One of my favorite meals of the day is what a popular Taco Bell commercial calls "4th Meal". I haven't eaten Taco Bell in over 3 years, but I do like where they're going. Dinner is sometimes not enough for the night, and sometime between 8 and 10 pm I tend to get a little craving for either something sweet, salty, or both.
Tonight I went to the gym after dinner and did 3.5 miles on the elliptical and 30 minutes lifting weights and doing ab exercises. Obviously, I needed more nourishment when I got home. I've heard that milk is a good recovery food, so I chose non-fat milk, Trader Joe's Honey Nut O's, and fresh raspberries. Raspberries are also meant to be a great recovery food. Plus they're delicious!
I do understand that "4th Meal" gets a bad reputation because many people probably choose to eat potato chips, entire bags of M&Ms, or indulge in 2 or 3 servings of mac n' cheese before bedtime. These late-night foods are ok occasionally (I can't be a hypocrite), but not a good habit to get into, especially if you are watching TV or going straight to sleep after. Your body's metabolism naturally slows down at night when you are relaxing, and these foods are doing you no favors.
There are benefits to eating snacks after dinner, though. For example, if you are not hungry when you go to sleep, you are less likely to wake up hungry and therefore more likely to eat reasonable portions throughout the next day. Basically, the more often you eat, the higher your overall metabolism stays, helping you lose weight (or maintain your healthy body weight) more easily.
Here are my Top 5 Choices for Late-Night Healthy Snacking:
All of these options offer nutrition and taste without giving you energy, so you won't have trouble sleeping.
1. Cereal with Milk and Berries - The milk helps induce sleep, and the berries are packed with anti-oxidants. It's light and has a good balance of nutritional properties.
2. Oatmeal with Melted Chocolate and Banana - This is great if you want something sweet. Melt a small piece of chocolate into hot oatmeal, and chop a banana into pieces for a perfect pre-sleep snack that will keep you full and satisfies into the next morning.
3. Wheat Crackers and Low-Fat Cheese - Perfect if you want something salty. The wheat promotes healthy digestion, and the calcium in the cheese promotes done strength. Win-win!
4. Veggies and Hummus - If you don't want to eat something warm, veggies are a low-calorie snack that can incorporate a large variety of flavors and textures to keep you snacking all night, guilt-free! Dip them in some hummus for extra flavor without the fat that dips like ranch dressing bring. I recommend Trader Joe's Eggplant Hummus or Trader Joe's Tomato & Basil Hummus.
5. Wheat Toast with Raspberry Jam and Nutella - This is for the hungrier-than-just-a-small-snack late-night eater. The toast is a great way to fill up, and the sweetness of the Jam and Nutella is unbelievably satisfying. Plus, you are getting some fruit from the jam and some calcium from the Nutella. Delish!
I hope this gave you some good ideas, and I hope you think before judging the "4th Meal" next time you brush your teeth at 9pm just to keep from eating more. (We all do that!...right?)
What's your favorite late-night healthy snack? Your favorite late-night guilty indulgence?