Good For You Late Night Snacks

Reviewed by James Brann, M.D.

Watching TV and snacking go together like Will & Grace. Nothing like a big bowl of chips and the tube. Maybe it's all those food commercials, or just the time of day. Experts suggest that if we just stopped eating food - any food - after 7:00 PM, we'd shed a pound or two, but for snack addicts, the TV remote gets us salivating like Pavlov's dogs. So, here are some late-night snacks that you can enjoy with a little less guilt. Just say 'no'

Try a lo-cal vanilla soda
Remember vanilla sodas when you were a kid? Here's a lo-cal variation to satisfy your sweet tooth. In a tall, kitchen glass, mix a splash of skim milk, a dash of vanilla extract (just a smidge will do), one packet of artificial sweetener (Splenda's best) and finally, add some ice cold, plain seltzer. Stir well, add a straw and enjoy a lo-calorie trip down memory lane.

Pretzels, not chips
Potato chips, taco chips and all of their variations are, most often, deep-fried, meaning more fat. Pretzels are baked meaning fewer calories and more crunch in your munch. To spice things up, put out a little bowl of spicy mustard for dipping. Now, don't overdo it with pretzels (e.g., eat an entire bag). 'Everything in moderation', as mom used to say.

Air-popped popcorn
Forget the microwaveable stuff. It may be convenient, but those bags of popcorn are floating in fat. Popcorn is actually good for you, adding beneficial fiber to your diet, so eat up. However, buy an air-popper (about $20) and make a bowl of fat-free, good-for-you popcorn. And, instead of adding butter, add a dash of garlic powder or your favorite seasoned salt for a little zing.

The Super-Deluxe, Open-Faced Cheese Sandwich
Lightly toast a slice of whole-grain bread. Cover the bread with a thin layer of spicy mustard. Add a slice of your favorite cheese, a slice of tomato and some thinly sliced onion rings. Pop the sandwich into the toaster oven until the cheese melts and enjoy. This also makes a quick, tasty supper for one, or the whole family. Just add a side salad and dinner is served.

The Guilt-Free Strawberry Milkshake
In a blender, add 1.5 cups of skim milk, a handful of frozen strawberries (or fresh if they're in season), a packet of artificial sweetener and 4-5 ice cubes. Cover and blend well. The ice cubes thicken the mixture and you'll feel like you're drinking the real deal, but without the guilt.

Fruit juice spritzers
A single can of soda may contain as many as 200 calories, while providing virtually no nutritional value. Instead of fattening sodas, make yourself a fruit juice spritzer. Simply half-fill a tall, kitchen glass with your favorite fruit juice (just about any fruit juice works, though the prune juice spritzer is an acquired taste), top it off with your favorite flavored seltzer and enjoy a snack drink that's lo-cal, caffeine free and nutritious. That's a combo that can't be beat.

The Snack Cake Substitute
Instead of eating your usual Ho-Ho or Ring-Ding, spread a graham cracker with a dab of all-fruit preserve. While not exactly lo-cal, it's got a lot fewer calories from fat - a good thing for your health.

With just a little imagination, you can find a healthier, more nutritious substitute for your favorite late-night snack. So enjoy, and please pass the remote.