Take comfort in this: Everyone has days when they get home hungry, but are too tired to deal with making something to eat. Heck, that's why takeout was invented—but then you're stuck waiting for the delivery person.
When it comes to late-night eating, there's only one problem: it means your digestive system will be working when the body should be resting—and that can impact your sleep. But according to registered dietitian Vanessa Rissetto, RD, there are foods that are relatively easy to digest, which means they aren't as much work on the gut. Here, she highlights nutrient-rich foods that are gentle on the stomach.
- Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and co-founder of Culina Health
But the intel doesn't stop there. Foodies, from respected chefs to execs at buzzy health food brands, share what they do when confronted with the late-night munchies. These are people who have made careers out of eating healthy—they aren't willing to sacrifice taste or nutritional value—but they're too busy to spend hours in the kitchen after work. Their kitchen hacks prove it is possible to make a satisfying dinner with minimal effort, and in less time than it takes to scroll through Seamless or hit the drive-through.
4 raw foods that are easy on the stomach
Meat can be tough for the body to break down, but Rissetto says tofu is much easier—and you don't even have to cook it if you don't have time. Tofu is a good source of protein, but you'll need to round it out with some fiber-rich foods and healthy fats to truly have a well-balanced late-night dinner. Pairing your tofu with rice and an avocado is a way to hit these nutritional buckets while also ensuring the entire meal is easy on the stomach.
Another plant-based protein Rissetto says is easy to digest—even uncooked—is chickpeas. Just like with tofu, you can pair them with rice or even add them to scrambled eggs. You can also enjoy your chickpeas in hummus form; that's even easier for the body to digest since the texture is smooth.
While yogurt is typically thought of as a breakfast food, Rissetto says it can come in handy when you're in need of a late-night dinner that doesn't require any cooking. It's full of protein—especially Greek yogurt—as well as probiotics, which are good for the gut. "You can add chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, or hemp hearts for added protein," Rissetto says. She also likes to add fruit to hers, like berries or a banana, to up the fiber.
Avocado is another raw food Rissetto says is easy to digest. The fruit is full of healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants, but even so, it's not enough for a dinner on its own—you definitely need some protein. Pair it with one of the plant proteins highlighted here, like tofu or chickpeas. Or, make some avocado toast, topping it off with chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, or hemp hearts.
Healthy late-night dinner ideas from foodies
1. Broiled salmon
Debbie Shandel, executive vice president of food brand Carrington Farms, has two kids, including an 18-year-old hockey-playing son, so having a protein-packed dinner on the table is a must. "On busy nights, I put salmon with ghee in the broiler," she says. (Insider tip: Ghee ups the amount of healthy fats.) The salmon only needs to cook for 10 to 15 minutes—the perfect amount of time to whip up a side salad, rounding out the meal.
2. Veggie burger salad
You'd think being the CEO of Justin's would mean lots of almond-butter sandwiches for dinner. While Justin Gold definitely gets his fill, he also makes sure to load up on greens—no matter how late he gets home. "I'll throw together whatever vegetables are in my fridge and heat up a veggie patty to sprinkle on top," Gold says of his healthy late night dinner idea. (So does that mean he still has peanut-butter cups for dessert?)
3. Slushie bowl
If you're not getting home until super late, it's important to give your body something easy to digest so you aren't up half the night listening to your stomach churn. Smoothies are a safe bet, but that just won't cut it for Good Zebra Spirit Animal Crackers founder Erika Szychowski—she wants something she can dig a spoon into.
"I put blueberries, unsweetened almond milk, and ice into a blender and pulse, so it turns into a slushie, not all the way blended," she says, giving her healthy late night dinner recipe. "Then, I put it in a bowl." Make it even heartier by sprinkling some granola or pumpkin seeds on top and you have yourself a pretty sweet dinner—literally.
4. Chickpea salad
As the author of a slew of vegan cookbooks and owner of two restaurants, Isa Chandra Moskowitz made a name for herself by crafting healthy, flavorful recipes. But even she isn't above getting her dinner from a can.
"Chickpea salad is really easy to throw together," she says. "It's like tuna salad, but with chickpeas. Just mash them up, and add celery and scallions." For even more nutritional oomph, serve your salad atop a bed of greens.
5. Fancy toast
"Growing up near the Mediterranean, my favorite quick and easy dinner is tahini on bread, topped with tomato, olive oil, cumin, fresh lemon, and a bit of salt," he says. Don't have the sesame seed spread in your fridge? You can always sub in hummus instead.
6. Noodles and peanut sauce
Celeb chef and cookbook author Candice Kumai is a bit of a master when it comes to quick meals. "The best thing is noodles and sauce," she says. "I have a simple peanut sauce recipe, then I toss some greens in, and that's it."
So what's in her go-to topping? A touch of tahini, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and miso paste. It's so good it just might become your favorite dinner recipe—even on nights when you have hours to kill.
Whether you have time to cook up one of the late-night dinners the foodies here turn to on busy nights or you want to stick with the list of easy-to-digest raw foods Rissetto recommends, what's clear is that you absolutely don't have to skip dinner no matter how late you're eating. Not only are these ideas more nutrient-rich, but they also taste way better than that bag of microwave popcorn you were about to make.
Originally published May 29, 2017. Updated May 18, 2021.
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