32 of the best foods to have in the evening

The best foods to have in the evening complement a healthy sleep routine with plenty of vitamins and minerals - but aren't too filling

Women preparing salad with some of the best foods to have in the evening, including leafy green vegetables
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When it comes to wind-down routines at the end of the day, food plays an important role. It can either help us lull gently into a deep sleep by the time bedtime rolls around or keep us awake until the early hours. That's where the best foods to have in the evening can come in. 

The best foods to have late in the evening will be those rich in sleep-inducing minerals and amino acids, such as magnesium and tryptophan, that help us wind down after the day. Both of these work by helping to control other hormones in the body that can interrupt sleep or make it easier. However, there are many reasons why certain foods contribute to positive evening habits.

Here, we outline the main foods to consider when you're making dinner for an easy night's sleep - from mainstays in cooking like turkey and oats to more adventurous options, not found in regular supermarkets... 

Best foods to have in the evening

1. White rice

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Rich in carbohydrates and lacking in fibre, white rice has a high glycemic index (GI). While this would make it one to avoid in some diets, if you're looking to eat later in the evening and get to sleep without an issue, it's the perfect go-to. Research from the University of Sydney suggests that foods with a high GI eaten at least an hour before you go to bed can help shorten the time it takes to get to sleep. 

2. Walnuts

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Looking for a good late-night snack? Walnuts could be the best option. They contain a few properties that can help to induce sleep and improve sleep quality, including minerals like magnesium and potassium. 

Just 100g of walnuts offers 158mg of magnesium and 441mg of potassium. 

3. Tart cherry juice

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Tart cherry juice is a great choice for a beverage before bed as it can help to elevate levels of sleep hormone melatonin in the body, which can promote more hours of rest in return. This type of cherry also contains compounds that have been found to reduce inflammation, preventing discomfort and helping to relax the body before sleep.

The juice is so beneficial for sleep that, when combined with magnesium powder, it has its own nickname - the 'sleepy girl cocktail'. 

4. Chamomile tea

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Chamomile tea is the old favourite for good-quality sleep and it's been used to treat insomnia for generations. Nowadays we know that its mild sedative effects come from the flavonoid apigenin in the chamomile that binds to receptors in the brain, inducing natural feelings of sleepiness and reducing anxiety.

Best sipped about 45 minutes before going to bed, it's one of the tried and true best foods to have in the evening.

5. Kiwi

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Kiwi is one of the best foods to have in the evening for several reasons. Not only does the tart, citrusy taste make it a good palate cleanser at the end of the day and a great healthy dessert alternative, but this fruit is rich in serotonin-boosting and antioxidant properties that may help you to drift off in the hours after eating.

6. Turkey

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Tryptophan is an amino acid with a strong link to healthy sleep. It enables the production of serotonin, a hormone that eases anxiety, with research suggesting that just 1g taken 45 minutes before bed can help speed up sleep onset in those with mild insomnia without any effect on alertness the next day. 

You can take tryptophan in supplement form - but turkey is one of the few foods rich in this amino acid. To get enough to feel sleepy, you'll need to eat about 350g of turkey - given that there's around 244mg of amino acid per 85g of meat. 

7. Almonds

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If you feel hungry in the evening, eat food rich in carbohydrates and protein to stave off any late-night hunger cravings. The carbohydrates will leave you with the 'full' feeling that prevents overeating and the protein will help to keep you full for the hours ahead. Almonds are rich in both, making them an excellent choice. 

Like many other kinds of nuts, they are also rich in nutrients that contribute to healthy sleep. For example, almonds are a source of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep by regulating the internal clock and telling the body it's time to sleep.

8. Banana

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Bananas are rich in magnesium, a mineral that can help promote healthy sleep, reduce anxiety, and calm over-stressed muscles. They are a good source of tryptophan, an important amino acid that works to produce serotonin - an all-important hormone that can help you drift off to sleep quicker. 

Whether you have your banana raw or as part of a smoothie, this fruit is a must-have for those who find themselves hungry after dinner. 

9. Nut butter

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When hunting for a late-night snack, it's a good idea to choose foods that tick all the boxes when it comes to satiety - otherwise, you'll likely just feel hungry again. While nut butter, like peanut and almond butter, tends to be higher in fat, it's rich in monounsaturated (rather than saturated) fat. 

So, when paired with a source of rich carbohydrates like wholegrain bread, it can make for a filling snack that'll quell all your cravings and have you feeling full while keeping your blood sugar at a good level. 

10. Goji berries

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Dried, fresh, sweet, savoury - there are so many options when it comes to goji berries, which makes them an excellent evening snack. Scatter them over the top of Greek yoghurt and add a drizzle of honey or eat them straight from the packet, they're a versatile fruit that can suit whatever you're craving.

Plus, they may just be able to help you get to sleep faster as these berries have the highest concentration of melatonin among dried fruit.

11. Yoghurt

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Natural or Greek yoghurt is rich in bone-boosting calcium and protein, one of the most filling macronutrients, making it the perfect option for a healthy dessert or midnight snack. 

It also contains vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium, and a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), all of which contribute to the onset of good-quality sleep. 

12. Pumpkin seeds

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Snacking on pumpkin seeds in the evening is a good way to make sure you're not going to bed hungry. Not only are they rich in protein, a macronutrient that's going to help keep you full throughout the night, but they are packed full of sleep-inducing ingredients. 

Pumpkin seeds are particularly rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, zinc, copper, and selenium, all of which help us drift off and stay asleep. 

13. Eggs

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Eggs are considered to be a staple for breakfast and brunch - and for good reason. They're full of good quality protein that can help keep you full throughout the morning, meaning you're less likely to overeat during the rest of the day. 

However, they are also one of the best foods to have in the evening as they are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that can positively influence our mood and sleep as it helps with the production of hormones melatonin and serotonin. 

14. Edamame

Bowl of edamame beans

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Edamame beans are a quick and easy snack to have in the fridge for evening snacking. You can eat them raw, topped with salt or kept plain, so there's very little preparation required. 

They may also be able to help you sleep better since they are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that helps the body to produce the sleep hormone melatonin. Melatonin helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle, so switching out a high-carbohydrate and sugar-rich late-night snack for a few of these beans could be the answer to improving your sleep quality and quantity. 

15. Strawberries

Carton of fresh strawberries

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Many of us get a craving for sweet foods in the evening post-dinner, when our dopamine levels take a nose dive in the early evening. Swapping out ice cream and other desserts high in sugar and saturated fats in favour of some fresh strawberries could be the way forward to keep sugar levels stable before bed. 

Strawberries, like many other fruits, can also help the body to produce melatonin, the hormone we need for healthy sleep. 

16. Popcorn

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If you're looking for a crunchy snack to quell late-night cravings, popcorn is a better alternative to foods rich in sugar and saturated fats. Although it's a food high in fibre, which can make digestion uncomfortable in the later hours, it's made up of carbohydrates too. 

Carbohydrates help make tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid, more available to the brain, helping us to get to sleep. 

17. Avocado

Sliced avocado on toast

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Much like eggs, avocado is a brunch staple that could be better off in your dinner if you're looking to create a calm state for sleep in the evening as the green fruit is rich in magnesium and potassium, two minerals that have been linked to better sleep.

Avocados are also high in healthy fats, another macronutrient that helps to keep us full throughout the day, so adding a few slices of this to your dinner could help keep those late-night cravings at bay. 

18. Oats

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Foods made from oats - for example, a low-sugar flapjack or simple porridge - are the best choice for late-night eating. Whether you want a snack late into the evening or a quick meal to replace your dinner, oats are filling and will prevent overeating. 

Oats contain beta-glucan, which promotes the release of peptide YY - a hormone that's produced in the gut in response to eating. This hormone is very effective at reducing calorie intake as you feel fuller with less food, so oats are also one of the best foods to incorporate into your diet if you're looking to lose weight.

19. Tofu

Cubes of tofu drizzled with sauce, on a bed of green vegetables, lemons and tomatoes

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Swap out your regular protein at dinner for tofu and you'll experience better sleep, researchers from Tohoku University Graduate School found. Tofu is made from soy, which is rich in protein, calcium, and a kind of phytoestrogen that can increase serotonin production called isoflavones, all of which have been shown to improve sleep quality in adults.

Tofu is also a lighter source of protein than others like red meat, so it may sit more comfortably in the digestive system when you're in bed. 

20. Celery

Whole and chopped celery sitting on wooden counter

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Celery can be one of the best foods to have in the evening. This love-it-or-hate-it vegetable is a great way to hydrate through food, which is important in the evening, especially if you haven't drunk enough water during the day. 

Being sufficiently hydrated before bed is also important as it helps to break down waste and release toxins from the body through sweat. 

21. Pineapple

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Pineapple is more than just a refreshing palate cleanser and healthy dessert alternative. The tropical fruit is a great one to have in the evening as it's rich in vitamin C and magnesium, two nutrients that have been directly linked to good quality sleep. 

Pair your pineapple with a few spoonfuls of Greek yoghurt for a sleep-inducing combination. 

22. Cereal

Bowl of bran flakes

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Cereal is another one of the best foods to have in the evening. But here, we're talking about cereals fortified with vitamins and minerals, rather than artificially-sweetened breakfast cereals. 

While you'll want to avoid fibre-rich bran flakes, cornflakes and cereals fortified with vitamin B6 and minerals like magnesium make for an excellent grab-and-go snack to have after dinner if you're still hungry. 

23. Wholewheat toast

Two halves of a toasted wholewheat bun sitting on wooden chopping board

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For much the same reason that cereal makes for one of the best foods to have in the evening, wholewheat toast is a great option. As a whole grain, it's rich in complex carbohydrates that can help to keep you full throughout the night as they digest in the body slower, preventing late-night trips to the fridge. 

24. Hummus

Bowl of hummus with paprika and bowl of chickpeas on the side

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Hummus is made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and spices. While too much citrus late at night can cause acid reflux, when combined with other foods, the effect is less intense. Plus, chickpeas are rich in vitamin B6, magnesium and contain tryptophan, all of which can help us get to sleep quicker and stay asleep for longer. 

Combine your favourite flavour (avoid spicy hummus where possible) with wholegrain toast for the perfect filling snack that'll keep you going until morning.

25. Peach

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Along with strawberries and kiwi, peach is a great fruit to have in your fridge to stop any late-night sweet cravings. On its own or paired with protein-rich yoghurt, it can help keep post-dinner cravings at bay and even help you get to sleep as it contains good levels of magnesium.

In Hungary, where peaches are called the 'fruit of calmness', the fruit is famous for its sleep-inducing effect. 

26. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese on wholewheat seeded toast

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Cottage cheese is far from one of the most popular types of cheese but if you're looking for a high-protein addition to your dinner or a late-night snack, it could be the best choice. High in lean protein and the amino acid tryptophan, this cheese can help increase your serotonin levels, helping to create a calm feeling in the evening.

When we're low in serotonin, it can affect our mood and even contribute to insomnia. 

To make your cottage cheese snack sweeter, top some toast with the cheese, a handful of raspberries and a drizzle of honey.  

27. Figs

Split figs sitting on black slate plate

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Figs may not be one of the more popular fruits in the basket but if you spot some on sale at your local supermarket, it's worth picking them up. This fruit is rich in magnesium, potassium, calcium and iron, all of which are needed for healthy blood flow and can contribute to muscle contraction.

Both healthy blood flow and muscle contraction are needed to fall asleep comfortably. 

28. Spinach

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One of the most common causes of waking up in the middle of the night is leg cramps. Leafy green vegetables like spinach, when eaten in the evening, can be key in solving this problem as they are high in magnesium. Magnesium can relax the nerves and muscles in the body before bedtime, helping rest come easier. 

29. Kale

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Along with spinach, kale is a great leafy green vegetable to add to your dinner for good sleep. As well as being rich in magnesium, kale is has a good amount of calcium - and having enough calcium is essential to prevent common sleep issues like minor insomnia.

30. Cherries

Brown bag of cherries

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Tart cherry juice is the beverage of choice before bed but cherries can be a quick and easy snack to have before sleep. Studies from the University of California show that they are one of the foods proven to be a natural source of melatonin, a chemical that controls the body's internal clock and helps to regulate our sleeping patterns. Just be sure to remove the stones carefully!

31. Pistachios

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Pistachios are one of the many nuts that combine all the must-haves for healthy sleep - including protein for fullness, vitamin B6, and magnesium for production of key hormones like melatonin and serotonin. 

Be sure not to go too overboard though. As one of the denser nuts, eating too many pistachios before you go to sleep can lead to digestive discomfort. 

32. Protein shake

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If you're looking for a super quick snack to have before bed, one that requires little preparation and comes packed with health benefits, a protein shake can be a great option. 

Protein shakes are typically made from protein powder combined with either milk or water, so they are packed full of filling protein that'll keep you satiated throughout the night. Many protein powders are fortified with vitamins and minerals that can also help you get the nutrients you need for good sleep. 

Grace Walsh
Health Channel Editor

Grace Walsh is woman&home's Health Channel Editor, working across the areas of fitness, nutrition, sleep, mental health, relationships, and sex. In 2024, she will be taking on her second marathon in Rome, cycling from Manchester to London (350km) for charity, and qualifying as a certified personal trainer.

A digital journalist with over six years experience as a writer and editor for UK publications, Grace has covered (almost) everything in the world of health and wellbeing with bylines in Cosmopolitan, Red, The i Paper, GoodtoKnow, and more.