Ah, late-night snacking. The downfall of many - when cravings run high and willpower runs low. That same pantry or fridge that we breeze past in the morning without a second thought is suddenly calling our name. Loudly.
Fortunately, having a late-night snack doesn't have to be a diet disaster. The key is to keep it controlled – ideally something protein-rich and low in carbs – and you don't have to feel guilty about indulging in a late-night craving.
10 late-night snacks under 200 calories that you can indulge in, guilt-free:
1. Casein protein powder with almond milk. This is what I reach for, most nights. I know what you're thinking - that doesn't sound like an "indulgence." But experiment to find a brand and flavor of protein powder that you like, and it just might do the trick.
I use a chocolate-flavored casein protein powder and unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Casein, as we've discussed in this column in the past, is a slow-digesting milk-based protein that provides a steady release of amino acids that can help to curb hunger, and also minimize muscle losses that naturally occur overnight while sleeping.
I usually just stir it with a spoon (I don't mind the powdery-ness of it), but most of my clients prefer to blend it with ice to make it more of a smoothie.
2. Arctic Zero Fit Frozen Dessert. If I'm looking for something a little sweeter, I'll blend a scoop of Arctic Zero ice cream into my casein-almond milk concoction. It has just 35 calories per half-cup serving, and the first ingredient (after water) is whey protein concentrate, with no artificial sweeteners. My favorite flavor is Salted Caramel.
3. Cottage cheese (sweet or savory). Cottage cheese is another top pick for nighttime snacking, as it's also rich in casein. Pair it with berries (fresh or frozen) for a sweet treat that's still low in carbs, or go the savory route by topping it with chunky salsa, a dash of hot sauce, or my favorite: cherry tomatoes with fresh basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
4. Waffle with nut butter. But not just any waffle, and not just any nut butter. Try Van's Power Grains Protein Waffle (just over 100 calories, with 5 grams protein) topped with a tablespoon of all-natural almond butter or peanut butter.
5. Greek yogurt pops. So far I haven't found a store-bought Greek yogurt popsicle that I really love. But at least they're super easy to make: Simply blend a cup of low-sugar Greek yogurt (2 percent plain or a lower-sugar option like Chobani Simply 100) with half a cup of berries (fresh or frozen), divide into popsicle molds (or Dixie cups with popsicles sticks), and freeze. Get creative with spices or herbs; fresh basil or mint work well with all types of berries.
6. Greek yogurt dip with fresh veggies. The options are really endless. Just use plain Greek yogurt in place of mayo or sour cream in your favorite dip recipes (think ranch, caramelized onion, or spinach dip). My preference is 2 percent lowfat yogurt instead of nonfat yogurt – I find the texture and flavor is better. Then trade out chips or crackers for fresh veggies (sliced red or yellow peppers, raw zucchini or squash, celery, or endive leaves), and you've got a low-calorie, protein-rich night-time snack. Added bonus: It's an easy way to squeeze more vegetables into our diets.
7. Quest bar, heated. If you haven't tried heating a Quest bar yet, try it. Especially if you like ooey-gooey stuff like cookie dough or half-baked brownies. Heat an unwrapped Quest bar in the microwave for 8 to 10 seconds, or in the oven at 350 degrees for a minute or two. The result: A low-sugar indulgence with 20 grams of protein and just 190 calories.
8. Low carb "crepe" made cheesy or chocolate-y. Super simple, no cooking skills required: Start with a low-carb wrap (two of my favorites: La Tortilla Factory's Low Carb, High Fiber tortillas and Julian Bakery's Paleo Wraps). Boost protein with an ounce of cheese, thinly sliced (I use Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar, since it's about one-third the calories of full-fat cheese, with no strange ingredients that aren't usually found in cheese), or a tablespoon of protein-fortified nut butter like Nuts 'N More's Chocolate Almond or White Chocolate Peanut Butter, available locally at GNC stores or online.
9. Protein pudding. Add protein powder to your favorite no-sugar pudding mix (two scoops per four-serving box; whey protein generally has the best texture for pudding), matching the protein flavor with the pudding (e.g. chocolate protein powder for chocolate pudding, vanilla protein powder for vanilla, butterscotch, or banana cream pudding).
Or nix the pudding packets altogether and blend half a scoop of chocolate protein powder with a carton of plain 2% Greek yogurt, and refrigerate until set. The protein powder helps to offset the tartness, and gives the yogurt a more pudding-like texture.
10. Protein-rich cinnamon toast. P28 High Protein Bread packs in 14 grams of protein per 130-calorie slice – a hefty dose of protein for a single slice of bread. I personally prefer it toasted – I find the texture is better – and my clients love to make cinnamon toast with it: Top with a thin spread of butter or coconut oil (about a teaspoon) and sprinkle with cinnamon and natural no-calorie sweetener, like Swerve or Truvia. You can ask your local health food store to stock P28 Bread, or order it online at www.p28foods.com.
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