You probably know from experience that getting a poor night’s sleep can cause you to crave more sugary foods (hello, chocolate croissant). But did you know that what you eat before bed can have a direct impact on the quality of your Zs?
A good deal of recent research has shown that eating patterns can either foster or interfere with healthy slumber. A handful of specific foods have been linked to better sleep, and a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that participants with a higher fiber intake (think fruits, veggies, whole grains, pulses, nuts and seeds) actually spent more time in restorative slow-wave sleep at night. On the other hand, people who ate too little fiber, too much sugar, and excess saturated fat (the kind found in fatty red meat and dairy products) experienced more disturbed sleep.
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Given the findings to date, you can’t go wrong with the dinners below: Each meal is high in fiber, low in saturated fat and sugar and contains at least one food thought to bring on a good night’s rest, such as lentils, leafy greens, salmon, kiwi, sunflower seeds, brown rice and quinoa.
Getting better sleep—starting tonight—could do your body a world of good. Aside from appetite and weight regulation, sleep is also tied to emotional wellbeing, increased productivity, improved mental and physical performance and decreased inflammation (a trigger of premature aging and disease).
These four recipes, from my book Slim Down Now ($10, amazon.com), serve one, though you can easily double or triple them. Bon appétit, and sweet dreams.
Moroccan Lentil Soup
In a medium saucepan over low heat, sauté ¼ cup minced yellow onion in 1 tbsp. coconut oil and 1 tbsp. organic low-sodium vegetable broth until translucent. Add 6 tbsp. of additional broth, ½ cup cauliflower, cut into small florets, 1 tsp. each minced garlic, fresh squeezed lemon juice and Italian herb seasoning, and 1/16 tsp. each ground cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, and coriander. Stir for 3 to 4 minutes. Add a ½ cup water, ½ cup fresh baby spinach leaves, and one diced Roma tomato. Bring to a very brief boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 1o minutes. Add ½ cup of lentils and stir to heat through.
Salmon Avocado “Tacos”
In a medium bowl, combine ½ cup of quartered grape tomatoes (about 16), with a ¼ cup each minced yellow bell pepper and white onion, 1 tsp. minced garlic, 1/16 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro, and 2 tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice. Toss together and marinate in the fridge for about 15 minutes. Fill three outer romaine leaves each with one ounce of cooked salmon, top with the vegetable mixture, and garnish with a quarter of a sliced avocado. Have two kiwis for dessert.
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Savory Turkey Stuffed Zucchini
Trim stems from one whole, large zucchini. Slice lengthwise, scoop out filling, finely chop, and set aside. Pan brown 3 oz. of extra lean ground turkey and set aside. In a medium pan over low heat, sauté ¼ cup minced red onion in ¼ cup organic low sodium vegetable broth until translucent. Add 1 tsp. minced garlic, 1 tsp. Italian herb seasoning, 1/8 tsp. ground cumin, and the chopped zucchini, and sauté 2 to 3 additional minutes. Add ground turkey and 2 tbsp. of sunflower seeds, and stir to heat through. Spoon mixture into zucchini shell, and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Serve baked zucchini over ½ cup cooked brown rice.
Pesto Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps
Dice four hard boiled eggs, keeping only one of the yolks. In a small bowl toss the eggs with ¼ cup finely chopped red bell pepper, 2 tbsp. minced red onion, and 1 tbsp. of jarred basil pesto to coat thoroughly. Spoon 1 tbsp. cooked, chilled quinoa into four outer romaine leaves, and top with the egg mixture.
Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her newest book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.