Foods to Avoid Late at Night

Let’s be honest. There will always be a night when you are up late and start craving something. It could be something sweet, something salty, something fried, something filling, something spicy.  When it comes time to reach for a snack, there are reasons why we should bypass some foods before bed.


Here is a list of foods to avoid late at night.

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 French fries or ice cream or other fatty food, and your stomach is giving your brain the signal to rev up.

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.


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 because we’ve been dieting on celery sticks all day.  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.

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.

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!

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  1. Emory Reese says:

    There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to exercising for energy. If you need to get stronger, for example, to help you do something specifically involving a lot of strength, then you need to emphasise strength training over aerobic exercise in your workouts – or vice versa.

  2. Lucy says:

    Thanks for this post Dawn, I hadn’t considered that eating spicy foods late at night would be inappropriate but it makes sense. I often like to have a bowl of cereal before bed (not a sweet one) and find this helps me sleep which I believe is to do with an ingredient found in turkey, milk and cheese which makes you sleepy. But as you say cheese is not ideal but for me at least milk seems to work.

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