For many gay men, eating junk food late at night is another shameful vice that hits your guilt button. You indulge in the forbidden pleasures, then feel remorseful as hell when you wake up the next day. And though you repent all week, hoping the gym gods will forgive your lapse and restore your body back to its divine form, come another dateless Saturday night and you're at it again, pigging out on ice cream and cookies while settling down to the pagan comforts of your TV set.
Never fear, sinners: With the help of Manhattan-based nutritionist Debra Grossano, MS, RD, CDN, CNE, we've come up with 15 late-night snacks that will not only help you keep the weight off, but are actually good for you. So put down the pint, cover the cake, and read on. These suggestions are so heavenly you'll be praying for more.
(One quick note: Before you head for the fridge, ask yourself, Why am I actually eating this? According to Grossano, most people who eat late at night are not physically hungry, but are instead substituting food for something else. So if it's boredom you're fighting off, or the lack of responses to your online personals ad, work on resolving those issues first.)
1. Pop, tarts: Unlike its butter-flavored movie cousin, natural microwave popcorn is a healthy, high-fiber snack. Better yet, you can now buy it in single-serving sizes, always a smart thing to look for in the late-night food wars.
2. Cottage please: A scoop of low-fat cottage cheese topped with berries is not only delicious, it's also a great way to get a high dose of protein. (Both fiber and protein, incidentally, make you feel fuller faster. While fiber expands in the stomach, protein takes longer to digest. Either way, you'll feel like you're biting off more than you chewed.)
3. Fiber optics: Grab a handful of any cereal with five grams of fiber or more per serving. Put it over cottage cheese or plain yogurt, or enjoy it with a small amount of non-fat milk.
4. Silly string: String cheese is low in fat, pre-portioned, and delicious. It also gives you carbs and protein. Portion sizes are especially important when eating cheese, since the problem with cheese is not that people cut it, but that they cut too much.
5. Peanut butter and Nellie: Have two rice cakes with one tablespoon of all-natural peanut butter spread on top. It's so good you won't be craving a jam session.
6. Grab the nuts: As long as you don't eat the whole container's worth, nuts are a great snack. But you have to have the willpower to keep your intake to no more than 10 nuts total. Put them in pre-packaged bags if it helps.
7. Berry good: A cup of your favorite berries— strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries—are not only tasty, they're loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants.
8. Froze fruit: Most of you know about the big banana, but another suckable treat is frozen grapes. Kept in the freezer, they taste like Popsicles, and kept out of sight (not sitting in a bowl in front of you) makes it easier to keep your limit to ten.
9. Shake it up: Who says healthy has to be hard? Blend a cup of non-fat milk with a frozen banana, and voila! Instant shake.
10. Soy vey!: A puffed-air cracker made from soy flower, Soy Crisps are now sold in stores nationwide and come in a variety of flavors.
11. Open bar: Toffuti's ice-cream bars are a winner, and as a single serving they're great snacks. Just don't get the low-carb version (in general, a warning that a product has more fat).
12. Splenda-ful: Take a half-cup of ricotta, a packet of Splenda, and a tablespoon of vanilla. Then blend. Not only did you just make a delicious snack, you're a certified Chelsea Boy chef.
13. Stick it: Celery sticks and peanut butter are a tried-and-true fave for healthful, late-night eating. The good news? All the celery you can eat. The bad news? Once again, you've got to keep that peanut butter to a one-tablespoon maximum.
14. Hot stuff: Sugar-free hot chocolate has an easy-to-open package, is ready in a jiffy, and will leave you completely satisfied. And you thought porn was an inexpensive treat.
15. Kettle one: Many times a simple cup of herbal tea (and up to one tablespoonful of honey) is just what the doctor ordered to bring your long day to a relaxing finish. Then it's time for lights out and pounds off.
David Toussaint is the author of the book Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony. A professional playwright, short-story, and travel writer, he is currently at work on a novel. You can reach him at www.davidtoussaint.com.