So it’s 2 am on a Tuesday morning, and you’re wired up on Yerba Mates in the library and going over your professor's lecture notes for the fourth time, in preparation for your 9 am midterm tomorrow. You’re tired, you’re stressed, and you’re hungry. The last thing you want to be worried about is having to watch your eating habits at a time like this, and yet, there is still concern on your mind about health as you reach for the third bag of spicy hot Cheetos you’ve managed to consume tonight. We have all been there.
Instead of waking up feeling tired, bloated and unhealthy the next morning, consider some of these alternative late night snacking options that have been proven to result in guilt-free satisfaction and enhanced quality of sleep.
It is recommended to keep late night snacking under 200 calories within an hour of going to sleep to aid digestion, yet this is relative and case-dependent. Your body runs on glucose from carbohydrates for the brain to function, and a diet of pure protein and fat will not lead to a productive night in the library. Consider healthy carbohydrates, whole grains that consist of bran, endosperm, and germ, which contain different vitamins and minerals that the body needs. Minimally processed grain releases glucose slowly in the body over time, whereas processed grains such as white bread, pasta, rice, and cereal will give you a quick boost of energy and then rapidly drop your glucose levels, resulting in the body feeling more tired than before. Whole grain recipes can be paired with carbs from fruit or dairy, leading to a well-balanced snack. Snack recipes include tabbouleh or hummus on whole wheat pita or pita chips, quinoa salad with grilled chicken and vegetables, low sugar whole grain cereal (looks for a cereal with 5 grams or less of sugar per serving) with fresh berries and low-fat milk, and even lightly salted popcorn. Additional healthy snacks and late-night meals include flaxseed (crushed is best), soybeans, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. These can be added to yogurt with berries for a perfect late night snack.
We now know that minimally processed carbohydrates are a good snacking option. But did you also know that Vitamin E, which helps prevent cognitive decline and increases productivity, can be found in tasty snacks such as nuts, leafy green vegetables, olives, eggs, brown rice, and other whole grains? Blueberries are especially effective in improving short-term memory loss, as found by a study at Tufts University. Take some frozen blueberries, strawberries, bananas, greek yogurt, and honey and throw it in a blender!
Another benefit of these healthy late night snacking options is better sleep! Studies have shown that some late night snacks contain the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, which leads to a higher quality of sleep and a more alert feeling upon waking up. Tart cherries, pistachios, Goji berries, walnuts, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and strawberries have all been studied and recognized as a notable source of melatonin. Additionally, bananas with almond butter have been found to result in a four-fold increase in melatonin blood levels within two hours of consumption. All of these healthy and balanced options have been proven to increase sleep quality, which comes in handy the night before the big exam!
By making a simple switch in your dietary choices, you could experience results that include feeling much more well rested, full, and mentally healthy. Stay rested everyone, and good luck during the midterm season!
Today's blog post comes from Environmental Intern Rhianna Haynie-Cion. Enjoy!