Midnight snacks can be lightly fullfilling, healthy

Cory Thaxton

Sometimes the stomach doesn’t get the memo that it’s actually time to sleep, not time to eat.

Maybe you ate dinner early or you stayed up late and now you’re hungry again. Or you just really want a snack to go with Netflix. But you’ve also heard it’s not great to eat right before bed, so what’s the best thing to snack on when you’re starving at night? Registered dietician Abby Langer and registered dietician Despina Hyde, diabetes experts at NYU Langone Weight Management Program, answered that question.

First, it’s a myth that you won’t burn off anything you eat right before bed.

Sure, your metabolic rate slows down a bit, but it doesn’t stop, Langer said. And a reasonable snack that satisfies your hunger before bed isn’t enough to derail your healthy eating efforts.

So if you’re actually hungry, you should eat, no matter how late it is.

“If you go to bed hungry, you won’t sleep, which is probably worse,” Langer said.

But if you notice that you’re always starving before bed, that probably means you’re not eating enough throughout the day. You might be eating too few calories or not enough protein to actually fill you up, both of which can cause you to overeat later. “If you restrict too much or fast during the day, your body will tell you it’s starving,” Hyde said. This intense, stomach-pang hunger can lead to bingeing, especially on high-carb or high-fat foods because your body wants instant energy.

If you’re going to eat before bed, pick something relatively light and leave some buffer time before you lay down.

Avoid a too-big meal, since your body will have to work harder to digest, which might actually keep you awake.

And don’t go immediately horizontal after you eat — spend some time sitting up reading, watching TV, doing the dishes, whatever. This reduces your risk of indigestion and acid reflux,  Hyde said. If you notice any acid reflux symptoms, don’t eat within an hour of laying down, Langer said.