3 food rules a dietitian follows for healthy late-night dinners


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For anyone who leads a busy life (so, like, all of us), there are nights when it feels impossible to eat dinner at a respectable hour. Even when it only takes a few minutes to prepare a meal, I know I’m not the only one who is curious what makes for a healthy late-night dinner that won’t mess with my sleep or digestion.

Whatever keeps you from sitting down to dinner at a reasonable hour, there are a few food rules to follow for late-night eating. During an Ask Me Anything with Well+Good’s Facebook group Cook With Us, registered dietitian and author of The Better Period Food Solution Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD, shared her recommendations for putting together a healthy late-night dinner.

How to navigate late-night eating, according to a dietitian

1. Choose something rich in magnesium

Magnesium-rich foods might help you sleep better better. “Go for foods like oily fish, beans, lentils, brown rice, and seeds,” says Beckerman. Proteins like fish, beans, and lentils are easier to digest than meat, which makes your digestive system work a bit harder—something you definitely don’t want when you’re trying to sleep.

2. Add a high-calcium food

Beckerman points out that calcium is another nutrient linked to good sleep, so she recommends pairing your magnesium-rich food with something like spinach, broccoli, or cheese.

3. get your probiotics

“Add a side of kimchi or sauerkraut to sprinkle some probiotics into your gut before bedtime to help ease Sunday scaries or calm you down before [a] morning meeting,” says Beckerman. To her point, probiotics have been linked to reduced anxiety, and anxiety is a major culprit for sleepless nights.

While it’s still not a great idea to make late-night eating a regular habit, keeping these three food rules in mind when you do eat late will ensure your meal impacts your sleep as minimally as possible. When you put them into practice, Beckerman advises not to overload your stomach—keep your healthy late-night dinner on the lighter side—so that your body isn’t up digesting it all night and has a chance to rest. Don’t forget: Sleep is the time for your brain and your body needs to recharge.

If you still wake up feeling sluggish, here’s how to eat for energy:

“Night smoothies” could also be the solution to your late night dinner woes. And if you really can’t sleep, here’s what to do.

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