If you haven’t already, check out our last post on Decoding Food Cravings to see what causes your cravings. Today, we’ll be talking about the healthier snacking alternatives and secrets for when you are facing cravings.
Identify Your Cravings
For starters, knowing what you are craving is important to help determine what your body is actually needing. Of course, sometimes our body just wants a good chocolate bar or something sweet. Other times, we crave things like oranges, tomatoes, bananas or various other foods that may signify some potential vitamin deficiencies. You can find plenty of blogs on the internet about what you could be deficient in based on what you’re craving, but to really know what your body needs you would have to check with your doctor or get certain tests done that can identify specifics.
Instead of running tests, we like to stick to the basics of healthy, nutrition-filled eating habits. Typically speaking, when you fill your meals and snacks with nutrient-dense foods, you are less likely to experience cravings for sweets or other various foods because you are eating a wholesome diet. Here are some of our favorite, nutrient-dense foods to add to your meals or to have as a snack:
Let’s start with water. You may not think of it as a snack, but it is far more beneficial and often more filling that many unhealthy snacks out there and it’s generally what our body needs most. For those of you that don’t like the plain taste of water, you can always flavor it naturally by adding your favorite fruits like strawberries, lemons, apples, or limes. Another good alternative would be coconut water which has natural sugars and electrolytes which help to hydrate the body. These are good replacements for sodas and fruit juices which often are very high in sugars.
Seeds and Nuts:
Seeds and nuts are great snacks, they are also much more satiating than a bag of chips. This is because they are high in good fats and proteins which digest slowly and therefore keep you feeling full for longer. Some of our favorites include pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, almonds, cashews, and pistachios. We recommend even mixing different nuts and seeds together to form your own trail mix.
Fruits and Vegetables:
Fruits and vegetables are excellent snacks because they are high in all kinds of vitamins and antioxidants, as well as a good source of fiber.
Some people stray away from fruits because of the amount of sugar; however, the sugar found in fruits, fructose, is a natural form of sugar and the benefits of other nutrients within fruits outweigh the sugar content. With that said, because they do contain a natural sugar, fruits make a great snack to satisfy sugar cravings.
Vegetables are also a great snack, whether it be carrots, celery, tomatoes, or any other vegetable that you prefer. If you do not like eating vegetables alone, you can always pair them with other foods like a hummus dip, light cream cheese or peanut butter. Vegetables are also a great snack to curb cravings that are a result of boredom as well. There is almost no recommended limit to how many veggies you can eat in a day! So, the more the better.
Chocolate is not inherently bad. In fact, chocolate that is high in cacao (not to be confused with cocoa which generally includes a lot of processed sugar) is a good source of magnesium, iron, protein and fibre. These nutrients are surprisingly enough some of the most common deficiencies in Americans. If you are used to eating milk chocolate, switching straight to 90% cacao will seem extremely unpleasant because of the bitterness of high percentage cacao. The key is to start at a lower percentage and work yourself up. The bitterness does not seem as dramatic that way and you will slowly push your taste buds to appreciate the taste – it may even become more sweet to you!
There are many snacks that have a healthy base and allow you to add ingredients as you wish. Smoothies, oatmeal, greek yogurt and salads are great to name a few. There are also plenty of resources online for making you’re own homemade granola bars, frozen yogurt bars and more! You can often get ready-made protein bars from grocery stores; however, they usually contain more chemicals and have much more sugar than if you were to make them yourself. Try making your own granola bars at home! You can also have the added benefit of customizing it so that it perfectly suits your tastes and needs.
- Popcorn – a great snack because it has very few calories and is able to satisfy salty, buttery, or sweet cravings depending on how it is prepared.
- Greek Yogurt – a great source of dairy and calcium and it contains probiotics to keep your gut biota healthy.
- Kale chips – can be used to substitute for potato chips and can easily be made at home with your own seasonings too!
- Hard boiled eggs – a good source of protein and important vitamins; again, don’t worry about the fat content here. Healthy fats are good for your body!
The Secret to Healthy Snacking
The secret to healthier snacking is to figure out what you’re craving and find the healthier option that will satiate your body. If you don’t necessarily have access or want the snacks listed above, there are also plenty of pre-packaged healthy snack options in stores now. Our recommendation, if you go for any pre-packaged snacks, is to check the ingredients and aim for as few recognizable ingredients as possible and then stick with the recommended serving size. For example, if you grab a bag of chips go for the ones that contain all natural ingredients and aim for less than 5 on the ingredients list. Ideally, a bag of chips should include potatoes, salt and maybe oil – better yet, potatoes, himalayan salt and avocado oil! Remember, keep it simple when it comes to ingredients and stick with whole foods as much as you can.
Now, it is your turn to find the snacks that are best for you. This will start first by narrowing down what you are craving in a snack and then slowly making small, healthier decisions every day. These small changes are much easier to maintain over time instead of changing your whole diet at once and will lead to long-term beneficial eating habits that will leave your body feeling satisfied daily.