Best Healthy Late-Night Snacks, According To An Expert


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Hey, Health Coach,

I’m a night person, and I love watching television with my dog after everyone is asleep. It’s my quiet time, but I also end up eating a lot of unhealthy snacks that way… chips, cookies, leftovers… all the things. I’ve tried to quit, but no luck. I wonder if I can still snack but be smarter about it. What are some healthy snacks I can eat late at night?

— Night Snacker

Dear Night Snacker,

Clearly, you know what’s important. You love late nights, snuggling with your dog and snacks, and you don’t want to lose any of them. You’re not trying to force yourself to go to bed early or to stop snacking. You just want a healthier version of the routine you already enjoy.

In my experience as a coach, that kind of measured approach is one of the easiest ways to make a significant difference for your health in the long run. Many factors play into your overall diet, but swapping one snack for another can add up quickly when it’s a daily routine.

For example, according to the USDA Calorie Calculator, if you chose one cup of chocolate frozen yogurt instead of one cup of chocolate ice cream, you would eat approximately 150 fewer calories and 10 fewer grams of fat in a single serving. If you did so every day, over the course of a week, you would eat 1,050 fewer calories and 70 fewer grams of fat.

It’s not a small difference.

Only you can know for sure exactly what snacks will satisfy your cravings and protect your health, but the process of discovering them can be a delicious quest.

Components of Healthy Snacks

When exploring which snacks might be right for you, consider the following:


Any snack worth eating should taste good. This statement might seem obvious, but a lot of people force themselves to eat foods they dislike when they’re trying to “eat healthy.” If you want the changes to stick, your first criteria should be that you like the new food.

Keep an open mind to explore options outside your comfort zone, but in the end, give your taste buds the final say.


Make sure you have easy access to the food you want to substitute. If it requires extensive prep work or it’s not available because of cost or location, you might want to keep looking for something that’s both tasty and accessible.

Fiber, Protein and Water

To find healthy snacks you love, start with your favorites and look for alternatives with more fiber, protein or water. They are more likely to fill you up, offer additional nutrients and reduce the overall impact on your blood sugar.

Fresh, whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts, are ideal, but you can also get extra fiber and protein from packaged snacks that are made with:

  • Whole grains instead of refined flour
  • Nuts, seeds and dried fruits
  • Legumes and legume flours, such as lentil or chickpea

Sugar and Salt

Sugar and salt make everything taste good, but if you eat too much of either, they can damage your health. For most people, it helps to identify the salty and sweet things you love most. Make room in your diet for them by reducing the sources you don’t care for quite as much.

Ingredient Lists

Just because a product says it’s high in protein, low in fat or “zero sugar” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Check the list of ingredients. Fewer ingredients is generally better. Look for the words “whole grains” and, ideally, you should recognize or be able to pronounce all of the ingredients. If it looks like a list of chemicals or has colors, such as yellow #5, it may not be the best choice for daily consumption.

Allergies and Sensitivities

There’s no such thing as a “bad” food unless it’s toxic or you have a specific reaction to it. Food is just food. The amount you eat and the way your body responds to those foods determine how healthy or unhealthy they are for you as an individual.

If you know an ingredient or category of food makes you sick, staying away from it might be effortless, but food that makes you just a little uncomfortable or sluggish can be more difficult to skip. If you suspect that a snack you eat regularly is interrupting your sleep or affecting your digestion, weight or energy levels, consider playing with your options in some of the common snack categories below.

Healthy Snack Alternatives 

Cakes and Cookies

If you love cookies, cake, brownies and other gooey, delectable baked goods, but you tend to eat more than you need, see if you can find recipes or pre-packaged versions that you enjoy but are less likely to trigger overeating.

For example, you might discover great recipes online for cocoa bites made with nuts and dates or cookies and brownies made with almond or oat flour. Other sweet options include fruit with yogurt and granola, baked cinnamon apples, homemade granola bars and banana or pumpkin bread made with whole grains.

The options are endless. Just don’t give up. Keep looking until you find something nutritious that satisfies your cravings.

Ice Cream

As mentioned above, frozen yogurt can be considerably less dense than ice cream. Sorbet and popsicles made with real fruit juices can be great options as well. There are also lots of non-dairy ice creams, but don’t assume they’re necessarily low-fat or low-calorie. Look at the labels to make sure you’re truly making a healthy swap. Buying individually packaged frozen bars can help with portion size.

Pizza and Pasta

Several pizza and pasta brands are substituting white flour with tasty, high-fiber, high-protein options. Look for brands made with alternative flours, such as lentil, chickpea, whole wheat or quinoa. Of course, there are cauliflower crusts as well, but I know cauliflower pizza is sacrilege for some people.

Crackers and Chips

Welcome to the crunchy, savory zone. Alternatives include microwave popcorn, whole grain cereals, baked chips, veggies dipped in hummus and celery with nut butter. I’m sure you can come up with even more ideas of your own.

There are also many packaged chips made of the same alternative flours listed above, as well as flaxseeds and sweet potatoes. If you shop around, you might be surprised by the wide variety of lentil chips or whole grain crackers that offer traditional snack flavors like barbecue, cheddar or sour cream and onion. You may not like them all, but you’re likely to discover some great options if you keep looking.


Are you a fan of bubbles and the sweetness? If so, try adding a splash of fruit juice to bubbly water or experiment with the many brands of seltzer that include hints of flavor and sweetness.


For alcohol alternatives, check out my previous column on how to drink less alcohol, including options for non-alcoholic “cocktails” and CBD drinks.

7 Questions to Ask to Help You Find a New Snack

  1. What are your favorite snacks that you would like to replace or make healthier?
  2. What specific aspects of these snacks do you enjoy most? Is it the salt, sweetness, crunch, creaminess, cakey texture or something else?
  3. Have you tried any healthy snacks in the past? If so, were there any you enjoyed but forgot about?
  4. Do you like to cook or bake your own snacks, or do you prefer to buy them premade? Choose whatever approach you prefer—or both.
  5. Could you adjust portion sizes of your current snacks and still be satisfied?
  6. Are you interested in trying new flavors and snack options, or do you prefer to replicate the comfort foods you already love?
  7. What’s the first new snack you would like to try?

Once you have answers to those questions, you’re in a good position to find new, healthy favorites that are just as satisfying as ever. Good luck, Night Snacker, and enjoy!

“Hey, Health Coach” is for informational purposes only and should not substitute for professional psychological or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your personal situation, health or medical condition.

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