How to Replace Unhealthy Cravings with Something Healthy
Whether you’re trying to lose weight, trying to maintain your weight, or simply trying to be healthier, cravings can swoop in and derail all of your attempts at positive change. Denying your cravings isn’t a long-term action plan because depriving leads to impulsive overeating later. Instead, you need to outsmart your cravings. Give your body what it wants but do it in a healthy way.
If your main issue is you’re just feeling hungry in the middle of the day, remember three words: Protein, protein, protein. (Okay, that’s really just one word.) Protein is the best way to satisfy your hunger, stop you from raiding the pantry, and get you to your next meal without potato chip regret. A cheese stick, Greek yogurt, tuna on whole wheat toast, or apple slices with peanut butter can satisfy your tummy until dinnertime.
When You’re Craving Salt
Skip the chips and pretzels, and instead reach for celery sticks or baby carrots dipped in salsa. Or sprinkle edamame with sea salt as a tasty substitute for potato chips that also happens to deliver protein and fiber. A handful of nuts will also deliver protein to fill your belly, as well as the salty flavor you’re craving.
When You’re Craving Sugar
Yes, a candy bar sounds perfect right about now, but the temporary sugar fix it gives you won’t be worth it when you come crashing down. And the empty calories aren’t your friend either.
When you’re feeling like a cookie, piece of cake, or candy bar is the only way to make it to the next hour, know this: your body might actually be craving sweets because you’re getting dehydrated and hungry. So first, drink a glass of water and see if your craving disappears. If not, don’t go for the cookie. Instead, grab a Greek yogurt and add some berries, cinnamon, or shredded coconut. Or slather a banana in peanut butter for a healthy, sweet, and filling treat. Berries and dates are also a handy sweet snack that are easy to eat and incredibly satisfying.
But if you’re craving sugar because you really want to indulge, try this: Eat dark chocolate (over 75%) with some fruit. Melt it and drizzle onto your strawberries for ultimate sweet satisfaction.
When You Want Something with a Crunch
Yes, but sometimes you just need something crunchy — like Doritos! Step away from the vending machine, and instead grab a fresh apple. The satisfying crunch will keep your teeth moving, and your body will get some needed fiber. Another healthy, crunchy snack? A handful of almonds. Or how about some air-popped popcorn or roasted chickpeas?
When You Want Ice Cream
The occasional ice cream is okay, but if you’re reaching for it on the daily, give your body a delicious break with frozen grapes. The sweetness will satisfy your need for sugar, and you’ll also feel like you’re getting a frozen treat.
Or make yourself a plant-based smoothie for the cold, ice cream-like texture — without the sugar and added calories.
Another great idea is to cut your favorite fruit into bite-sized pieces, coat them in Greek yogurt, and freeze them. You get an ice cream-like experience combined with the joy of popping sweet treats.
And when none of that will satisfy, choose sorbet, sherbet, or frozen yogurt for a less fattening option. Just try not to eat the whole tub.
Always know that you will run into cravings, no matter your healthy intentions. This is inevitable. Keep the above healthy alternatives on hand so you don’t find yourself resorting to a regrettable vending machine choice.
Kathy Gotz is the president of True Body Fitness, and provides her female clients with safe and supportive fitness and nutrition coaching. Kathy is a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, holds a level 1 certificate in exercise nutrition from Precision Nutrition, is a Fitranx certified instructor, and is also a certified cancer exercise specialist.