When that craving for something sweet or salty comes up and all you can think about is having the perfect snack on hand, grabbing something healthy may not be top of mind. Cravings are emotional experiences that turn on a demand response to seek out something to satisfy that specific need. When your mind turns to the attention of a craving, it becomes a sort of tunnel vision, making it difficult to focus on anything other than finding a way to satisfy that desire. One of the main causes of ongoing cravings is actually the ingredients that most classic snacks are made from. Sugar, salt, inflammatory oils, food colorings, and additives are all used to make foods taste good, desirable, and you guessed it, cravable.
Unfortunately, eating these unhealthy items on a regular basis negatively impacts overall health. Snacking on foods packed with these ingredients can lead to chronic inflammation, unwanted weight gain, brain fog, acne and breakouts, sleep disturbances, and metabolic syndrome.
Here are some healthier alternatives to some of your favorite snacks that are both nutritious and will satisfy your cravings.
Potato chips are high in saturated and trans fat and loaded with salt. Instead, opt for seeded crackers (Mary’s Gone Crackers) or veggie chips (Terra or Hippie Snacks). Usually, when there is a craving for something salty like chips, our body is in need of more hydration. Drink plenty of water when these cravings come up and consider adding an electrolyte (Ultima), as it could also be a sign of an electrolyte imbalance.
Swap out the artificial cheese for something more nutrient-dense. Opt for popcorn (Lesser Evil or Boom Chicka Pop) or roasted chickpeas that you can bake at home using spices such as paprika, lemon pepper, or garlic.
Overconsumption of dairy can become inflammatory. Instead, have some jerky (Epic Provisions), which is higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates.
While ice cream remains one of my favorite treats, having it daily will only increase the intake of saturated fat and sugar. Instead, think about protein and fiber and enjoy Greek yogurt (Chobani, Fage) or a non-dairy alternative (Kite Hill Almond Milk Greek Yogurt) with mixed berries. You can even freeze these in popsicle molds, adding collagen protein or nut butter to the blend for added nutritional value.
Sodas are filled with inflammatory sugars, emulsifiers, food coloring, and preservatives. If you’re craving something bubbly and carbonated, have some water with a lemon or lime squeeze or gut-friendly kombucha (Brew Dr., Health-Ade).
I have to have a piece of chocolate every day, which is why I choose to have only pure dark chocolate for its antioxidant properties and source of magnesium. Choose 70%+ dark chocolate and even consider making chocolate-covered almonds. Melt a dark chocolate bar, pour over sprouted almonds to fully coat them, and let them sit in the fridge for 30 minutes until hardened, and you’ve got yourself a snack packed with fiber, protein, healthy fats, and just enough sweetness.
How about an alternative that is packed with protein, omega 3, fiber, and antioxidants? Consider swapping the store-bought chocolate pudding for homemade chia seed pudding. If you’re looking for that chocolate flavor, add cacao nibs or cacao powder for added potassium and cognitive benefits. You can make this the night before or 30 minutes prior to when you’ll want a snack.
If you’re a ’90s kid like myself, then you remember mornings with Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes. While delicious, they too don’t hold much nutritional value and instead are filled with high levels of corn syrup, sugar, and very little to no fiber, which creates fluctuations in blood sugar. Instead, eat oatmeal, overnight oats, or muesli, which all have high levels of fiber, protein, and cholesterol-lowering benefits. Swap the milk out for non-dairy milk and you’ve got yourself a hearty snack!
Instead of artificial candy, choose fruit, nature’s candy! Keep a bag of blueberries or grapes in the freezer as a healthier candy alternative.
While granola bars are marketed as being a healthy snack option, most of them are loaded with added sugars and artificial ingredients—some containing upwards of 15 grams of sugar per serving. Instead, make your own trail mix by buying bulk nuts and seeds of your choosing. Add some dried fruit and dark chocolate chips to the mix too. Consider making your own granola bars so you can control the ingredients.