Cravings can be big diet-wreckers. Despite hard work and every intention to eat right, for many of my clients, willpower wilts at the sight of Ben & Jerry’s or a bag of kettle chips.
According to a survey published in the journal Appetite, 97 percent of women and 68 percent of men experience food cravings. The most commonly craved foods include salty snacks, like chips and french fries, and sweets that are high in sugar and fat, such as chocolate and ice cream. Not surprisingly, foods we crave are always high-calorie.
But there’s good news. Unhealthy cravings can be satisfied or conquered with better-for-you swaps. Whether your weakness is for something chocolaty, salty, sugary, or creamy, here are better-for-you options to turn to when cravings call:
When You Crave: Chocolate
If candy bars, brownies, or other chocolatey temptations start calling your name, here are two better-for-you chocolate bites to try:
Frozen chocolate-dipped bananas. With this simple dessert you can get your chocolate fix while enjoying the taste and nutritional benefits of a banana. Bananas are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, fiber and potassium. All this in less than 180 calories!
S’mores. Place a 1 oz dark chocolate square and a marshmallow on a half graham cracker sheet and broil until slightly melted. Top with the other half of the graham cracker. Portion-controlled at about 150 calories, this is one chocolaty treat that will keep you in your skinny jeans.
Individually-wrapped premium chocolate candy. Warning: this is only for those of you who can have just one or two, not the entire bag. Sometimes just a little taste of chocolate can stop a craving. I’ve had many clients who can eat just one Lindt Chocolate Truffle (about 75 calories for the milk chocolate variety) and that’s enough to satisfy them. I always keep one with me when I dine out. I find I can have just one and it’s enough to keep me from having a decadent dessert!
When you Crave: Ice Cream
Let’s face it: there are times when we all scream for ice cream. Unfortunately, digging into a pint of your favorite premium ice cream can cost you a whopping 500 calories and 20 grams of saturated fat per cup – and double that if you eat the whole pint! Instead, try:
Healthier ice creams. Better-for-you ice creams, with fewer calories and more filling protein, offer a satisfying solution for many of my clients. For instance, a half-cup serving of Halo Top is just 60-90 calories and has 5g of protein. And an entire Halo Top pint ranges from 240 to 360 calories and 20 grams of protein. So if you’re a by-the-pint ice cream eater, it’s relatively guilt free (a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla, by comparison, will cost you 1,000 calories!). Yummy Halo Top flavors include vanilla bean, chocolate chip cookie dough, mint chip, and lemon cake — to name just a few. Plus, they offer vegan and dairy-free varieties.
Skinny Ice Cream Sandwiches. Some of my clients also have had great success turning to calorie-controlled ice cream sandwiches when they need a cold creamy fix. Although some gourmet varieties can set you back 500 calories or more, many supermarket options can be delicious calorie bargains. Good ice cream sandwiches options include Skinny Cow (with 150 calories) and non-dairy Tofutti Cuties (with 130 calories and 9 grams of sugar).
When You Crave: Salt
To satisfy a salty craving without busting open a giant bag of potato chips, go for roasted almonds. Studies show that having a handful of almonds (an ounce or 23 nuts) can help you embrace your cravings, whittle your waistline and reduce risk for heart disease. An ounce of almonds provides 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber to keep you satisfied and 12 essential nutrients.
A study conducted by Penn State University found that adults who ate 1.5 ounces of almonds daily, as part of a heart-healthy eating plan, reduced belly fat and waist circumference more than those who followed the same diet plan but ate a carb-rich banana muffin.
Try: Roasted flavored almonds. Blue Diamond Salt & Vinegar or Wasabi and Soy Sauce are a cravings-quasher that work for many of my clients.
When You Crave: Sugar
This is one craving I can really relate to — when I need something sweet, nothing will stop me until I have it. Fortunately, when my sweet tooth strikes, I meet it with something healthier than Rolos or cupcakes. Here are a few options that work well for me (and my clients!):
Fresh fruit. When you need to tame a sweet tooth, reach for naturally sweet fresh and dried fruit choices. While they have plenty of natural sugars, they also pack in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. One of my favorites: Easy-to-peel clementines – they’re sweeter than many citrus options and are perfectly portable. Two clementines have just 80 calories and a whopping 290% vitamin C.
Hard candies and gum. Another way to meet your urge for sweets is with hard candy or piece of sugar-free gum. Sometimes a bit of sweet is just enough to quell the craving. This has worked well for many of my clients – I do it too.
Fig cookies. If you can’t have a few whole wheat fig cookies without eating the whole box, this one isn’t for you. However if you can have a couple and then stop, they will only cost you 110 calories (for two). Plus you’ll get 3 grams of fiber.