Your diet could be disturbing your sleep cycle. Try making these simple swaps so you won’t have to count another sheep when trying to fall asleep. For best results, enjoy your last meal about 90 minutes before calling it a day.
- TOSs: Spicy Seasonings
We all love giving Frank’s Hot Sauce a seat at the table, but it’s better to chill on eating spicy foods before bed. While spicy seasonings add low-cal blasts of flavor, they also fire up heartburn and your body temperature, leading to an uncomfortable sleep.
👉🏻 Turn to: Nutmeg
When it comes to flavoring your food before bed, reach for nutmeg. Although nutmeg isn’t the most frequently used spice, it has mild sedative qualities that’ll help to calm down your body. An added benefit of nutmeg is that it aids with healthy digestion. Try adding a pinch on top of roasted butternut squash or a shake to a cup of warm cow’s or nut milk.
Toss: Cacao Nibs
I’m a big supporter of treating yourself after a long day, but chocolate—especially dark chocolate—is a main culprit of restlessness. The cacao in chocolate has caffeine and theobromine—two central nervous system stimulants. Together, they act as a “pick-me-up,” hindering your efforts to relax. Need your daily chocolate fix? Add a pinch of cacao to your smoothies or overnight oats in the morning to give your body a natural energy boost.
👉🏻 Turn to: Tart Cherries
Satisfy your sweet tooth with Mother Nature’s chill pills: cherries. According to recent studies, cherries (especially the tart ones) are natural sources of melatonin. Melatonin is the chemical that helps control your body’s internal clock. Regulating your body’s clock helps you fall asleep—and stay asleep.
Toss: Chips and Salsa
While binging a favorite TV show before bed, we’ve all been hit hard with those salty snack cravings. I like to think it’s a known fact that once you open that bag of Tostito’s, it’s impossible to limit yourself to just a couple of scoops. But if you reach for one too many too close to bed, you could throw off your sleep cycle. Fried foods tend to tip the scale when it comes to fat content, causing poor digestion and heartburn. When you add salsa into the mix, its spiciness and acidity can make matters even worse.
👉🏻 Turn to: Baked Parsnip and Carrot Chips with Tzatziki Dip
Satisfy your salty craving with guiltless baked parsnip and carrot chips. Slice parsnips and carrots into thin coins and coat them with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of pink Himalyan sea salt. Bake the veggies until they’re lightly browned and crisp. These chips are low infats and made up of complex carbs—the kind that won’t cause an instant blood sugar spike. Serve the chips with a creamy tzatziki dip made of 0% fat Greek yogurt, cubed cucumbers, fresh dill, minced garlic, a squeeze of lemon and salt to taste. This dip is a rich source of protein and the amino acid tryptophan. When you consume tryptophan, your body converts it into serotonin and melatonin, which help induce sleep. Pairing a tryptophan-rich food with a complex carb will expedite this process of sending these chemicals to your brain, making you sleepier faster.
Toss: Chunky Monkey Ice Cream
Although it may seem like the perfect nightcap, ice cream isn’t the smartest way to top off your night. Ice cream is high in both fat and sugar, two things that aren’t the easiest to digest. After a couple of scoops, look out for indigestion and a sugar rush, which will hike up your energy levels when you’re trying to turn down.
👉🏻 Turn to: Almond Butter Banana Chia Seed Pudding
Instead of hanging with Ben and Jerry, try putting up with some chia seed pudding. While you’re making breakfast, prep your dessert at the same time. Blend ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk, one overripe banana and a dash of cinnamon. Stir in 2 Tablespoons of chia seeds and set in the fridge. When it’s dessert time, give it a mix and you’ll notice it has developed a thick texture like pudding. Top with 1 Tablespoon of unsweetened almond butter—because everything tastes better with a swirl of AB. This alternative is much lower in cals and sugar, while the chia seeds and almond milk are sources of our BFF tryptophan. The double punch of tryptophan will encourage your body to convert it into melatonin, helping to mellow out your brain and body.
Toss: Boxed Cereal
At times I admit nothing beats a big bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats, but it’s best to bowl out in the AM instead of at dessert time. Although boxed cereal may look healthy on the outside, it can contain a shocking amount of hidden sugars. Since your metabolism slows down as the day goes on, consuming cereal too late can raise your blood sugar and trigger fat storage.
👉🏻 Turn to: Overnight Oats
To avoid the unwanted sugar spike, you “oat” to try no sugar added overnight oats. Mix equal parts rolled oats with unsweetened almond milk—I like to stick to 1/3 or ½ cup of each. Add some natural sweetness with 1/3 cup of frozen blueberries. As the bluebs defrost, they release a sweet juice that’s absorbed by the oats. Similar to chia seed pudding, set the oats in the fridge for at least 6 hours to develop a thick consistency. Craving some crunch? Sprinkle in a pinch of slivered almonds and chia seeds. Oatmeal is a great bedtime treat as it’s a natural source of melatonin and a whole grain. The whole grains will help to satisfy your hunger while expediting insulin production, aiding the delivery of melatonin to your brain.
So if you’re noticing your dark circles are getting worse from restless nights, try making these diet swaps to calm down your body before you turn in. Sweet dreams!