Unlike popular belief, sneaking into the kitchen "after hours" does not automatically lead to weight gain. In fact, taking care of that bedtime hunger can be helpful for weight loss if managed appropriately.
To top it off, these best foods to eat before bed can help you fall asleep faster and lead to a better night's rest!
Best Foods to Eat Before Bed for Weight Loss
The best bedtime food for weight loss are generally low-calorie and offer some sort of protein and/or fiber. Some are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan, a converter to serotonin and melatonin, linked to sleep and wake cycles.
But tryptophan is not always used instantly. Sources like turkey, chicken, and dairy products can fill up the tryptophan brain tank and low-carb snack empties it for use.
Lose weight and sleep great by eating these healthy foods before bed!
1. Whey Protein Shake
First and foremost, protein is important for weight loss, whey protein included! In conjunction with anaerobic exercise—like resistance training—the milk-derived protein can help build and recover muscles.
As another major benefit, whey supplies the protein alpha-lactalbumin, which is naturally high in tryptophan that might help lead to a better night's rest.
But there's more! If you are thinking, "No whey can this get any better..." It does!
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests evening intake of alpha-lactalbumin increases alertness early in the morning after an overnight sleep, most likely because of improved sleep.
When choosing any sort of protein supplement, select a brand with little to no added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup. BistroMD's whey protein shake mix is a healthy, satisfying option without all the unwanted ingredients—but with all the flavor!
2. A Warm Bowl of Oatmeal
Oatmeal is one of the best foods to help you sleep, as it is high-fiber to empty the tryptophan tank. They are also a good source of magnesium, a mineral shown to improve sleep efficiency, time, and onset when supplemented.
Skip out sweetening the oats with sugar, though. A high-carb meal can lead to unstable blood sugars, in turn resulting in more poor sleep.
Instead, balance the oats with protein powder, nuts, or seeds to help keep blood sugar stable throughout the night. Add a splash of warm milk, berries, and cinnamon for added nutrients and natural sweetness.
3. Greek Yogurt with Berries or Cherries
Compared to traditional yogurt, going Greek offers ample protein. This can lead to longer periods of satiety throughout the night. And a small cup of Greek yogurt can reduce the chance of reaching for that ice-cream pint.
To cut down on sugar content, opt for plain yogurt and sweeten it with fresh berries or cherries. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the antioxidants in berries may help counteract oxidative stress caused by a sleep disorder.
Adding cherries may also be a beneficial pairing, as they are thought to offer a significant amount of melatonin.
4. Half a Turkey Sandwich
Turkey is notorious for its tryptophan content. But remember, it needs a little help from a carb source to help people fall asleep.
That being said, layer turkey on a slice of whole-grain or wheat bread for a healthy bedtime snack! To limit fat content, skip out on the mayo and opt for a squeeze of mustard.
5. Egg Wrap
When hunger calls, why wait to answer in the morning hours? Crack that appetite with an egg wrap!
Eggs are low in calories and rich in tryptophan. They are also an excellent source of high-quality protein, vitamin D, choline, selenium, phosphorus, vitamins B6 and 12, and antioxidants.
Simply prepare an egg to desired "doneness" and wrap in a low-carb, whole-grain tortilla shell. For an extra nutritional punch, add spinach, peppers, and other non-starchy veggies to the egg wrap.
6. Smoked Salmon Bagel
Salmon is rich in tryptophan, along with supplying healthy fat and vitamin D.
Ensuring adequate vitamin D may be key for weight loss, as a deficiency in the vitamin is linked to obesity. Supplementing with the vitamin shows to decrease weight, body mass index, waist and hip circumferences.
Reduce the carb content of bagels by consuming only half or going for the mini bagels found at most grocers. Choosing whole-grain bagels can further provide the body with essential fiber and B vitamins.
7. Cottage Cheese and Fruit
Cottage cheese is packed with 12 grams of protein per 1/2 cup serving. The protein can prolong satiety until the morning hours, while tryptophan may help lead to a good night's sleep.
For a little added sweetness, pair cottage cheese with freshly sliced mango or pineapple. Most of these fruits may promote a restful night's sleep due to their vitamin B6 content, which helps produce serotonin and melatonin.
8. Peanut and Nut Butters
The high-fat and caloric density of peanut butter, almond butter, and other varieties before bed may be discouraging. But hear us out…
Peanut butter is a plant-based source of tryptophan, which is helpful for those avoiding or reducing animal products in the diet.
Pairing with fruit—including apples and bananas—also helps ensure blood sugars remain stable. But to keep fat and calorie content in check, opt for a tablespoon.
9. String Cheese and Whole Grain Crackers
String cheese is a recommended night snack for weight loss. Because being a dairy product, string cheese supplies protein along with calcium.
String cheese is also rich in tryptophan. But to "empty the tryptophan tank," pair with whole-grain crackers for added fiber.
Craving some crunchy? Rather than devouring a bag of chips, munch on popcorn for a similar crunch and mere 30 calories per cup.
Importantly, though, pass on the added salt and butter. Offer flavor, if desired, with various spices, including ground cinnamon or taco seasonings. For a boost of protein and healthy fat, add nuts or seeds to make a trail mix.
11. Serving of Almonds
Similar to popcorn, almonds can also satisfy that crunchy or salty night craving. But unlike popcorn, almonds supply valuable protein and are rich in magnesium, a mineral shown to relieve insomnia. Almonds are also rich in melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate sleep and wake cycles.
And even despite their high caloric value, almonds may reduce abdominal fat and prevent the onset of cardiometabolic diseases. Research suggests an almond-enriched low-calorie diet (LCD) is effective in decreasing body weight compared to those following a complex carbohydrate-enriched LCD.
12. Cucumber Slices & Hummus
Hummus is essentially a dip made from chickpeas or other beans, healthy oils such as olive, and various seasonings. The plant-based dip provides a small amount of protein along with fiber.
Use colorful vegetables like carrots and peppers in place of chips for a crunchy, flavorful snack before bed.
13. Kiwi Slices
Kiwis are one of the best foods to eat before bed for a number of reasons. (And not to mention, a refreshing treat from nature!)
First, a study suggests kiwifruit may improve sleep onset, duration, and efficiency in adults with self-reported sleep disturbances. Secondly, kiwis are also low-calorie while being full of nutrients, fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins C, E, and K.
Pair kiwi with mixed nuts/seeds, nut butter, or Greek yogurt for a balanced nighttime snack rich in protein.
What to Eat Before Bed to Lose Weight Recap
While the best foods to eat before bed might not be exhaustive to this list, they sure are a great place to start! Not only can they help crush hunger in a healthy manner, but may actually improve and promote sleep.
If struggling to lose weight, a Registered Dietitian can help create a custom solution to leverage personal goals. For persistent sleep struggles, consult with a doctor or other health professional for customized care and strategies.