11 Foods Nutritionists Never Eat Late at Night

Updated: Feb. 09, 2021

If you can't get through late-night TV without munching on something, you should definitely avoid these choices.

Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.

Late-night snacking

We all remember a youthful night or two (or ten) fueled by energy drinks, pizza, and cookies. But it wasn’t good for us then, and it’s even worse now. In fact, when you eat can be as important as what—and if you make poor food choices late at night, you can do even more damage to your health. We surveyed registered dietitians across the country to find out what they never, ever eat before turning in.

Cajun Seasoned French Fries with Organic Ketchup
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

French fries

“Sleep is so important to our overall wellness, so I definitely try to avoid habits that will interfere with quality sleep!” says Caroline West Passerrello, a registered dietitian and owner of Caroline West, LLC. “To that end, I rarely eat fried foods and never eat them a few hours before bed. The high-fat content will keep your body focused more on digestion than sleep, and it may also lead to heartburn or reflux if you are prone to either.” Instead, you’ll want to try these bedtime snacks that help you sleep better.

Barman makes whisky shot drinks in row. Alcoholic shots in nightclub


Sure, a glass of wine will mellow you out—it is a depressant. But booze has been shown to decrease rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and that interferes with your sleep quality so that you wake up feeling less rested, warns Libby Mills, a registered dietitian and culinary nutrition consultant in Philadelphia.

Glass cup of black tea, teaspoon and honey cake on wooden table


It’s zero calories and soothing—what’s not to love? But black, green, and white teas—as well as chai—all contain caffeine. Even if you stick to an herbal tea like chamomile, you have to make sure not to add sweeteners—they contribute to cavities—or lemon, which has diuretic properties. “A brew of herb water and a diuretic—no matter how slight—adds up to an undesirable journey to the bathroom sometime in the night,” says Mills. Before you ask: This is why decaf coffee isn’t a great idea before bed either.

Homemade Kettle Corn Popcorn in a Bag
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock


It’s the classic movie-watching snack, but even when you hold the extra butter, there’s a good reason to savor this whole-grain snack earlier in the day: salt. “Before bed, I don’t eat anything too salty because it will make me thirsty in the night,” says Debbie Petitpain, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Salted nuts and MSG-laden food can have a similar effect. Try one of these late-night snacks nutritionists actually recommend instead.

vanilla ice cream on wooden surface
Diana Taliun/Shutterstock

Ice cream

Ice cream is full of fat, which can trigger indigestion and reflux, but that’s not why Petitpain resists this tempting dairy treat. “I avoid foods that I’m likely to overeat so I don’t go to bed overfull,” she says.  Try this other trick for putting a stop to nighttime stress-eating.

Potato chips on a wooden table
Ruslan Mitin/Shutterstock

Potato chips

These are the trifecta of greasy, fatty, and salty—things that increase your odds of heartburn and getting up in the night for a drink. They’re also tougher for your body to digest, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian and author of Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table.

Homemade Peppermint Hot Chocolate with Whipped Cream
Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Hot chocolate

It’s cozy and comforting, and practically identical to a warm glass of milk—right? Milk delivers tryptophan which boosts relaxing neurotransmitters like serotonin, helping you wind down for the day. But people tend to forget that chocolate contains caffeine, and that can fire you up, says Angel Planells, a registered dietitian in Seattle, Washington.

Close up on a platter of spicy buffalo chicken wings with space for text on the right
VDB Photos/Shutterstock

Hot sauce

For some reason, Buffalo wings just taste better at 11 p.m. The issue is that spicy foods are a top cause of GERD—gastroesophageal reflux disease—a chronic condition that affects 20 percent of the American population. Laying down soon after eating very spicy dishes or other GERD triggers such as fatty or greasy foods can make your symptoms worse, says Planells. You won’t want to miss these other foods sleep doctors say you should never eat before bed.

Hot pizza slice with melting cheese on a table in restaurant pizza Italian food.


There’s nothing like a late-night pizza delivery, but it’s just another greasy, high-fat food with the potential to bog down your digestive system and trigger heartburn. “The goal is to feel relaxed prior to bed, and you may struggle to get to sleep if your body is trying to digest a very complex meal,” says Planells.

Pouring Milk in a bowl with wholemeal Cornflakes (close-up shot)


It’s oh-so-convenient, and carby goodness at your fingertips is hard to resist. But cereal is notoriously sweet—according to one report, 92 percent contained added sugar, and the average cold breakfast cereal marketed to adults was 18 percent sugar by weight.  Cut down on these other eating habits that are bad for your sleep.

A glass of cola with ice for Cool off in the summer.

Carbonated beverages

Fizzy drinks keep you full on zero calories, but all those bubbles can contribute to indigestion and keep you tossing and turning, warns Leah Kaufman, a New York City-based nutritionist. The fizz can also be hard on your tooth enamel. Stick with regular water—but not too much—before bedtime. No matter what time of day it is, you’ll want to avoid these 50 foods nutritionists never eat.