52 Healthier Versions of Classic Late-Night Snacks
We’ve all been there: It’s late, we’re hungry, and the drive-through window is beckoning. But before you grab the keys (or call for delivery) check out this list of less food-coma inducing late-night fare. It may require a little more work than swinging through a fast food joint, but the payoff is the seriously delicious satisfaction of knowing you’re feeding yourself well (and making healthy leftovers for tomorrow).
Instead of a fast-food burger, make:
1. Bean-Kale Burger with Sweet Potato Wedges For the vegetarians among us, here’s a healthy recipe that provides balanced nutrition from superfood kale, sweet potato, and pinto beans. The recipe calls for pepper jack cheese, but this can be omitted if you’re vegan or dairy-free.
2. Amazing Cheddar Sliders While double-decker cheeseburgers are certainly delicious, they aren’t the best “snack” if you’re looking to stay awake for an all-nighter. This slider recipe cuts down on portion size while still packing flavor. To make this recipe even healthier, use a whole-wheat bun or skip it in favor of lettuce for added crunch.
Instead of a diner omelet, make:
3. Garden Vegetable Omelet While omelettes may appear to be the healthiest option on the late-night diner menu, the serving sizes leave something to be desired in the health department. Make your own healthier version at home by tosssing in a whole bunch of veggies.
4. Caprese Omelet Quality is key here, as juicy tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and fresh basil all shine at the peak of their freshness.
Instead of French fries, make:
5. Healthy Baked Sweet Potato Fries French fries are undoubtedly addictive, especially the ones served at late-night eateries. This recipe calls for baking, not frying (without sacrificing any flavor!). Sweet potato fries, in particular, pack someserious vitamin A, which gives your eyes a boost at the end of a long day.
6. Spicy Baked Fries The seasoning on these thick potato wedges is so tasty, you won’t even realize they’ve avoided the fryer. As the recipe suggests, alter the ratio of paprika or cayenne pepper to amp up the spice.
Instead of delivery or frozen pizza, make:
7. Homemade Bagel Bites No matter how much we wish for it, pizza isn’t exactly a vegetable—but it’s still possible to make a healthy version of the perennial favorite, bagel bites, for a midnight snack! Built-in portion control does these snacks good. To make them even healthier, use whole-wheat bagels, and top with herbs and veggies.
8. Cauliflower Crust Pizza While the taste won’t exactly parallel doughy pizza, this recipe is a savory, healthful, and unique alternative to classic delivery options. Be warned: Making this crust thick will result in more of a shepherd’s pie than a pizza; while not quite the same texture, it’s still delicious!
Instead of a drive-through breakfast sandwich, make:
10. Egg Sandwich with Wilted Spinach Eggs and veggies on toast make an excellent, balanced snack or meal (especially when they’re made with whole ingredients rather than obtained via the drive-thru). This healthy option will satisfy your tummy and, thanks to the protein, give you a surge of energy, to boot.
Instead of drive-through quesadillas, tacos, and burritos, make:
11. Chicken Burrito Bowl Losing the tortilla in favor of a burrito bowl makes for a lighter (and, depending on what you fill the bowl with, gluten-free) alternative to gigantic burritos. Besides, the combination of rice, beans, and lean protein in this recipe need no additions (and ensure long-lasting energy).
12. Healthy Veggie Burritos Enormous, Mission-style burritos are absolutely fantastic. But given that they often weigh as much as a small child, they can leave us feeling pretty sluggish the next morning. Cook up this healthy veggie burrito instead.
13. Black Bean Quesadillas When they’re homemade, quesadillas are healthy meals (or snacks!) that can be stuffed with virtually every combination of ingredients, whether sweet or savory. This recipe provides a healthy vegetarian dish that can be cooked up in a flash.
14. Avocado QuesadillasAvocadoplus melted cheese equals healthy fats, protein, and (thanks to the tortilla) carbs. To make this recipe even healthier, choose a whole-grain tortilla and keep portions in check.
15. Weeknight Black Bean Tacos Don’t let the concept of a vegan taco deter you from this recipe. The spicy seasoning mixed with piquante lime will tempt even die-hard ground beef fans!
16. Vegetarian: Tacos De Hongo, Chile Poblano Y Cebolla Like vegan tacos, vegetarian tacos seem like something of an oxymoron. But this recipe packs plenty of authentic flavor thanks to the poblano chiles.
Instead of store-bought grilled cheese, make:
17. Spinach and Artichoke Grilled Cheese This is another recipe for which the quality of ingredients is key (and will really enable this sandwich to shine). Feel free to omit the sour cream if you’re dairy-free or counting calories.
18. Grilled Portobello, Bell Pepper, and Goat Cheese Sandwich The meatiness of the portobello and the creaminess of the goat cheese mean that a small sandwich will feel much more indulgent than its size. If you’re Paleo, roast two whole portobello caps ahead of time and use them as buns instead! (Pro tip: If making the Paleo version, try assembling the sandwiches and then melting the cheese in the oven, as pan-frying quickly becomes messy.)
Instead of potato chips and French onion dip, make:
19. Baked Kale Chips It’s easy to eat a whole tray of these superfoodsin one sitting—but hey, that just means you’re stocking up on vitamin K! The best part about kale chips (besides their addictive crunchiness) is that they can take on any type of flavor, from lemon to garlic to miso, and still be completely wonderful.
20. Roasted Red Pepper Dip Nutrient-rich red peppers, onion, superfood garlic, heart-healthy olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper combine for a healthy, savory dip that will have you coming back for seconds (and thirds, and fourths… ).
21. Healthy Baba Ghanoush (Eggplant Dip) Baba Ghanoush can prove even more addictive than hummus, but given that many store-bought versions include more mayonnaise than eggplant, it’s not always the healthiest choice of dip. While this homemade version still calls for some mayo, feel free to swap in more tahini. Plenty of eggplantprovides vitamins K and B6, thiamin, folate, potassium, manganese, and fiber.
22. Roasted Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomato, and White Bean Dip The rich flavors of this bean dip will shine on any dipping “instrument,” from whole-grain chips to red pepper slices. The creaminess of the white beans pairs beautifully with the savory flavors of the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic.
Instead of the Chinese buffet, make:
23. Healthy General Tso’s Chicken Recipe The sweet-sticky sauce covering General Tso’s chicken is understandably addictive, but it most likely has unpronounceable ingredients. Stir-frying the chicken is healthier than sticking it in the deep fryer, while your mind can rest easy with this sauce made from whole, natural ingredients.
24. Tofu That Tastes Good: Stir Fry The texture of tofu can be off-putting for many, but baking and then stir-frying it in a sweet teriyaki sauce will make it much more firm. This recipe would be delicious with any mixture of vegetables.
25. Light and Healthy Vegetarian Lo Mein Lo mein is such a wonderful mix of textures that its ingredient list should be just as lovely! To avoid the mystery of take-out lo mein, make a homemade version. This recipe is vegetarian, but stir-fried beef or shrimp would make delicious additions.
Instead of mac ‘n cheese from a box, make:
26. Mac ‘N Cheese (Vegan and Gluten Free) While vegan and gluten-free mac ‘n cheese sounds nigh on impossible to achieve, this recipe will leave you pleasantly surprised. The addition of cauliflower or white beans enables an even creamier texture and many more nutrients than a powdered cheese packet.
27. Creamy Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese For a slightly gourmet twist on mac ‘n cheese, this butternut squash version, with its combination of Gruyere and Romano cheese and crunchy Panko breadcrumbs, is exceptional. The butternut squash adds plenty of nutrition while tinting the dish a vibrant yellow.
Instead of store-bought chicken wings, make:
28. Crispy Baked Chicken Wings This classic party food can be a stomachache in the making thanks to heavy amounts of oil and spicy sauces. This homemade version will leave you feeling satisfied, not sick, as its crispiness is achieved via the oven rather than the deep fryer.
Instead of traditional PB&J, make:
29. Fried Peanut Butter Banana Sandwich It was Elvis’s favorite sandwich, but that doesn’t mean we can’t “healthify” it a bit—and this version still provides plenty of crunch.
30. Apple Sandwiches with Honeyed Peanut Butter, Oats, and Raisins Don’t just eat apples out of hand! Core and slice apples to make these tasty treats. The oats and raisins provide wonderful texture to contrast the crunchy fruit.
Instead of convenience store ice cream, make:
31. Banana Cherry Garcia Soft Serve This recipe is just as addictive as the original Ben & Jerry’s version, but with plenty more fiberand nutrients! Making it at home enables you to add as many chocolate and cherry chunks as you desire, which is definitely another bonus.
32. Peanut Butter, Jam, and Banana Soft Serve Popsicles Banana soft serve might be the best thing since sliced bread. The creamy sweetness of the blended frozen banana mimics ice cream quite nicely, and it is equally versatile, as these popsicles demonstrate.
33. 5-Minute Avocado Sorbet By no means do avocados have to be savory. They shine in sweets from brownies to mousse, but the simplicity of this avocado sorbet is spectacular.
Instead of a drive-through milkshake, make:
34. Raw Cookie Dough Milkshake The more cookie dough chunks, the better, but store-bought cookie dough often contains plenty of scary chemicals. This recipe eliminates unpronounceable ingredients in favor of a banana-based, egg-free cookie dough flavor.
35. Skinny Strawberry Banana Milkshakes Strawberry shakes may seem more refreshing than their chocolate-based counterparts, but as they rarely include fresh fruit, they aren’t necessarily a healthier choice. This simple version packs plenty of antioxidants for genuine health-boosting goodness.
36. Healthy Peanut Butter, Banana, and Honey Milkshake The textural interplay between the creamy peanut butter and banana base and the crunchy cacao nibs is simply amazing. Adding raw honeyboosts sweetness without processed sugars.
Instead of packaged brownies, make:
37. Vegan Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies Black beansfill up your tummy with fiber and protein. Strange though the ingredient list may seem, the black beans make these really fudgy, which makes for perfect brownie bites!
Instead of packaged cookies, make:
39. “Raw” Cookie Dough (Egg Free) If there’s one sweet snack to love more than cookies, it’s cookie dough. To avoid salmonella poisoning, try out this egg-free version of a sweet classic. If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, try lightening up the sweeteners in this recipe to save both calories and your blood sugar.
40. Vegan Single-Serve Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie These cookies would be healthy enough to eat for breakfast. The banana and chocolate chips elevate baked oatmeal into a chewy, fudgy skillet cookie.
41. ”All for One” Chocolate Chip Cookies This recipe seems nigh on miraculous. Thanks to nutrient-packed ingredients such as coconut flour and molasses, you can eat the entire batch for the caloric equivalent of a single Chips Ahoy cookie! Even more important: You skip out on all the processed ingredients.
42. Cookie Dough Greek Yogurt Given that this recipe features Greek yogurt as its base, it’s much healthier than eating spoons of raw cookie dough. That said, the peanut butter and maple syrup make for an indulgent dessert, which is perfectly offset by the touch of sea salt recommended in this recipe.
43. Quick 5-Minute Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip (Paleo) Soaked cashews and coconut butter provide a wonderfully creamy and sweet base for this dip! Apple slices or banana chips would pair well with the coconut-chocolate flavor.
Instead of diner pancakes, make:
44. Flourless Pumpkin Spice PancakesSuperfood pumpkin is hardly a seasonal vegetable—it’s so packed with vitamin A that it deserves to be eaten all year round! These pumpkin pancakes pack plenty of flavor without refined sugars or flours.
45. Oatmeal Mini Pancakes Oatmeal’s versatility is often underrated—here, the oats add a nice textural contrast to these dense pancakes. Oatmeal is also a superfoodthat can help lower blood cholesterol levels, aid with digestion, and improve metabolism (1).
46. Greek Yogurt Blueberry Pancakes Between protein-packed Greek yogurt and antioxiant-rich blueberries, this recipe packs a lot of health benefits without the processed ingredients so often found in pancake mixes! Almond flour could work as a substitute to make this recipe gluten-free (just add a bit more leavener to compensate for the added heaviness).
Instead of a store-bought latte, make:
47. Salted Caramel Mocha Latte Giant Starbucks mochas are delicious, to be sure, but at close to $5 each, they aren’t the most economical option—and besides, they’re often loaded with added sugars. This recipe provides a less expensive way to get that salty-caramel flavor year-round!
48. The Perfect Homemade Latte This recipe is super simple, and gives an energy boost from caffeine without a sugar crash later on. Flavor as you desire: Mint chocolate chip latte, anyone? Or pumpkin spice? The choice is yours, without any of the side effects of sugary syrups!
Instead of convenience store candy, make:
49. Healthy Gummy Bears Gummy candies are difficult to resist, but instead of reaching for high-fructose-corn syrup-laden versions, make simple fruit juice-based ones at home. These are just as addictively chewy and sweet, but without the scary ingredients.
50. Healthy Sour Watermelon Gummies These addictive (and Paleo!) gummies mimic Sour Patch Kids, but their flavor stems from a mixture of fresh watermelon and lemon rather than refined sugar.
51. Homemade Raw Vegan Chocolate Strong dark chocolate is quite healthy already, but try out this vegan option if you’re looking for a milkier (but dairy-free) treat. Adding different types of flavoring (extracts, dried fruits, nuts) to this base would be a wonderful way to add variety!
52. Make Your Own Raw Vegan Chocolate Maple-coconut vegan chocolate sounds like a dream! Adding crunchy cacao nibs would be a perfect add more texture to this recipe.
What are your go-to late-night snacks? Share in the comments below, or get in touch with us on Facebook!
- Can dietary oats promote health? Welch, RW, Human Nutrition Research Group, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK. British Journal of biomedical science, 1994 Sep;51(3):260-70