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Sleep-Friendly Dinner Recipes

A delish, healthy alternative to sleeping pills

A big, delicious dinner leaves you pushing back from the table, loosening your belt and dreaming about bedtime. Nice on Thanksgiving but deadly for every day. Other than the need for expando-pants, the bigger the meal, the longer it takes to digest it, which will interfere with a good night’s sleep.

Sleep deprivation and obesity are epidemic in the United States. In our opinion, they’re unholy bedfellows who are much too cozy with each other. The later we go to bed, the poorer our food choices. If we’re already sleep deprived, we tend to reach for sweet and salty snacks during the day, which can lead to weight gain and increased risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

But what if your diet could help you sleep better, which in turn would help avoid weight gain? Sleep and diet experts suggest eating your biggest meal before midafternoon and enjoying a light evening meal of 500 calories or less. Chicken, fish or extra-lean meat will make you feel fool and curb middle-of-the-night munchies. Sounds easy, right?

7 ingredients for a meal that sets the stage for sweet dreams

While eating more earlier in the day sounds like a good idea, we often crave savory, flavorful meals at night as we reconnect with our loved ones and wind down from the stress of the day. So what can you eat at night that won’t kill your diet? Start with the ingredients below and then move onto our suggested recipe. Bon appetite and sweet dreams all at once!

  • Begin with milk – Your mom was right when she nudged you to drink milk before bed. It’s loaded with the amino acid, tryptophan, which helps you produce melatonin and serotonin (both are necessary for sleep).
  • Throw in some beans – One cup of soybeans provides your daily dose of tryptophan. One cup of cooked black, navy, lima, kidney or pinto beans and you’ve got half your daily intake. Don’t forget that beans are a great source of fiber and protein so you’ll feel full all night long. Pasta with edamame or maybe a bowl of chili, anyone?
  • Grab some nuts – All nuts have a little tryptophan but walnuts take over-achieving to a new level. What’s more, they’ve got melatonin too. Sprinkle them on pasta or a salad for a flavorful crunch.
  • Make a salad – Chop up some spinach, a vitamin B6 powerhouse that also contains tryptophan and calcium. Enjoy your spinach raw in a salad (with soybeans and nuts) or sautéed alongside your favorite fish. Of course a bedtime smoothie sounds good too!
  • Find your fish – Cod, halibut, tuna, salmon and snapper are all good sources of vitamin B6, which promotes the production of sleep hormones. Fire up the barbeque and enjoy!
  • Or maybe chicken – Chicken has more tryptophan than turkey and paired with rice or quinoa, provides a healthy balance of protein and complex carbohydrates to help you sleep better.
  • Sweeten with cherries – Cherries (especially tart ones) contain melatonin and studies show one glass of tart cherry juice can improve both the quality and quantity of sleep. But cherries and low fat ice cream might be more to your liking – delish!

Salmon-Potato Cakes

IngredientsSleep-Friendly Dinner Recipes

  • 14 oz. fresh skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 cups refrigerated sour cream and chive flavored mashed potatoes
  • 1/2 cup seasoned fine dry bread crumbs
  • 3 tbsp. snipped fresh dill
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 15-oz. package mixed salad greens
  • 1/2 cup bottled Honey-Dijon salad dressing


Rinse and dry salmon. Place in 2-quart square microwave-safe baking dish; cover with vented plastic. Microcook on high (100% power) for 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 minutes or until salmon flakes easily with a fork. Break in pieces. In bowl combine salmon, potatoes, bread crumbs, and dill. Form salmon mixture in eight 3-1/2-inch cakes. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Cook cakes over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until heated through and browned. Place salad greens on plates. Top with salmon-potato cakes; serve with salad dressing. Makes 4 servings. 503 kcal calories. Recipe via BHG.com

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