The Worst Late-Night Snacks for Your Health, According to Experts
Nighttime munchies happen to the best of us, and sometimes, a late-night meal is the only cure. But if you're gonna wander through the kitchen (or your fave food delivery app), you might want to avoid the following bites. According to the pros, these are some of the unhealthiest late-night snacks you can eat before hitting the hay.
Craving loaded French fries? Hold that thought. According to Megan Wong, R.D., registered dietitian at AlgaeCal, greasy, fatty foods "take longer to digest, so eating [them] close to bedtime can lead to bloating and cramping"—a.k.a. an actual nightmare. They also promote inflammation, adds registered dietitian Erin Kenney, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., H.C.P, which increases your risk of chronic disease.
Sorry, Hot Cheetos fans. Eating spicy foods (including hot sauce) "late at night can cause digestive irritation, especially if you aren't used to eating them," says registered dietitian Skylar Nelson, R.D.N. Be extra careful if you're prone to acid reflux, warns Wong, as the spiciness can keep you up for hours. Not cool.
Sweets like doughnuts and cookies are packed with processed sugar, which can lead to inflammation and poor digestion, says Kenney. The excess sugar will also make it hard to slip into a slumber—let alone stay asleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Have 30 minutes to spare? Make these naturally sweetened oatmeal cookies instead.
Similarly, sugary cereal may be a quick fix, but their high sugar content can disrupt your sleep, notes Nelson. Their sweetness will also make you want even more, he says, which can lead to overconsumption (so sneaky). Try making homemade granola when the cereal craving hits.
Heads up: Caffeine might be hiding in your go-to snack. According to Nelson, products like kombucha, ice cream, chocolate desserts, and protein bars may be hidden sources. Even decaf coffee has some caffeine, according to the Food and Drug Administration, so brew some caffeine-free tea instead.
"Due to its high protein and fat content, red meat can take a while to completely digest," explains Wong. Eating a large serving—like, say, a ginormous burger—can make it hard to have a good night's rest. "If you do snack on red meat, aim for smaller portions and leaner cuts," she says.