Feeling out of control around sweets? Is that bag of Kettle chips calling you by name? Read this before answering the call.
Research shows that virtually all women have food cravings, especially for chocolate, but also for foods rich in fat, sugar and salt. While many believe cravings stem from nutrient deficiencies, studies show that jonesing for french fries or Swedish Fish happens from habit and emotional eating, not from lacking vitamins or minerals. If that were the case, we'd all be craving nutrient-packed veggies—not chocolate and chips.
There are ways to cave to cravings without destroying your diet. Research shows that those who restrict food suffer the most from intense cravings, compared to women who don't make specific foods off-limits. The key is to indulge—in moderation—and with healthier substitutions. In addition, studies reveal that adequate sleep, avoiding alcohol, not skipping meals and exercise can all help reduce cravings.
Here are nine of my go-to healthier substitutes to crush cravings:
When You're Craving Something Chocolaty . . . Chocolate is the most craved food of all. If you feel like gooey, chocolaty candy bars, brownies or chocolate chip cookies are calling your name, try these instead:
One ounce of dark chocolate: The darker the chocolate, the more antioxidants it has and less added sugar. Try one-ounce squares of premium dark chocolate that have at least 70 percent cacao.
Chocolate-dipped frozen banana: Any dark chocolate-dipped fruit is a better-for-you choice. This simple recipe will cure your craving for less than 200 calories. (Fresh strawberries are a good sub for bananas.)
Dark chocolate protein pudding: Combine six ounces of plain Greek yogurt with two teaspoons of cocoa powder. Stir to combine. (If you need more sweetness, use vanilla yogurt or add honey.)
When You're Craving Something Sweet . . . Most of us already get two to three times as much added sugars as we should, so instead of reaching for a treat that is nothing more than empty sugar calories, try these sweet-tooth tamers instead:
Prunes: Fresh fruit is a great option, but it's often not as satisfying as dried fruit. Naturally sweet Sunsweet Ones have 25 calories each and can be stored in a desk drawer, car, purse or gym bag. The fiber helps temper blood sugar levels to temper cravings.
Natural Delights Coconut Date Rolls: Delicious fiberful dates plus coconut flakes make these sweet treats a perfect snack or dessert. Two rolls provide 150 calories and pack in more fiber (eight grams) than two cups of strawberries.
Pomegranate arils: Juicy and sweet, pomegranate arils are an antioxidant-packed sweet tooth satisfier. POM POMs fresh pomegranate arils have a whopping six grams of fiber and just 100 calories and come in a convenient cup.
When You're Craving Something Crunchy . . . Potato chips provide a satisfying salty crunch but at a high price. A study from Harvard reported that a daily 150-calorie serving (just 15 chips!) equaled more than 1 1/2 pounds gained in four years.
Air-popped popcorn: A cup of "naked" popcorn has just 30 calories and is 100 percent whole grain and provides fiber and antioxidants. Top with a dash of salt and one tablespoon of Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Pistachios: Crunching on an ounce of pistachios (about 49 nuts) packs in as much protein as an egg and three grams of fiber for 160 calories. Research also shows that the shells may enhance satiety by making the portion appear larger, and the "empties" remind you of how much you've eaten.
Grape-Nuts: As far as whole-grain cereals go, Grape-Nuts scores highest on the Crunch-O-Meter. Enjoy 1/4 cup of Grape-Nuts with 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt for a fiber- and protein-rich snack with less than 200 calories.