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Healthy Late Night Snack Food
It's hard not to get munchy after supper. I say 'munchy' because we all know it's not hungry per se , it's just...wanting something to eat. I, in fact, am terribly bad for this. I recently lost a ton (well, what my ego considers a ton) of weight and in trying to keep it off, tried not to snack at night. Woa. Did I fail. Staving off those late night cravings only makes things worse. But I wasn't really knowledgeable on the subject of 'healthy' late night snack food. Just the last part.
The longer you deprive yourself of what your brain is telling your stomach it needs, the more excessive the indulgence will be when you cave. Case in point: I've done extremely well throughout the day, only to get to bedtime and devour 2 or 3 nanaimo bars, or leftovers from supper, or a small fortune in chocolate. Sounds horrid. Is delicious. Feels bad.
So no more of this savagery, no more feeling bad the next morning because I'm not hungry for breakfast due to the debauchery from the late-night snacking the night before. I say no more! I am determined to have my cake and eat it too. I have been on the hunt for healthy snack foods that don't make me feel like I'm eating healthy snacks, and also don't make me feel bad for eating them. Sounds like it's a fine balance. Bring it on.
The best tidbit of ridiculously simple advice I found was that you need to keep things available to you to snack on, or you’ll go for the
first thing you see. You'll end up with the chips you know are going to taste
delicious, or the ice cream that you’re already eating in your mind. No good. Another reason having things made in advance is a good idea: when you're hungry and craving something you're more likely to overindulge. So if you're having, say, celery and peanut butter you might add way more peanut butter than you would had you prepared them when you weren't hungry.
So, what are some things to have on hand you say?
- Sugar free/low fat Jell-O (it tastes no different) with Cool Whip whipped cream (low fat, available in a tub in the freezer section). Make the jello and separate it into 3 or 4 small dishes. When it's ready, top with cool whip and mmmm and ahhhh your way to satisfaction.
- Popcorn is a given as I'm sure you know. So long as it's not loaded with too much butter, half a box of salt, and an absurd amount of flavoring. Sprinkle some chili powder on it, or garlic salt, or freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or maybe some dill weed. You can even make this in advance. Let the popcorn cool off and put handfuls of it into baggies for ready-to-eat snacks.
- Celery sticks and peanut butter. Go one step further if it suits your fancy and add raisins to make the famous 'ants on a log'. Have celery sticks cut up in the fridge for this. You could even have peanut butter (and optional raisins) already on them.
- Celery sticks and cheez whiz. Yes, cheez whiz is processed, and no, it's not negative calories or anything, but the small amount you'll be adding to the celery for flavor isn't going to do major damage either (91 calories, 6.9g Fat and 3g carbohydrates / 2 tablespoons). You can snack on this seemingly counter-productive food, and still stay under that 100 calorie mark many aim for. Point is, cheez whiz is tasty, good in small quantities, and never tastes like diet food. Again, have the sticks already cut so there's less work involved, and more instant gratitude.
- Cheese and crackers or pita chips. When I say cheese, I mean a few cubes of cheese and a handful of crackers. Not super awesome packed with taste artery clogging crackers, but more like Wheat Thins, Breton, grain crackers, tortilla chips, soda crackers, Triscuit, graham crackers...you get the point. Cut up cheese cubes beforehand and keep them in the fridge as too much cheese will turn this from healthy late night snack into unhealthy late night over-indulgence. (1 cu.inch of cheddar contains 69 calories, 6g fat and 0 carbohydrates. You could have two cubic inches, cut into thin slices and eat them with crackers or tortilla chips)
- Tortilla chips and salsa. Oooo one of my favorites. Choose a chip that's not high in bad things (ie: Old Dutch lightly salted rounds contain about 130 calories, 13g fat and 32g carbs / 20 chips), and a salsa that's good as well. This is as easy as comparing two tortilla chip bags side by side at the grocery store, and same with the salsa. So worth it. This is such a tasty combination. Just be sure not to eat from the bag. Use a bowl or plate and put the bag away.
- Nachos. Oh yea, I said nachos. A couple of tablespoons of cheddar cheese sprinkled over a handful of tortilla chips and melted? Mmmm good.
- Fruit with whipped cream. Mmm again! I buy these huge bags of frozen fruit in the grocery order, and I'm never, ever without whipped topping. A small bowl of fruit with whipped topping is so good. Obviously the sugar in the fruit can be an issue if you're eating too much of it. So not every day, but this is still a very tasty snack that is also very healthy.
- 1/2 a cup of yogurt, a handful of berries and 1 or 2 T of granola. Heaven. This can also be made in advance. The granola will get soggy hanging out with the yogurt too long so add the granola when you're going to eat it
- veggies - carrot sticks, celery sticks, green pepper slices, broccoli florets, cauliflower, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, whatever suits your fancy. You can add dressing (read the label to know how much you should have. Some dressings have 0 calories /2T, some have 160/2T) or just have the veggies the way mother nature made them. Keep them ready to eat in the fridge.
- two (normal) handfuls of pretzel twists.
- pita chips or triangles, with hummus.
- an english muffin with melted cheese (mmmmmm).
- a salad with your faves - lettuce, tomato, cucumber, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, cranberries, mandarins, whatever you like! You can even pre-make salads and keep them in the fridge for those moments when you've been holding out on your taste buds for so long that you're on the hunt for something instant.
- get popsicle trays and freeze 100% unsweetened juice, or crystal light in them for oh-so-good popsicles.
- again with the popsicle trays, only this time, freeze yogurt! You could even put some crushed berries in the yogurt before freezing. Ooo this is so good. Just don't make them crazy big. (ie: 2 of the individual containers of Dannon/Activia Light yogurt would keep you at the famous 100 calorie mark) Everything in moderation.
- rice cakes with almond butter spread on them.
- trail mix. This is something you can pick away at - which is a good thing. It also can (especially if you concoct it yourself) contain nuts which, while being sinfully delicious are not so good in large quantities. (I have a lot of trouble just eating a few peanuts. Or Cashews. Or Almonds.) You'll get the healthy advantage of nuts while not over indulging in them. Beware though - this can get really high in fat and bad for you in no time. Just a little of everything will do. There are lots to choose from - unsalted peanuts, almonds, cashews and walnuts; unsalted sunflower seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds; dry cereal; dried fruit, raisins; pretzels... the grocery store is your oyster. This is something you would make in advance, and keep in individual ziplock bags for future enjoyment. This is also a good thing to keep in your purse. It won't spoil or leak, and it'll save you on the way home from work, or at the mall, or even while grocery shopping.
- Fruit! I know I mentioned frozen fruit and whipped topping earlier, but there's also simple fruit. A small to medium sized bowl of cherries, bowl of grapes, a sliced apple, frozen (yep, frozen) orange slices, frozen grapes, peaches, plums, pears, berries, carambola (starfruit), melon, kiwi, apricot, 1/2 an avocado... there's lots to choose from.
- Apple slices and peanut butter. I wouldn't recommend slicing the apples in advance unless you want to eat unattractive apple slices. If you do slice them in advance, you can either a: cut the apple underwater and keep it in the water until ready to eat, or b: keep them in a lemon-water solution (3:1).
- a small bowl of cereal
- Be wary of 'all natural'. All natural can still be full of all natural sugar, which isn't your friend either, out of moderation.
- Always check the labels. If you've got to pick a fat to stay away from, stay away from trans fat.
- Don't be confused by the term 'multi-grain'. Multi-grain means more fiber (which isn't a bad thing). Not less calories and less fat. Many people associate multi-grain with low fat and low calorie, but in some cases multi-grain even has more fat and calories than it's counter-part.
- Be wary of low fat. This one always annoys me. 'Try it now! Low fat!' should say 'Try it now! Low fat, higher sugars, and more calories! But low fat!'
- Substitute. If you absolutely must have something specific, say, chocolate, opt for something like chocolate milk or hot chocolate before devouring a chocolate bar, and later staring resentfully at the empty wrapper.
This should be a pretty good start to your 'healthy late night snacking' life. There are tons of things you can eat and snack on that are healthy, and most of them are pretty inexpensive, too. (Bonus!) Healthy food does not have to be expensive.
Voila! You have late night snacking, made guilt-free.