As much as you try to feed your kids a satisfying dinner, there will still be nights when their tummies will rumble just before bedtime. After all, kids of all ages need a lot of food to keep up with their rapid growth. To address this, have midnight snacks ready. Make sure to have wholesome options available to make it easier to avoid the highly processed stuff, especially when it's time for bed.
Are you looking for healthy midnight snack ideas? Keep the tips below in mind when choosing what to stock up on. Plus, learn about a few options that tick all the boxes. Each munchie below is nutritious, easy on the tummy, and tasty enough that your kiddos will happily try them.
Top Tips for Healthy Midnight Snacks
1. Prioritize whole foods with fiber.
Simple carbs like those found in processed food (i.e., white bread, cakes, candies) can cause blood sugar to rise and fall quickly. While this process can make kids dozy and fall asleep faster, it may also cause them to jolt awake in the middle of the night.
Let your little ones enjoy deeper, more restorative sleep by opting for whole-grain snacks with complex carbs like oats and hummus. Since these treats are higher in fiber, they help prevent blood sugar spikes.
2. Cut out caffeine and minimize sugar.
Caffeine is a powerful stimulant that stays in your bloodstream long after consumption. Your kids don't have to drink coffee to consume it. Caffeine is present in chocolate, colas, and iced tea. Skip these treats at least six hours before bedtime.
Sugar is similarly stirring and can increase restlessness when your body’s trying to wind down. If your child has a persistent sweet tooth, give them a small portion of fruit to satisfy their cravings.
3. Focus on food with sleep-supporting benefits.
Sleep researchers have found that specific micronutrients, such as melatonin, can aid sleep. Melatonin, also known as the "sleep hormone,” is naturally produced by the brain’s pineal gland. It helps regulate your sleep cycle.
You can find melatonin in dairy milk and oats, which is why a warm glass of milk can be extra soothing at night. Vitamin D (found in eggs and fatty fish) and magnesium (found in bananas, nuts, and seeds) also help improve sleep quality.
4. Stick to “boring” yet nutritious choices.
One of the downsides of eating anything late at night is the possibility of indigestion. So, if your child's hunger pangs are unavoidable, have easy-to-digest food available.
Try fat-free yogurt and applesauce. While not the most exciting options, they’re nutrient-rich and will tide them over until breakfast. Plus, once they realize they can’t have their favorite food before bedtime, they might break the late-night snacking habit altogether.
6 Midnight Snacks Your Kids Will Love
1. Yogurt with fresh fruit
Studies show that fruits like kiwi, banana, and tart cherries (which contain a small amount of melatonin) can help improve sleep. Pair these with high-calcium, low-sugar yogurt to double the sleep support. Yogurt contains nutrients like protein, B-vitamins, and magnesium – all of which factor in better slumber. If your child is lactose-intolerant, go for lactose-free or plant-based options to minimize tummy troubles.
2. Banana and almond butter bites
Bananas are rich in magnesium, known to help with sleep regulation, and potassium, a natural muscle relaxant. Slice them diagonally into bite-sized pieces and serve them with a small dollop of sugar-free almond butter. Like bananas, almonds are a source of magnesium. You can even add slivered almonds on top for extra crunch.
3. Overnight oats with nuts and seeds
Oatmeal might be better known as a breakfast staple, but it's also an easy midnight snack to enjoy. It contains magnesium and melatonin to help your kiddos relax, and fiber to fill them up. Opt for rolled or steel-cut oats over instant oats with added sugar.
Soak your oats in milk for a few hours to achieve a creamy consistency. When your little one asks for a snack before bed, just take it out of the fridge and add your toppings. Nuts and seeds add plenty of texture and healthy fats. Pistachios and pumpkin seeds, specifically, contain tryptophan which helps produce melatonin.
4. Tuna on toast
For a savory option, go for lightly seasoned canned tuna over whole wheat toast. Slather a spoonful of Lady’s Choice Tuna Spread over the bread for moisture and flavor. Since you’re serving this as a snack before bed, you'll want it to taste simple but not bland. Skip the bold add-ons like mustard, pickle relish, and onions.
Fatty fish contain vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, which help regulate serotonin. This “feel-good hormone” manages mood as well as sleep. Tuna isn’t as fatty as salmon or sardines, but it has selenium – an antioxidant that helps manage sleep problems.
5. Cottage cheese and crackers
Cheese contains both calcium and tryptophan, which work together to boost melatonin. Go for a low-carb, high-protein option like cottage cheese. This mild and fresh cheese has lower levels of tyramine (which increases alertness) compared to aged cheeses. Serve it with whole-grain crackers for healthy carbs that promote sleep.
6. Lightly salted popcorn
Popcorn is another healthy carb that your child can enjoy before bed. Just make sure to watch the serving size! It can be one of the best midnight snacks, but too much can lead to tummy issues like bloating.
To get the most out of popcorn’s benefits, consider making it yourself with dried corn kernels. The pre-packaged and pre-flavored stuff usually contains a lot of salt and oil. Alternatively, go for unsalted, flavor-free, and air-popped options to get as close to homemade as possible.
These are just a few easy and healthy midnight snacks you can prepare for your avid late-night snacker. But remember, having a balanced diet overall is still the best way to get good-quality sleep and prevent excessive snacking. Check in with your kids to see if they’re getting what they need from their mealtimes. If they are, you might not even need to prepare emergency snacks for later!
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