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12 healthy bedtime snacks that are registered dietitian-approved

Emily Laurence

Emily LaurenceMay 17, 2020

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Photo: Healthy Little Foodies

Even if you had the most delicious dinner, sometimes there’s still that craving for a little pre-bedtime snack. Whether it’s because you want to end your night on a sweet note, want something to nosh on while you’re binging Too Hot To Handle, or just find yourself peeking into the pantry to satisfy a craving, that hankering is there.

What’s tricky about bedtime snacks is that what you eat can work for or against you, in terms of getting good quality sleep. Considering that 92 percent of Well+Good survey takers report feeling fatigued at least once a week and spend six hours per week sleepless in bed, you definitely don’t want to up your odds of having to count sheep to drift off to sleep.

“If I’m going to have a bedtime snack, I prioritize a snack that has protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats,” registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD says. “Having these three components ensures staying satiated throughout the night.” Rifkin says there are also nutrients directly linked to better sleep that she likes to incorporate into her bedtime snacks, too. Here, she touches on them, highlighting the foods they’re found in. Plus, recipes for delicious ways to put her tips into practice.

Healthy bedtime snacks, according to a registered dietitian

Bananas

“One of my favorite foods to incorporate into a bedtime snack are bananas,” Rifkin says. “Bananas are high in vitamin B6, which converts tryptophan into serotonin, which in turn makes us more sleepy.” One easy banana-based dessert she likes to have is cut up bananas mixed into a bowl of cottage cheese, which is a good source of protein. Or, you can try one of the below recipes for more banana-based snack ideas.

1. GLUTEN-FREE BANANA BREAD

Made with eggs, almond flour, and of course bananas, this gluten-free banana bread recipe has that nutrient-trifecta Rifkin recommends. Plus, it pairs great with Sleepytime tea.

baked bananas
Photo: Healthy Little Foodies

2.  BAKED BANANAS

If making a whole banana bread loaf sounds like too much work, you can simply bake the bananas themselves, adding cinnamon and a little lime juice. Served warm, it has the same comforting effect.

Peanut butter

Another one of Rifkin’s favorite post-dinner snacks? Peanut butter. “Peanuts are another source of tryptophan,” she says. While peanut butter on its own has protein and healthy fats, she likes to spread it on a piece of whole wheat toast, to get a serving of complex carbs. Below are more ideas for heaving peanut butter for a healthy bedtime snack.

sweet potato
Photo: Confessions of a Fit Foodie

1. PEANUT-BUTTER-STUFFED SWEET POTATO

Protein, healthy fats, complex carbs, tryptophan…this snack checks all the healthy bedtime snack boxes. This recipe also includes bananas, which, as Rifkin pointed out, also has tryptophan and is linked to better sleep.

peanut butter toast
Photo: Eating Bird Food

2. PEANUT BUTTER TOAST

This recipe riffs off Rifkin’s peanut butter toast idea, while giving four ways to upgrade it using whatever tickles your tastebuds. Bananas, berries, chia seeds, chocolate chips…use whatever’s in your pantry or fridge and reap the good sleep benefits.

Yogurt

Yogurt’s the next on the list of Rifkin’s favorites. Not only does it have protein and healthy fats (if you buy two percent), she says that it’s also another good source of…(drumroll) tryptophan. Rifkin likes to have her yogurt with berries mixed in for sweetness, sans added sugar (which can keep you up at night BTW). Below are more ways to enjoy it.

yogurt bites healthy bedtime snacks
Photo: Plays Well With Butter

1. YOGURT BITES

If you want something to bite into, yogurt bites are a great way to have the benefits Rifkin mentions, but in a whole different form. All you need for this recipe is yogurt, berries, honey, granola, and salt.

sweet and salty yogurt
Photo: Joy The Baker

2. SWEET AND SALTY YOGURT

Staring into your fridge trying to decide whether you want something sweet or something salty? This easy recipe incorporates both by using mini pretzels, peanuts, and chocolate all as yogurt toppings.

Tart cherries

If you’re looking for some frozen fruit to stock in the freezer that has some sleep promoting benefits, Rifkin says to go for cherries. “Tart cherries contain melotonin which is a sleep promoting hormone,” she says. “They also contain the phytochemical procyanidin B-2, which is believed to protect the amino acid tryptophan in your blood.”  Below are some ways to get these benefits of cherries, while also having your protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs bases covered.

cherry smoothie
Photo: Dinner At The Zoo

1. TART CHERRY SMOOTHIE

Smoothies aren’t a breakfast-only food; they can also be a clutch bedtime snack because they’re easy to digest—which gives your digestive system time to rest, too. This recipe combines cherries with other foods on Rifkin’s list, such as yogurt and banana.

cherry bites healthy bedtime snacks
Photo: A Sweet Pea Chef

2. DARK CHOCOLATE CHERRY BITES

These recipes combine tart cherries with dark chocolate, cinnamon, dates, and almonds, which are full of protein and healthy fats. It only takes about 15 minutes to make a whole batch of ’em, too.

Kiwis

Another fruit Rifkin says is a good one to incorporate into healthy bedtime snacks is kiwi. “They contain a fair amount of serotonin,” she says, again reiterating that serotonin is linked to feeling sleepy. This is another fruit she likes to combine with yogurt, for an easy snack that can be made in mere minutes. But there are other ways to enjoy kiwi as an after-dinner snack, too.

kiwi pops
Photo: Healthy Little Foodies

1. FROZEN KIWI POPS 

No one is ever too old for popsicles. These ones are made with yogurt (another favorite on Rifkin’s list), dark chocolate, and pistachios, which have healthy fats and protein. Even though they look stunning, they’re super simple to make. Just gently stick an ice-pop stick into each sliced kiwi, dip into chocolate, sprinkle the crushed nuts on top, and freeze.

kiwi salsa
Photo: Archana’s Kitchen

2. KIWI SALSA AND FETA TOASTIES

If you’re looking for a bedtime snack idea that’s more savory and sweet, this one is right up your ally. The recipe incorporates kiwi into salsa, which is then paired with feta cheese (a good source of protein and healthy fats) and whole wheat bread (which has complex carbs).

Milk (or alt-milk)

Warm milk has been used for children to help them fall asleep, so why not you? Rifkin says having a glass before bed can actually promote good sleep. Not only does it have protein, but milk (and nut milk) also has tryptophan. In addition, almond milk in particular is high in magnesium, which is also linked to good sleep. Here are some milk-based recipe to try, to go along with whatever healthy bedtime snack you choose to pair with it.

moon milk
Photo: 40 Aprons

1. MOON MILK

Moon milk is a healthy beverage trend that gets its very name because of just how much it’s linked to good sleep. This recipe shows three different ways to make it, including one with tart cherries (hello again!), ashwaghanda (which is linked to lowering anxiety), ginger, and cardamom.

bedtime golden milk healthy bedtime snacks
Photo: Well Plated By Erin

2. BEDTIME GOLDEN MILK

This bedtime beverage not only may help you sleep more soundly, it also has anti-inflammatory benefits—what a multitasker, right? Turmeric is the key inflammation-fighting spice, while ginger and cinnamon nourish the digestive system so you can sleep easy.

Watch the video below to learn more about the health benefits of turmeric:

As you can see, there are plenty of healthy bedtime snacks that not only satisfy that craving for something to nosh on, but can actually work in your favor when it comes to getting good sleep. The key is to keep Rifkin’s combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs in mind (so that it actually feels filling and satisfying), while getting in other nutrients linked to good sleep, such as tryptophan, serotonin, and melatonin. Use the snack ideas mentioned here as a guide or get creative with your own ideas. Either way, these sweet snacks will hopefully lead to even sweeter dreams.

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