Snacking, when it’s done right, serves a few purposes. A nutritious, balanced snack can help keep you energized between meals. Small, nutritious snacks can also help control your hunger at mealtimes, which means you might get by with a smaller portion. And having an extra eating opportunity once or twice a day can actually compliment your weight-loss plan.
One problem with the way many of us snack, however, is that we tend to do it on the run. Rather than planning our snacks, we simply wait for the craving to strike. And for most of us it’s too easy to find a corner store, a vending machine or even our own kitchen cupboards to satisfy our cravings with foods that are loaded with fat, salt or sugar. So, here are some suggestions for some alternatives of nutritious snacks that can satisfy whatever you’re craving.
If You’re Craving a Sweet Snack
Sometimes we crave sweets when our energy level is taking a dive, or we turn to sweets as a treat or a reward. But the calorie cost of many sweets can be really high. Here are some tips to satisfy the craving without sacrificing good nutrition:
- Protein snack bar. When you’re craving a candy bar, a protein snack bar is a much better choice: it can satisfy your craving for something sweet and help control hunger.
- Cooked fruit. The texture of cooked fruit makes it seem more dessert-like. Try running grapefruit or orange halves under the broiler, roasting peaches or pineapple in the oven, or cooking sliced apples or plums until tender with a spicy-sweet cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Coffee latte. Have your latte made with nonfat or low-fat milk, and add a little bit of sweetener and cocoa powder.
- Chocolate protein shake. A protein shake made with milk and chocolate flavored protein powder can satisfy your craving for chocolate and help control hunger.
If You’re Craving a Creamy Snack
Foods with a creamy, smooth texture are pleasurable to eat, and many people associate them with comfort. If you’re looking to satisfy your craving by turning to rich ice cream or high-fat cheeses, then you might want to try one of these alternatives:
- Yogurt. Try plain nonfat yogurt mixed with a little honey or maple syrup and topped with fresh fruit.
- Frozen banana. Peel bananas, wrap in waxed paper and freeze. Slice and eat, or buzz quickly in the blender for a “one ingredient” ice cream-like treat.
- Low-fat ricotta cheese. Blend with a little fruit and a dash of sweetener for a pudding-like treat with some hunger-busting protein.
- Chia pudding. Mix 1 Tablespoon chia seeds with ½ cup vanilla soy milk. Let stand 10 minutes until starting to thicken, then top with fresh fruit. Or, try this recipe for chia berry pudding.
If You’re Craving a Crunchy or Savory Snack
The craving for foods that are crunchy and salty are sometimes triggered by frustration or stress. That’s because the act of chewing and working the jaw muscles actually relieve tension. Here are some healthy options to reach for:
- Jerky. Jerky is lean meat that is salted and dried into a chewy, high protein snack. It can also be made from poultry or fish, and there are vegetarian and vegan versions, too. Their chewy texture satisfies the craving for crunch, and the protein content can help curb hunger.
- Cottage cheese dip. Whirl nonfat or low-fat cottage cheese in the blender until smooth. Stir in a little dark mustard and use as a dip for crunchy veggies.
- Kale chips. Easy to make. Remove tough stems, break leaves into bite-sized pieces, wash and dry thoroughly. Toss leaves with a little olive oil and salt, spread on a baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, turning occasionally, until edges are brown.
- Popcorn. After popping, dust with a little low-fat Parmesan cheese or chili powder.
Watch this video for healthy snack tips: