Late-night snack substitutes

It’s late. You can’t sleep. You’re catching up on season 7 of Game of Thrones … and a craving hits. You want chocolate … candy… ice cream … something that will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Or maybe you’ve got a craving for something salty.

Or crunchy.

Bring it on, right?

Not on my new healthy eating plan, Dr. Steve, is what you’re thinking.

Good for you for wanting to do the right thing. But that doesn’t mean the cravings just disappear.

What do you do when that hankering hits?

Have a plan!

That is why we put together a snack swap chart. So no matter what you absolutely HAVE to eat, you can reach for a healthy alternative instead.

If you crave Eat this instead Why? You’ll save
Potato chips Popcorn
3 cups air-poppedFlavor tip: Lightly spray with olive oil and sprinkle black pepper, garlic powder, nutritional yeast, or other favorite seasoning.
Three cups of popcorn takes up much more room in your bowl (and stomach) than a small handful of potato chips, so it will seem and feel like you’re eating more.

Nutrition news: A 100-calorie snack of popcorn is over 3 times more effective at curbing hunger than the same calorie intake from almonds, party mix or pretzels, according to 1 study.1

61 calories
9 grams of fat
French fries ½ cup shelled
edamameFlavor tip: Lightly sprinkle with sea salt (if you aren’t prone to fluid retention or high blood pressure).
These small legumes are an excellent source of protein, which helps suppress cravings. They also pack a hefty dose of fiber and house powerful bioactive isoflavones, which scientists have discovered may exhibit anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and bone health benefits.

Nutrition news: Researchers continue to add to the growing body of research in favor of the cardio-protective benefits of including whole soy foods as part of a heart healthy diet.2

110 calories
8.5 grams fat
A small slice of
birthday cake
A small slice of angel food cake topped
with 1 cup sliced strawberriesFlavor tip: Puree some of the strawberries with a bit of yogurt for a delicious sauce!
You can still have your cake and eat it too! Strawberries boast a day’s worth of vitamin C and increase your intake of fiber, potassium, iodine and folate.

Nutrition news: Research shows that strawberries and other berries help reduce the rise in blood sugar that occurs after eating simple sugars.3

74 calories
7 grams fat
Bowl of ice cream Plain Greek yogurt (¾ cup) topped with RealReds™ Strawberry Phytonutrient powder (1 tablespoon) and dark chocolate chips (1 tablespoon) Greek yogurt is rich in calcium, B vitamins, zinc and iodine, and it is the perfect creamy substitute for ice cream.

Nutrition news: Greek yogurt contains the healthy fat conjugated linoleic acid, which plays a role in helping the body burn fat.4

90 calories
9 grams fat
A banana split Sliced banana with 1 teaspoon walnuts

Flavor tip: Drizzle low-fat, no-sugar-added vanilla yogurt over top for minimal calories.

Bananas and walnuts combine to give this treat a heaping dose of potassium, B vitamins and omega-3 fats, minus the artery-clogging fat in the traditional banana split.

Nutrition news: Walnuts are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to help regulate sleep rhythms.3

354 calories
6.5 grams fat
Chips and cheese dip Jicama dipped in guacamole
1 cup jicama slices
¼ cup guacamole
Although it may not seem like you’re saving a lot of calories or fat, you’re trading in unhealthy and deep-fried fat for a hefty dose of heart-healthy fats and a whopping 90% increase in fiber.

Nutrition news: Avocados contain phytosterols, which are unique plant fats that play a key role in controlling inflammation.3

69 calories
3.3 grams fat
Gummy candy Frozen grapes ½ cup You’ll still get the sweet chewiness of gummy candy, but none of the artificial preservatives, colorings and refined sugar. Choose purple grapes for their resveratrol content, which is being studied as an anti-aging and cardio-protective nutrient.

Nutrition news: The complex nutrient composition of grapes is now being shown to help provide better blood-sugar balance and insulin regulation.3

68 calories
Milk shake RealMeal GF 2 scoops in water You’ll boost your intake of inulin, a unique prebiotic soluble fiber that helps feed good bacteria for healthy digestion.

Nutrition news: RealMeal GF contains bioactive peptides such as lactoferrin and immunoglobulins, which help bolster your immunity.5

44 calories
2 grams

Dark chocolate is both delicious and beneficial.

And my personal favorite … chocolate! When I get a craving for milk chocolate, I eat dark chocolate instead. There are plenty of reasons to go to the dark side. Ounce per ounce, dark chocolate has about half the sugar (7 grams versus 15 grams), 3 times the fiber (3 grams versus 1 gram) and more iron, magnesium, potassium and other nutrients to fuel your metabolism than milk chocolate.

But, the real bonus is that dark chocolate is full of beneficial polyphenols, and it only takes a small portion to deliver health benefits.

In 1 study, healthy adults who ate a small portion of polyphenol-rich dark chocolate daily for 2 weeks had significantly better blood-vessel function compared to those munching on a control chocolate without polyphenols.6

What’s your favorite late-night snack? Ask me, and I’ll ask my team for a good substitute.

Steve Sisskind, M.D.

Hi, I'm Dr. Steve Sisskind, Chief Medical Officer & Founder at RealDose Nutrition.

As a young physician, I struggled because my patients came to me with serious health issues, but I didn't have the right tools to help them. Medical school taught me how to put "band aids" on their symptoms with drugs and surgery, but not how to address the root causes of their problems.

Years later I discovered a better approach... based on the fundamental idea that the power of nutrition can transform your health and vitality. But there's a lot of confusion... What foods should I eat? Which supplements should I take? What does the science say?

I have dedicated my life to answering these questions... And I share this knowledge with you every day here at RealDose Nutrition.

I invite you to connect with me by joining my free private community. I've helped thousands of people and I know I can help you too!

Join the Whole Body Club

Dr. Steve Sisskind is on a mission to help you achieve amazing health and vitality through the power of nutrition. Sign up to get access to his valuable health tips, recipes, videos, and discounts for FREE!


1. KJ, Ursula T. Lowczyk UT, Meyer MC. Popcorn snack more satiating than almonds, party mix or pretzels. FASEB J. 2012;26:639.2

2.Cena E, Steinberg, F. Soy may help protect against cardiovascular disease. California Agriculture 2011;65(3):118-123.

3.Torronen R, Sarkkinen E, Tapola N, Hautaniemi E, Kilpi K, Niskanen L. Berries modify the postprandial plasma glucose response to sucrose in healthy subjects. Br J Nutr. 2010;103(8):1094-1097. PMID: 19930765.

4.Serafeimidou A, Zlatanos S, Laskaridis K, et al. Chemical characteristics, fatty acid composition and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) content of traditional Greek yogurts. Food Chem. 2012;134(4):1839-1846. PMID: 23442628

5.Mulder AM, Connellan PA, Oliver CJ, et al. Bovine lactoferrin supplementation supports immune and antioxidant status in healthy human males. Nutr Res. 2008;28(9): 583-589. PMID: 19083463.

6.Engler MB, Engler MM, Chen CY, et al. Flavonoid-rich dark chocolate improves endothelial function and increases plasma epicatechin concentrations in healthy adults. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(3):197-204. PMID: 15190043.

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  1. When I crave salty, I reach for roasted seaweed, and some think sweet, fruit. Sometimes at night I will make a bowl of steamed broccilli
    or Brussels sprouts in low sodium chicken broth and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

  2. I’ve been eating a lot of raw vegetables (salads) which seem to help me. I have some night cravings, but just remember that I actually might be thirsty, not hungry. I’ve lost 20 pounds, but this holiday season is scaring me! Lots of eating out!!!
    I enjoy receiving these e-mails, but lately the links to articles don’t always work. This one did, but I can’t get to “4 Worst Foods for Women” and the “New York Times got this one right Review. Anyway I can get to those another way?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi JW,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your experience with us! Congratulations on the 20 pound weight loss! I have no doubt that your success will continue long after the holidays as you already have a healthy eating plan in place. Eating a lot of raw vegetables will ease your hunger and you will be surprised by the amount of self restraint you have come those family dinners. Also, night time cravings often occur when you are either idle or just looking for something to satisfy your oral fixation. To help with that, try keeping yourself busy in the busy in the evenings or if the need is too great, a small handful of nuts and berries should be more than enough to satisfy your cravings. As for the links, I am deeply sorry for those and we have since fixed the problem. Please be on the lookout for an email from us shortly. Hope this helps! And, make it a healthy day!

      • Hi
        Ive been on HCG diet off and on for past 5 years always with sucess, hard part for me is the maintenance phase, the weight always creeps back up when Im not looking!
        I am 55 now lost over 50 lbs since the onset of my journey, am STILL in perimenopause, have modified my diet when Im not on the HCG strictly,( I usually can lose the weight with the diet plan, not the shots)
        I have very recently been havng labile hypertension issues, Im asymptomatic, but my Dr wants me to take synthetic drugs for lowering B/P, I refuse, I know I can control it naturally with diet and exercise, which I have in past. I am everything-intolerant, dairy, gluten ,sugar and now sodium.
        I have modified my diet so well, even quitting alcohol and most sugars that I know of, that it seems unlikely that I can cut back even more.
        your snacks listed above are mostly a no-no for me, although I do try and add some life to my restrictions.
        I stiill have cravings, I still have PMS symptoms I take probiotics and mineral loaded vitamins and other supplements, Ive tried soy based and whey based protein shakes for added protein and both these make me sick.
        Whew! At my wits end! What else,if anyhting ccan i do to lower my sodium intake ,lessen PMS symptoms and still eat healthy and amintain my weight ? Im 5.6″ and 140 hard won lbs,

      • Dr. Steve Sisskind

        Hi Dana,

        Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! You seem to be doing everything right and I clearly understand your frustration. In terms of dietary changes, you may need to work with a nutritionist or your personal doctor in order for you to avoid red flags but still get the nutrients your body needs. From where I stand, you may need to constantly change your exercise routine to keep your body challenged. I understand that with your condition, you may need to stick to low impact exercises but try to change the tempo every now and then. Again, I also recommend that you speak to your doctor about this as you want to be able to maintain your cardiac rhythm while also burning calories for weight loss. Make it a healthy day!

  3. I crave crave cake or cookies with ice cream. My daughter has to hide it if she makes it because I can’t control what my intake is of these 2 foods if they are around. Help!!!!

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Cheryl,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I completely understand what you mean! Sometime, just knowing that there’s a big tub of ice cream in the freezer is enough to make my mouth water. However, it is important to know that cravings and hunger are two different things, just like our “needs” and “wants”. To help you control your cravings better, you ought to understand that the types of foods we usually turn to in times of stress – carbohydrates like cookies, cakes, chips – help the brain release the feel-good chemical serotonin. These emotionally-driven cravings are rarely satisfied, no matter how much you eat.

      Using that knowledge, you are able to control your cravings or at the very least, your portions. It would also help if you keep a few healthy options handy. Take them with you when you leave home. This way you always have something on hand when you are in a rush and get hungry. If you get too hungry and don’t have something healthy nearby you are likely to make a bad choice. We recommend keeping nuts or fruit with you, in your bag, your car and in your desk at work.

      Hope this helps, Cheryl! Make it a healthy day!

  4. My craving is on the salty side. Peanut butter filled pretzels are my downfall, so I don’t keep them on hand. I’ll opt for a bit of nuts instead (almonds, cashews, & pecans.) I roast them myself with butter and sea salt and keep them on hand. What vegetables are high in protein as you mentioned in a previous response?

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Joseph,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your question! You are already a step in the right direction as nuts are packed with protein. Vegetables such as beans and lentils also rank high in that list. For more variety in your meals, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and the like) can be easily added into any recipe and paired with any dish. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  5. I found a new snackfood when I was vacationing in Hawaii. A company called chic naturals makes flavored dry roasted chickpeas. The servings are only slightly over 100 cal, and it’s just chickpeas, olive oil, and some spices. They have a nice crunch to them and a great flavor. I order them off their website and their customer service is terrific.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Bonnie,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your recent discovery! I am quite unfamiliar with the product you mentioned but it does sound delicious. My curiosity is piqued and will be paying their site a visit. Again, I thank you for sharing and have a healthy day!

  6. Malinda Westerlund

    Thank you for a concise answer to the question of what to do when one craves a late nite snack! I tire of others who go on and on before actually saying something of value.

  7. While I appreciate your products and advice, I too am surprised to see soy listed. Yes, I read your other responses so don’t feel you need to reiterate. I think you would find your weight lose clients contain a disproportionately high number of people with thyroid and estrogen problems – so we aren’t really “most” people. Thanks for including dairy free options as well. Some of us have been avoiding dairy for decades since it causes total digestive disruption and host of other hormonal issues. Again, your clients are self selecting and likely to have more health issues than average population. Please continue to include lots of dairy and soy free options. Thanks!

  8. So for a late snack it’s ok to eat almonds? What about a can of tuna? I’m a chef so by the time I get home I tend to stay up late. I’m doing the beach body diet and it’s hard to remember to eat when I’m supposed to! Are almonds ok to pick at through out the day? And is it ok to have fruit before I go to bed? Thank you

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Manny.

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns! Yes to almonds but you need to watch your portions carefully. A portion is about a small handful and we recommend 3 servings a day. A small piece of fruit is also a great snack but I do recommend berries over apples, pears and such. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  9. What about fried chicken? Oven baked doesn’t cut it either!

  10. Hi Dr. Steve, I was wondering about the difference between ice cream made with honey? There is also natural ice cream with milk chocolate and walnuts on a stick, from the health store, what do you think about that is that suitable? Some of the yogurt with fruit in them are probably not so hot either. I guess it’s all depended on if there is sugar in them. Also what about lactose milk is that have gmo in it? Is that alright for people who are allergic to milk? Another question, sorry, Keffer, is that a good night time snack? Thanks for being there for us. Esther

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Esther,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I am unfamiliar with the snack and ice cream brand you are referring to but do know that certain companies use honey as a sweetener instead of sugar. There should be no problem with you having them once in a while and I too, am guilty of sneaking them in the house every now and then. As for the Non-GMO milk, it depends on how sensitive to milk a person may be as other components in the milk itself could cause an allergic reaction. Hope this helps, Esther! Have a healthy day!

  11. I looked at the list that you posted an found it very helpful, and I also read some of the comments , I do have a craving for potato chips and ice cream at night especially when I am on my laptop and my mind tells me that I want it. Is sunflower seeds with the shells is ok to snack on or the ones without the shells when you get an craving. When I get a craving at night, I just drink a bottle of water.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Jean,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! Yes, sunflower seeds are fine to have but you need to watch your portions carefully. Also, I do suggest you get the ones with shells as they not only satisfy your penchant to snack but also keep your hands occupied while you think. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  12. This is my number one problem. Every night! It is like I have a meal after my meal! It has been with me for over twenty years. I have to be dairy and gluten free, but love salty and chocolate in way too big of quantities, the popcorn, dry type tortilla chips, vegetable crisps, dark chocolate. But the quantities are out of control. I have to feel full in order to sleep. I sip brandy with the snacks or sometimes some wine to help me get to sleep. I never watch TV but read until I can drop the book, or magazine and fall asleep. If I could lick this after dinner problem I think my weight problems would be solved because otherwise I stick to the plan.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Sharon,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I completely understand what you mean and do share you penchant for snacking. If you feel the urge to snack, how about opting for healthy ones such as sliced vegetables, fruit or nuts? I know they are not the kind of sweet and salty goodies you crave but they could just be what you need to kick the habit. Also, it would help if you do not have your usual fare of chips and sweets around the house, where you can easily get to them. Lastly, instead of a glass of brandy or bourbon, try a chamomile or jasmine tea, to help you relax and get ready for bed. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  13. had a question , ive lost 65pounds since last sept. 2014 butt since june2015 i been on same weight loose 1pound put back a pound i even bought 8pound vest i put on went i go for my walks to burn more calories ,,, nothing getting discourage i have another 30 pounds to lose please help i still taking real dose1

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Ann,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I completely understand what you mean and are here to help. If you have been on RealDose Weight Loss Formula NO.1 for a while now, more than 6 months, then it is likely that you body has adapted to the changes being made and is getting slower in affecting weight loss. To help get you back on track, I do suggest that you change your diet or up the resistance of your exercise. Also, if and when you are ready, I also do recommend that you temporarily stop taking the formula for about 2 weeks to a month to give your body time to reset. By doing so, you will become more receptive to the changes the formula makes and start losing weight again. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

  14. I am really surprised you recommended edamame. Unfermented soybeans are loaded with estrogen, and neither gender needs that kind of quantity. In males, especially, this contributes to obesity. I won’t go near edamame.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Pat,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your concerns with us! I am deeply sorry that you do not agree with the use of edamame and do understand your concerns. Soy contains compounds called isoflavones, which are changed in the body to phytoestrogens (“plant estrogens”) that are similar to the hormone estrogen. The current body of research suggests that soy is likely to be safe for most people when consumed in amounts normally found in foods. Lastly, studies have also shown that a regular diet (portion controlled consumption) of this bean can help with bone loss and inflammation. Hope this helps! Have a healthy day!

      • Soy is “Safe for most people when consumed in amounts normally found in foods.” Problem is…The amount of soy found in American foods is already freakishly high, to say nothing of the “vegetable oil” scam. “Vegetable oil” is only SOY oil, I mean what vegetable on earth renders enough fat to produce oil? Soy isn’t even a vegetable, it’s a legume! Soy proponents argue that Asians eat soy constantly, they do, but spread out in small quantities. Nothing compared to the soy products we eat, whether aware of it, or sneakily slipped in by manufacturers. We do NOT eat a “normal” amount of soy!

      • Dr. Steve Sisskind

        Hi Ben,

        Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thought with us! The issue with regards to soy has been a long standing debate and while I do not agree with some of the points you raised, I wanted to thank you for sharing them in this discussion. Have a healthy day!

  15. Hi Dr. Steve, When I have been off my diet and am congested, sometimes I take extra vitamin c and honey. Do you have any better after dinner suggestions for a healthy snack that would help me be in top shape for the next day. Thanks your always there for us. Esther

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Esther,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your question! A light after dinner snack, for me, would either be a few pieces of nuts, a small apple or a handful of sliced vegetables. Honey has many great health benefits one of which is an improved immunity. To further boost that, I do suggest that you add probiotics to maintain good digestive health and get things moving along nicely. Hope this helps, Esther! Have a healthy day!

  16. I almost always get hungry before going to sleep. If I don’t have something to eat I don’t sleep. Also, I have another quirk, it seems I always feel hungry, like there is an empty place in my stomach that needs to be filled, after I brush my teeth before I go to bed so sometimes I have to brush a couple of times because I have had something else to eat. One of my favorites before bed is Almond milk with carob powder. (My parents had me drink milk with Bosco before going to bed so this adaption usually seems to fill my craving.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Florence,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your story with us! One of the best ways to avoid those late night cravings would be to increase your intake of Dietary fiber (from vegetables) and protein (0.8 grams per pound of body weight). These take longer to break down and will keep you filled for an extended period of time. Your almond milk and Carob powder drink sounds interesting but please be mindful of your portions. Also, I do recommend that you choose healthy snacks such as sliced vegetables or a handful of nuts (unsalted) if you need to satisfy that late night craving. Hope these help! Have a healthy day!

  17. I heard that one shouldn’t eat after 6pm. Another thing about eating before bedtime. Eating a tablespoon of peanut butter is good. Isn’t it hard to digest before eating before bed? Thanks, your always so helpful. Esther

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Esther,

      Thank you for writing in and for posting your questions! One should eat at least 3 hours before bed time in order to avoid stomach and digestion related discomforts. That said, I do recommend that you take your evening meals early to give your body ample time to digest and slow down in preparation for rest. If you are likely to snack, a handful (about 1/2 cup) of nuts or berries will help tide you over instead of peanut butter. Personally, I find sliced vegetables (jicama, cucumber and celery sticks) a great snack in the evenings. It is always good to hear from you, Esther! Have a healthy day!

  18. Popcorn??? Are you kidding? 98% of all corn is GMO and corn is very high on GI index. It will really raise your insulin that is fat storing hormone. The same is true for fruits. They are full of fructose sweetener, even it is natural but it is still a fructose and our bodies do not recognize natural or artificial. It will raise our insulin as well. The only right way to snack at night, if you have to, is to eat animal protein like piece of chicken, turkey or beef. All they have GIs equal 0. Nuts are another good snack but some people would have that heavy feeling from nuts before going to bed. I would go for an egg either hard boiled or in sunny-side form.

    • Dr. Steve Sisskind

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you for writing in and for sharing your thoughts with us! Popcorn, prepared in a healthy way, contains antioxidants and plenty of fiber compared to potato chips. They are packed full of dietary fiber which helps in maintaining good digestive health and lowers our risk of developing cardiovascular disease. That said, while it may have a high Glycemic Index, it actually only has a Glycemic Load of 2.8. This means that while it does have the potential of raising your blood sugar levels due to its carbohydrate content, most of it is in the form of fiber and is not absorbed by the body but passed out. Lastly, I do agree with you that proteins are a better choice when it comes to snacks but do advise that you opt for vegetables high in them instead. Vegetables high in protein but low in carbohydrates are the ideal snack if you want something light to satisfy those late night cravings. Again, I thank you for your insight and appreciate your thoughts! Have a healthy day!

    • Obviously, the only popcorn that is acceptable is organic, IF you can find it. There are still far too many doctors who don’t take notice of how poisonous GMO foods are.

      • Ha ha ha! Don’t be fooled, Pat! Do you really think organic and non-gmo are synonymous? Organic only refer to the manner in which the plant was grown. It doesn’t guarantee that the seeds are gmo free! Did that ever occur to you?

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