly and surely, your body will return to a permanent healthy weight for you. But it won’t be through a diet. It will be through eating healthy foods for all of your meals, including your late night snacks.