The Midnight Snack: True Confessions

Food

Many of us dread surveys of any kind, when Hilton Head Monthly asked more than 100 snackers ages 10 to 80 about their midnight eating habits, they were happy to share.

Dark chocolate is the best — a little sinful late at night,” one midnight snacker said, while a few naysayers asked skeptically, “Does anybody even entertain the idea of eating anything at midnight anymore?” Predictably, some snackers said that they’re not up at midnight, so we loosened the criteria and granted an earlier time frame.

Who can resist the allure of a dark kitchen, lit by a slightly ajar refrigerator door, the incriminating glow casting its rays on forbidden fruit — or a “very cold Kozy Shack chocolate pudding”? Known as the witching hour, midnight is also when we mortals crave a little something. Coincidence? We think not. There are two different camps on the subject: those who are adamant a midnight snack must be satisfying and a little decadent, so go for the gusto and sleep like a baby. Then there are those who go for the lighter route, eating something low in calories, risking restless sleep due to hunger pangs.

Snackers’ survey results were tallied to find the most favored nighttime treat, and the suspense was palpable. Hint: Better not scream for it because you might wake the baby. Predictably, ice cream is the No. 1 midnight snack, with Dutch chocolate, vanilla bean, caramel cookie crunch and butter pecan ranking highly. Nuts — peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews and almonds — in the form of butters (“Nutella with anything”) consumed by the spoonful or on celery sticks or toast, followed. Cookies beat out cereal with milk. Pizza, hot or cold, had some bites, and apples, blueberries, pineapple, watermelon, Medjool dates and dried fruits won out over vegetables (brussels sprouts just don’t cut it at that hour), with the exception of potatoes. Transformed into chips, they count as a vegetable, albeit deep-fried.

A preference for pigs in a blanket, M&M's, beef jerky, hummus, eggs, waffles, grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, BLTs, mac and cheese, turkey on raisin bread, guacamole, graham crackers, pasta, yogurt with chia seeds, sliced tomatoes sprinkled with stevia, andpopcorn drizzled with olive or coconut oil and sprinkled with Himalayan salt, cinnamon or nutritional yeast demonstrated variety.

“Dream foods,” one snacker said, “with trace amounts of melatonin and tryptophan. Like tart cherries, cacao, honey!” The most sophisticated snacker’s midnight munchies? “Brie cheese and pepper crackers with a cup of tea.” The most original snack was “Screaming Yellow Zonkers,” a boxed popcorn with a yellow sugary glaze that was the rage starting in the late 1960s but discontinued in 2007. Find yourself feeling peckish after hours? The treat is now available to adoring fans on a limited-edition basis.

Some snackers drank milk, tea, diet soda, coconut milk (not to be confused with coconut water) or kefir with honey. Kefir, made from fermented cow’s milk, yields probiotic bacteria like that found in yogurt. Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc made the cut too, possibly because the red wine had already been consumed over dinner. Based on our survey, we draw the conclusion that midnight snacking is alive and well, and we are busy planning future fun (never boring!) surveys.