Do you often find yourself searching the cupboards for a late-night snack before bed?
With motivation for diet and exercise taking a backseat during the pandemic, Yahoo Lifestyle spoke with Nutritionist Kathleen Alleaume, to understand what might be behind your hunger, and what late-night snacks she suggests.
Are you actually hungry?
Late night hunger can actually be caused by thirst or fluctuating blood sugar levels, Kathleen explained.
“Are you hungry or are you thirsty? At times, we mistake thirst for hunger. If you ate your dinner or a snack only one to two hours ago, chances are you’re not hungry. Try having a glass of water, herbal tea, or warm milk and see if this helps to reduce your hunger," she said.
"Similarly, eating at regular intervals throughout the day will support your blood sugar levels to stay on an even keel and might help to prevent the late-night munchies.”
According to Kathleen, if you’re still hungry towards bedtime and want to satisfy late-night cravings, it’s ok to snack, as long as you're “mindful of eating small portions, eating slowly and without distractions (such as reading emails or watching another episode on television).”
So, what makes a healthy late-night snack?
To understand which snack foods are best to choose before bed, Kathleen explains the importance of considering nutrition.
“A healthy and balanced snack consists of a carbohydrate and protein combo. It may be faddish to have a carb curfew (such as no carbs after 5 pm), however carb-cutting diets can deny you essential sleep chemicals," she says.
One of them is serotonin – considered to be a key hormone that may help promote a night of healthy sleep.
"So instead of wiping carbs out altogether, choose your carbs wisely, prioritising those with whole grains and fibre, and steer clear of refined starches and sugar to avoid blood sugar highs and lows, which can perpetuate further food craving or hunger.”
Kathleen’s top 5 late-night snack picks:
If you’re craving something sweet – swap out chocolate, ice cream, and lollies for:
1. Greek yoghurt and berries
Greek yoghurt can contain up to twice as much protein as plain or natural yoghurt, along with bone-building calcium.
Paired with berries and a sprinkle of cinnamon is like having a dairy dessert but without excess kilojoules.
2. Pear or apple slices with nut butter
A sweet and savoury combo that dishes up a hit of fibre and protein to stave off tummy rumbles.
3. Protein balls
These bite-sized morsels are perfectly portion-controlled but still satisfy any sweet craving.
I love the new Uncle Tobys Protein* Balls Peanut Butter and Caramel Flavour. They are made with the goodness of oats, real fruit and contain at least 5g of protein per serve.
If you’re a savoury person – swap out salty crisps for just a small handful (30 grams) offers fibre, healthy fats, and protein to keep hunger at bay.
Whole grains are a source of fibre, and you might be surprised to learn that corn is one of them, including popcorn.
Just 2 cups of plain popcorn contain 2g of protein and 2g of fibre. Just avoid the salty and buttery type.
Are there any foods to avoid before bed?
“Avoid anything caffeinated like chocolate or coffee, and heavy meals or snacks filled with low-nutrient, empty kilojoules," Kathleen stresses, adding these can impact the quality of your sleep.
“And, if you’re caught out and in need of a satisfying late-night bite, remember to choose something that includes a balance of carbohydrates and proteins to help curb night-time hunger.”
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