What Not To Eat Late At Night, And Why

by Tiffany Kail on June 17, 2013

Let’s admit it. There will always be times when we crave a snack before bed. Something sweet, something salty, something fried, something filling, something spicy; we know when it’s bedtime we’ll hear our name being called from somewhere in the kitchen. We also know we want to get a good night’s sleep. When it comes time to reach for a snack, there are reasons why we should bypass some foods. Let’s take a look at the foods to avoid before bed, and why.

Fatty Foods

Even good fats, like nuts, put your stomach into high gear. Digesting fats is not an easy task. Your tummy will switch to high gear, and all this activity requires energy. So there you are, climbing into bed after a snack of nuts or guacamole or other fatty food, and your stomach is giving your brain the signal to rev up. You may be telling yourself to go to sleep, but your brain is taking commands from your stomach first. It’s going to be a long, restless night.

late night chips and dip

Simple Carbs

Although a plate of pasta or a piece of bread may not taste sweet, when you ingest these ‘simple carbs’ your body is getting sugar. Yes, those fast-burning carbs are going to be delivered to your bloodstream as plain old sugar, causing the same spikes in blood sugar as if you ate a piece of candy. This instant energy will cause your brain to spin and your heart to pound. These two events are never conducive to a restful state of mind or body.


Real or fake, sugar is sugar. When you eat a sweet snack before bed, you get a rush of energy. Your body is going to try to burn the stuff off. Just like with simple carbs, your brain and body will get busy just when you’re trying to shut down for the night. And remember, it doesn’t matter what kind of sugar you ingest. Refined, raw, artificial, or even the newer ‘close to nature’ sugars, your body gets the same signal to burn it off as quickly as possible, causing wakefulness to set in, again.


We may crave meat or poultry when it’s bedtime after one of those days of eating too lightly. Now we want that full feeling we can only get from fat. But meats, especially red or fatty meats, take quite a bit of work to digest. If you lay down with a tummy nice and full from a slab of steak or a chunk of chicken, your stomach has to start churning away, with lots of blood pumping and signals being delivered to the brain to keep working, keep working, keep working. If your brain can’t shut down for the night, you won’t sleep.


There are many spices that are eaten specifically to give us energy and speed up our metabolism. It makes sense to avoid those spices when it comes to snacking before bedtime. The trick is to be aware of the ingredients in those snacks you crave before digging in. And it’s not just the hot and peppery spices. That nice warm smell and taste of cinnamon is wonderful and seems soothing, but in reality cinnamon is a stimulant that gets the blood pumping. Once again, you don’t want your brain to be sending signals to your blood to get moving when you’re trying to slow down.

Midnight Meal

When you’re hungry before bedtime, it may be tempting to pull out all the stops and fill a plate with all your favorite dishes. If you find yourself buried shoulder deep in the refrigerator, stop and back away. A full stomach at bedtime, even a stomach filled with foods that are healthier, will send the signal to the brain that it needs to get the blood pumping faster into the stomach to digest that meal. Once again, your brain is staying busy talking to your stomach, and ignoring your request to go to sleep.

Cravings for that late night snack sometimes just can’t be ignored. Whether we’ve been dieting and missing out of some of our favorite foods, or we’re stressed and need a little comfort food, a snack before bedtime may be inevitable. When the snack attack hits, think about the foods to avoid first, then reach for a lighter, healthier snack. You can have your snack, and eat it, too… just as long as it’s not cake!

photo credit: bunchofpants

About the author...

 is a personal trainer, certified yoga instructor, and certified health coach, and most importantly, a mom. She's a proponent of the clean eating approach because it's a complete lifestyle solution and she's seen her clients thrive on it more than any other healthy eating plan.

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