As cravings run high and willpower runs low, late-night snacking can lead to the diet downfall of many. 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 with something protein-rich and low in carbs so you don't have to feel guilty about indulging in an after-hours craving.
Below are 10 late-night snack ideas which are all under 200 calories.
Casein Protein Powder with Almond Milk.
This is what I reach for, most nights. I know what you're thinking: protein powder doesn't sound like much of an indulgence. But if you experiment to find a brand and flavor of protein powder that you like, it just might do the trick.
I use a chocolate-flavored casein protein powder and unsweetened vanilla almond milk. Casein 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 as I don't mind the powdery-ness, but most of my clients prefer to blend it with ice to make it more of a smoothie.
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.
Cottage Cheese (Sweet or Savory)
Cottage cheese is another top pick for nighttime snacking, as it's also rich in casein. Pair it with fresh or frozen berries for a 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.
Waffle with Nut Butter
We're not talking about just any waffles here, and not just any nut butter. Try Van's Power Grains Protein Waffle which are just over 100 calories, with 5 grams protein topped with a tablespoon of all-natural almond butter or peanut butter.
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 2% plain Greek yogurt like Chobani Simply 100 with half a cup of fresh or frozen berries, and divide into popsicle molds or Dixie cups with popsicles sticks. Pop the pops into your freezer and you are all set. Get creative with spices or herbs; fresh basil or mint work well with all types of berries.
Greek Yogurt Dip with Fresh Veggies.
The options here 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% low-fat yogurt instead of nonfat yogurt as I find the texture and flavor is better. Then trade out chips or crackers for fresh veggies like 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.
If you haven't tried heating up a Quest bar yet, give it a try 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 is a low-sugar indulgence with 20 grams of protein and just 190 calories.
Low Carb "Crepe" Made Cheesy or Chocolate-y
Super simple, no cooking skills required. Start with a low-carb wrap; two of my favorites are 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.
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.
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. Happy snacking!
This article was originally published in 2016 as part of NOLA.com's Healthy Eating column. Registered dietitian Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she does not solicit product samples nor is paid to recommend items. Be inspired to live your strongest, healthiest life! Subscribe to Molly's podcast FUELED | wellness + nutrition for the latest trends and research related to your body and mind.