Think snacking before bed packs on the pounds? You and your cravings will be happy to know that it's a myth that eating in the evening leads to weight gain. As long as the total amount of calories you burn isn't less than the calories you eat, it doesn't matter when you consume those calories, day or night.

We know scarfing down an entire plate of loaded nachos or pint of ice cream before calling it a night isn't the way to go, but if you need to eat something before bed, make sure you choose foods that don't impair your quality of sleep. As a rule, avoid any spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomato sauce, and other foods that cause indigestion or heartburn. Fatty foods will also hinder your ability to get a good night's rest since they are harder to digest. Avoid huge meals that take a lot of energy to digest, and opt for small snack portions (around 150 calories or fewer) of easily digestible foods instead.

The best snacks to have before bedtime are those that are low in calories but also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps the body create niacin and serotonin, the calming feel-good hormone. Bananas are also known for promoting z's, as research shows that potassium is an important mineral for deep sleep. They also contain tryptophan, which will help you drift into dreamland even quicker. Other serotonin-inducing foods include poultry, oats, and honey. So try subbing some of these foods into your late night snack whenever possible. Pairing complex carbohydrates with some protein can make for a nice, light, filling bedtime snack. Here are some healthy options:

  • 1/4 cup plain oatmeal (74 calories) with one extra small mashed banana (73 calories): 147 calories
  • 1/2 cup Barbara's Shredded Oats cereal (88 calories) with 3/4 cup skim milk (68 calories): 156 calories
  • Six-ounce serving of plain nonfat Greek yogurt (100 calories) sprinkled with 1/8 cup Bear Naked Fit Vanilla Almond Crunch Granola (60 calories): 160 calories
  • 1 slice whole-wheat toast (100 calories) topped with half an ounce shredded mozzarella cheese (36 calories): 136 calories
  • Four-inch whole-wheat pita (74 calories) with three slices turkey breast (66 calories): 140 calories