It’s 10pm and you’re mad-hungry. Your dinner at 6pm didn’t quite satisfy you, and now you’re thinking of what to snack on before going to bed (after all, there’s no way you’re going to be able to fall asleep on an empty stomach!). But, before you call in for a late-night burger and fries combo or hit the kopitiam for some mee goreng or prata, think about how your food choices are going to affect your body and the quality of your sleep.
According to Claudia Correia, a dietician at Raffles Diabetes & Endocrine Centre, many studies have shown a connection between eating at night with reduced sleep duration, poor sleep quality, and a disruption of normal sleep patterns. “Our body has its own internal clock called the circadian clock,” she explains.
“This clock works according to the light-dark cycle of your environment and with your fasting and feeding periods. When this balance gets messed up in some way, what results are alterations in appetite-regulating hormones, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of a number of diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. There is no real cut-off time for night eating, but you should limit the number of times you snack after your evening meal.”
To avoid late-night cravings in the first place, Claudia suggests having small meals frequently throughout the day, and never skipping breakfast.
THE WORST LATE-NIGHT SNACKS
Let’s face it: Nobody craves fresh fruit or a green salad late at night. When you’re peckish, you tend to snack on foods that are high in sugar and fat, like cookies, ice cream, chips, pizza, and greasy fried noodles or burgers. These foods should be avoided as much as possible for different reasons. “High-fat foods take a long time to digest, making it difficult for you to fall asleep,” Claudia points out. “And foods that are high in sugar generally have a high glycaemic index or GI. They are digested very quickly, causing a spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels soon after you eat. This sudden energy surge can make falling asleep a problem. In the long term, it can also lead to insulin resistance. And let’s not forget, snacks that are high in fat and sugar are also high in calories, and consuming them frequently can cause weight gain.”
Snack on these foods instead
If you really must snack late at night, Claudia advises you to eat at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. This gives your body time to start digesting the food – you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps!
You’ll want to keep your options light and healthy, though, so don’t tuck into a full meal. Here are a few ideas:
- A glass of low-fat dairy or almond milk or sugar-free soya milk, or a container of low-fat yogurt, paired with a slice of multi-grain bread or plain high-fibre crackers if you are extra-hungry
- About 30g of unflavoured, unsalted nuts. Nuts contain omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fibre, which will help you feel full and suppress your appetite. All nuts contain fat but the lowest-calorie ones are almonds, cashews and pistachios. Macadamias and pecans, while healthy, are the worst for your waistline. Make sure the nuts have been dry roasted, as opposed to being roasted in vegetable oil.
- A cup of spicy chai tea with low-fat milk or a cup of herbal tea
- If you’re craving something sweet, have few squares of dark chocolate (try to get the good-quality, organic and minimally refined variety) or a few strawberries drizzled with a little dark chocolate.
- Skip the ice cream and go with a juicy fruit, like an orange or a mango, topped with low-fat Greek yogurt. You can also microwave an apple with spices like cinnamon and cloves, and top it with yogurt and chopped nuts for an apple crumble-inspired treat.
- Make a healthy hot chocolate using low-fat milk, a tablespoon of cocoa and a teaspoon of sugar.
Give your favourite 24-hour kopitiam or fast-food joint a miss. If you’re out and about and famished, grab a quick snack at these healthy spots instead. If the portions are too big, eat half and save the rest for lunch the next day.
AFTERGLOW BY ANGLOW
Closing times: 11pm Mon to Thurs, and 12am Fri-Sat
The menu features raw, vegetarian and vegan dishes. The food is “clean” – that is, non-processed – and caters to a variety of tastes. Try the Raw Guacamole Dip with Crackers ($14), the Carrot, Orange, Miso and Ginger Puree Soup ($14), or the Quinoa-Strone ($14) – vegetable broth with quinoa, diced potato, zucchini, carrots, red onions, tomatoes, parsley, and red radish garnish. The restaurant also serves a variety of hearty salads and fresh juices.
Closing time: 9:30pm Mon to Sat
Jane Freeman, a dietician and sports nutritionist at Food Equation was behind this café’s Shape menu, which features snacks and meals that are less than 300 calories. If you want something filling, order the bun-less Salmon Quinoa Burger with Grapefruit & Salad ($13.90), the Cauliflower “Fried Rice” with Chicken & Asian Veggies ($9.90), or a slice of the high-fibre, low-GI, Low Cal Fruit Loaf ($4), which contains less than 150 calories.
Says Jane: “This menu was very challenging to construct. I wanted the food to taste amazing yet be filling. The dishes contain lean protein and plenty of nutrient-dense vegetables, and, in some cases, quality grains or carbohydrates. All these ingredients give you a lot of flavour and nutrition with not too many calories.”
Closing time: 10pm daily
This American chain offers nutritious vegan options. If the bun-less burger is not your thing, opt for one of the healthier burgers, like the Smoky BBQ, which has a succulent mushroom patty topped with BBQ sauce, and comes layered with fresh greens, onions, tomatoes and pickles, all on a soft wholemeal bun.
Closing time: This varies according to the outlet. Call the individual outlet to check its operation hours
Salads don’t have to boring, as the folks at Sumo Salad will show you. They also don’t have to be calorie bombs. The menu is full of healthy and filling salad options, but if you don’t find anything you like on there, you can design your own. Just remember to load up on the lean protein and greens, and go easy on the dressing and other high-fat items like cheese and breaded meats. Our personal favourite is the Aromatic Warm Thai Beef Salad, with tender beef strips, vermicelli noodles, and loads of fresh greens.
Closing time: This varies according to the outlet, check the website for exact operation hours. The Cathay Cineleisure Orchard outlet closes at 10pm Sun to Thurs, and 1am Fri and Sat
If you are in a hurry, have a refreshing smoothie. Smoothie King has a number of low-fat options, such as Slim-N-Trim Mango and Yogurt D-Lite Strawberry. The menu also features high-protein smoothies and fresh, antioxidant-rich juices. If your hunger is off the charts and you need to eat, try one of the soft taco wraps – the portions are small but contain healthy ingredients like chicken breast or tomato and mozzarella. The taco wraps come in at less than 260 calories each.