It’s 11 p.m. on a Sunday and you’re sitting at your desk frantically trying to get your work done for the upcoming week. As you are putting the final touches on your essay, suddenly a rumbling, thunderous noise fills the room. Could that really be coming from your stomach? Dinner was almost five hours ago and you have been craving something sweet, but it’s 11 p.m. and isn’t eating late at night bad for your body? Plus, the easily accessible, late-night snacks you have stashed in your room consist of candy, chips, and cookies, products that will only leave you feeling lethargic, inattentive, and potentially gross.
In recent years, the eating late at night myth has come under fire, which is a great thing for all of you collegiettes who stay up late. A 2005 study of primates at Oregon Health & Science University found that late-night meals did not lead to extra weight gain. Whether food was consumed at 10 a.m. or 10 p.m., a calorie was just a calorie. Of course, many people tend to make worse choices when it comes to eating at night, typically grazing on fatty, unhealthy foods (like those candy, chips, and cookies hiding in your dorm room) and consuming portions that are more appropriately sized for the football players that live down your hall.
If you’re like me, your sweet tooth takes over at night, craving everything from ice cream to brownies or even a big, moist slice of chocolate cake. But, what if I told you that with some creativity and careful planning, you could satisfy your late-night sweet tooth without the excess calories of a typical dessert? There are healthy and nutritious “pseudo-desserts” that will satisfy your hunger, give you a nutritious boost, and most importantly, cure all of your sugar cravings. Here are twenty easy and delicious ways to satisfy any sweet tooth.
From a Nutritionist: Sheila Tucker, a nutritionist at Boston College, suggests a variety of “healthy desserts” that incorporate both nutrition and sweetness using ingredients that are easy to find on campus.
1. Make your own parfait with regular or Greek yogurt and layer alternating with cut-up fruit. You can also make a version with vanilla yogurt, crushed graham cracker crumbs, or granola, nuts, and/or fruit.
2. Instant hot cocoa packets are great for a chocolate fix, but use skim milk instead of water for a calcium boost and add a small handful of miniature marshmallows for fun.
3. Microwave popcorn (a great whole-grain snack) and melt 1-2 Tbsp. of chocolate chips or similar candy bits into the popped corn using your microwave. Let cool.
4. Try melting 1 Tbsp. peanut butter and 1 Tbsp. of chocolate chips (or Nutella) in a microwave-safe bowl and stirring into a handful of pretzels or a cup of dry cereal. Let cool.
5. Pudding – either from the cafeteria or make-your-own from a mix in your room. It is a great source of calcium and protein, too.
6. Banana non-split: Freeze a banana and cut it into 2-inch pieces. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, dip the banana pieces part way in chocolate (put on a fork or toothpick – like you would do for fondue), roll in sprinkles, and let cool.
From Collegiettes: Many collegiettes across the country have their own suggestions for satisfying a sweet tooth. With inventive ideas, reasonable ingredients, and delicious final products, here are some of the best “healthy” suggestions.
7. “I always love to have dried apricots, candied ginger, or fresh peaches for a healthy dessert.” – Audrey Nelson, Skidmore College ‘13
8. “An easy one is just frozen grapes because they taste just like a popsicle” – Cameron Simcik, Bucknell University ‘12
9. “Put yogurt in a Ziploc bag, cut the corner off the bag, drop little droplets onto wax paper, put in the freezer, and you’ve got a sweet, frozen snack that’s healthy and yummy.” – Paige Dolton, Clemson University ‘13
10. “I don’t like fruit very much, so when I want a sweet snack at night that isn’t too heavy, I grab a handful of animal crackers. They satisfy any sweet cravings, especially if you get the ones with frosting and sprinkles.” – Remy Hassett, Boston College ‘14
11. A waffle with peanut butter is a sweet and healthy option. Really anything with peanut butter would work.” – Lauren Kaplan, Emory University ‘13
12. “I love having vanilla Greek yogurt with berries. It’s super nutritious, but still yummy. To satisfy your inner sweet tooth, add some dark chocolate chips! – Kelsey Mulvey, Boston University ‘14
13. “My favorite healthy dessert is fat free frozen yogurt topped with fresh fruit. There are two different fro-yo bars within walking distance of my university and it is a fun, healthy way to trick your body into thinking it’s getting ice cream. Perfect for spring, too!” – Alicia Thomas, Penn State ‘15
14. “When I’m looking for something sweet, I eat a packet of flavored oatmeal. My favorite is Quaker’s Cinnamon and Brown Sugar flavor, which I always add a little honey to for extra sweetness.” – Kristen Pye, McGill University ‘14
15. “I like toasting a piece of whole grain bread and putting a really thin layer of melted butter topped with cinnamon and sugar, but I will use something like Splenda instead of sugar.” – Cameron Simcik, Bucknell University ‘12
16. “Some dark chocolate or some sweet/nutty trail mix. Maybe even a combination of the two!” – Lauren Kaplan, Emory University ‘13
17. “Some of my favorites are apple slices with peanut butter or caramel and pita bread with Nutella.” – Alexandra Court, William and Mary ‘15
18. “A slice of toast with peanut butter, banana, and honey. It’s sweet, healthy, and will satisfy any late night hunger.” – Jordan McCormick, Boston College ‘14
My Personal Suggestions
19. If you want a protein-rich snack, try 2 low fat honey graham crackers with 1 Tbsp. peanut butter.
20. Fresh fruit with a squirt of whipped cream is a deliciously sweet and healthy option. Add in blueberries for some health-boosting antioxidants!
Next time your stomach starts growling while you are busy doing work, desperately calling out for some sugar, why not try one of these delicious “healthy desserts?” Your body will be happy to have something sweet and nutritious, and you will have successfully avoided falling victim to late-night food at the dining hall or any packaged, processed food sitting in your dorm room. No one should have to live without dessert, but the challenge comes with balancing decadence, moderation, and health – something that we can all strive for in our diets.