Eating Well = Sleeping Well
By Rachael Shepard-Ohta, Creator of Hey, Sleepy Baby
All parents want to know how to keep their kids healthy, and nutrition and sleep go hand in hand! Healthy foods for babies and kids are a key part of their development, but they can help them sleep better too. When our little ones have full tummies, they are more likely to sleep better. No one likes to go to bed hungry! At the same time, we want to ensure that the foods they’re consuming are conducive to their sleep, not things that will keep them up. Always look out for signs of intolerances or allergies when trying new foods, as things like rashes and tummy aches can make it challenging for babies and kids to sleep well.
Choosing the right food
The best foods to help kids sleep are minimally processed and full of healthy and whole-food ingredients. We want to avoid excess sugar, fat, or anything greasy or fried, especially before bed. Great options for easy, healthy snacks include whole fruits and vegetables, yogurt and cheese, whole grains, and proteins like eggs or meats.
Adding mealtime rules
I know many parents struggle with sleep and meal times for their toddlers and kids. We’ve incorporated a few rules about dinner and snacks. We leave it on the table until bedtime if they don't eat dinner. They can return to it if they decide they’re still hungry after a bath.
Or, if they did eat dinner or there weren’t leftovers, we have only two options for bedtime snacks. The kids know that we’ll give them one of these choices if they ask. The options are things we know they like and will eat, are quick to grab, and don’t make a big mess. Once Upon a Farm’s Smoothie and Overnight Oats pouches are a perfect snack that packs tons of nutrients into a kid-approved and delicious snack. These are perfect for grabbing and eating while we read bedtime stories, and they have many ingredients that can help kids sleep better!
My favorite foods for better sleep
The best foods for helping babies and kids sleep better include:
Healthy fat such as coconut milk or full-fat dairy
Protein, like sliced turkey or an egg, contains tryptophan and can keep you fuller for longer, so this could mean fewer nighttime wakings due to hunger.
Carbohydrates. For example, oatmeal is high in carbs with a bit more fiber and has been reported to induce drowsiness when consumed before bed. Additionally, oats are a known source of melatonin.
Certain fruits, like bananas, contain magnesium, which can assist with good sleep.
Bedtime snacks they’ll love!
Here are some great options for bedtime (or anytime!) snacks for babies and toddlers:
Full-fat yogurt and low-sugar granola
Whole grain toast with nut butter, cream cheese, or butter
Cheese stick with whole grain crackers
Banana slices sprinkled with cinnamon
Hard-boiled egg with a sprinkle of salt
Oatmeal with a sprinkle of cinnamon
Veggies with hummus
Cottage cheese with berries
How to incorporate bedtime snacks
Healthy foods are essential all day long, but if you’re going to offer a bedtime snack, here is what I recommend:
First, you could try offering a simple, “boring” but healthy snack when they ask, in case they ARE truly hungry. They likely won’t fall or stay asleep well if they have an empty belly.
Or, make a bedtime snack a part of your every-night bedtime routine. When we offer the snack preemptively, and they know they can count on it, it can reduce this battle. This would be the way to go if you think your child is using the snack to get more time with you or delay going to sleep.
Think about it- if dinner is at 5:00 pm and bedtime isn’t until 7:30 pm, it’s very likely that your child IS hungry. If you don’t want to offer a bedtime snack, that’s ok too! Try moving dinnertime a bit later, so it’s closer to the time they’ll be going to bed to ensure they won’t be hungry.
To introduce healthy foods I want my kids to eat at bedtime, I stick to a no-pressure attitude and always offer “safe” foods with any new food. For example, if I’m offering a new type of cheese, I’ll pair it with familiar and favorite crackers. I also like making snacks a mini meal with a protein/ fat option and a carb. This way, my kids aren’t too fixated on getting “fun” packaged snacks all the time, but they are getting a balanced plate that will fill them up and keep them from asking me for more snacks 20 minutes later!
For more about bedtime snacks and routines, visit my blog!
Don't miss the posts below on my sleep tips with Little Sleepies!
What are your favorite meals and snacks for better sleep? Let us know in the comments.