We’ve all been there, staring into the fridge or pantry looking for something to fill that salty or sweet void in our souls. Well, maybe not our souls, but definitely our cravings.
In general, food cravings are relatively harmless. Sometimes, however, food cravings start to dictate what and when you eat most of the time. If they get out of hand, let’s just say it won’t be good for your soul or your health.
“Generally speaking, cravings have nothing to do with what your body ‘needs,’ but is more a reflection of our mental state,” said Gina Thayer, a registered dietitian with Banner Fort Collins Medical Center. “Often cravings strike when we are bored, sad, anxious, etc. They can be very hard to ignore!”
Before you mindlessly let your cravings take the wheel, here are some tips and tricks to kick those cravings and five healthy salty and sweet snacks you can try.
Tips and tricks to kick those cravings
Before you rip open that bag of chips or candy, drink a cold glass of water and wait a bit. “Sometimes it isn’t that you’re hungry—just thirsty,” Thayer said. That’s because when your body is dehydrated, the hypothalamus in your brain sends a signal of thirst. This is also the part of the brain that sends the signal for hunger. See the connection? Drinking water can help you stay hydrated and put that craving in check.
“If your hunger is still there after 10 minutes, consider allowing yourself a small serving of what you are craving,” she said.
Check in with yourself
“Ask yourself if your stomach grumbling is actually hunger or are you just in the mood for something salty or sweet,” Thayer said. “If it’s true hunger, eat a healthy meal before your salty or sweet treat.”
If you’re so hungry that you can barely think, you’re more likely to wolf down the entire bag of chips or chocolate bar without thinking twice. Before you do that, first eat a meal packed with lean protein, vegetables, fruit and whole grains to reduce hunger and food cravings. If you’re still hankering for something afterward, then go ahead and enjoy your treat as a treat—not as a meal.
Remember, everything in moderation
Are those salty potato chips and chocolate really that bad for you? Not really. “There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods – all food in moderation is acceptable,” Thayer said.
So, what does moderation look like? Thayer said to check out the nutrition label on your sweet treat or salty food craving. For chips, count out the number of chips for a serving size (or use a food scale, if you have one). Then close up the chip bag, put it away in a cupboard and sit down to enjoy your chips. Savor the flavor and crunch and try not to mindlessly shove them down your throat and not taste them at all. Same goes for chocolate: Look at the serving size, portion that amount out for yourself and put the rest away. “Out of sight, out of mind always rings true,” Thayer said.
[For help reading nutritional labels, check out this helpful infographic.]
Healthy snacks to satisfy your sweet tooth
Cravings for salty food are a common and natural thing everyone experiences, but sometimes they can get the best of us. The next time you find yourself in your pantry or fridge foraging for a snack, consider these five healthy options.
- Fresh fruit: Try sliced apples, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, melons, pineapples, bananas, pears, peaches—and so on, and so forth. You can punch it up with some peanut butter for a protein boost or throw a bunch of frozen fruit into a blender with some almond milk for a smoothie.
- Dark chocolate and almonds: There’s no need to avoid the candy aisle completely, just opt for a small portion of dark chocolate. Pair it with some almonds, a plant-based protein, and you have a satisfying snack.
Healthy snacks to satisfy your salt craving
- Fresh vegetables: Try sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, mini tomatoes, sugar snap peas, baby carrots or sliced beets. You can eat them plain or dip them in hummus or a dip made with Greek yogurt.
- Triscuits: If you’re craving something salty and crunchy, Triscuits are a good option, because they are high in fiber and only have a couple of ingredients.
- Popcorn: At three cups of popped corn per one serving, this is another great snack—just watch the butter and salt. Instead, try cooking it in a bit of olive oil, and then sprinkle it with different herbs for a flavor boost.
For other healthy meal tips and healthy recipes, check out: