Remember that one time you were up late watching the latest episode of “Amazing Race” and all of a sudden you had a craving for something sweet? Of course you can, because it was probably last night! Since I work around-the-clock to provide you with the latest and greatest in health information, I am a diehard late-night muncher, and over the years, I have learned to make sensible choices when reaching for something to satisfy my cravings.
Whether you’re sitting on the couch in your living room or laying comfortably in bed with the television on and minutes ticking away into the night, it happens often that you start to realize it’s been a few hours since dinner. This is when you need to eat something small that will tide you over until you finally retire for the night.
My go-to snack for this time of night is cereal! NOT the sugary, powdered, sweetened, glazed varieties that are more likely to leave you feeling energized and uncomfortable rather than rested and full, but smarter choices that are high in fiber and low in sugar, like Barbara’s gluten-free Multigrain Puffins. A small serving close to bedtime is perfectly fine, but makes sure you don’t overdo it, because consuming large amounts of carbohydrates immediately before hours of rest may actually do more harm than good.
Here’s why: When you eat carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which then enters the blood. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin – a hormone that prompts cells to absorb blood sugar for energy or storage. As cells absorb blood sugar, levels in the bloodstream begin to fall and the pancreas starts making glucagon – a hormone that signals the liver to start releasing stored sugar. When all this happens right before you’re about to remain sedentary for 6-8 hours or more, then the body will store the sugar as fat.
While there is much debate surrounding the issue of when to eat carbohydrates, which carbs to eat, which to avoid, and whether they make you gain weight, the bottom line is – it’s not the best to over-do it on any foods high in carbohydrates or sugar right before bed, so remember the key: MODERATION!
When your cupboard is bare or you’re just not in the mood for cereal, here are a few other sources of nutrition for those late-night snack times.
Homemade Trail Mix
My homemade trail mix is completely customizable based on your preference and dietary restrictions, but one option I recommend includes banana chips, golden raisins and carob chips for a lot of sweet, a little soft, and a bunch-a-crunch…without the guilt! For those of you who like nuts in your trail mix, try mixing in some unsalted walnuts or cashews for added crunch, protein and healthy fat.
The best thing about this snack is you can add in whichever low-calorie foods you like, including dried fruit or nuts, as long as you don’t GO nuts ; )
Another option if you’re craving something a little more hearty is a scoop of nonfat cottage cheese mixed with sliced canned peaches (the “light” variety that come in water or light syrup). This gives you a healthy dose of protein and satisfies that sugar craving with a light, low-sugar helping of fruit!
If you prefer a salty snack over a sweet treat, one of the healthiest, gluten-free routes you can go is to choose a low-salt, low butter-content variety of popcorn. This is a great way to fill up on a high-fiber snack that is not too high in carbohydrates. A great choice here is Newman’s Own Organics, which makes a variety of low-fat, lightly salted, gluten-free options that won’t undo your day!