Susan Bowerman, Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training
Snacking, when it’s done right, serves a few purposes. A nutritious, balanced snack can help keep you energised between meals. Small, nutritious snacks can also help control your hunger at mealtimes. However, stressful situations can often lead to mindless snacking or stress eating.
Your body’s response to stress is to send out cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Cortisol sets the body in fight or flight mode, and your brain is alerted that it will need fuel to fight whatever threat is causing the stress. Therefore, you might start craving sugary, salty and fatty foods.
For most of us it’s too easy to find a 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 alternative 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. Sometimes we turn to sweets as a treat or a reward. Unfortunately, many sweets can have a very high calorie cost, which is counter productive if you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Here are some tips to satisfy the craving without sacrificing good nutrition:
High Protein Snacks
When you’re craving a candy bar, opt for high-protein snacks instead, such as a protein snack bar. Not only can these satisfy your craving for sweets, but it can also control your hunger.
The texture of cooked fruit makes it seem more dessert-like. Try roasting peaches or pineapple in the oven, or cooking sliced apples or plums until tender with a spicy-sweet cinnamon or nutmeg.
Adjusting Your Morning Coffee
In today’s market, many coffee beverages include sugar, fat, and calories, which can offset the inherent benefits of caffeine, such as alertness and a feeling of increased energy. If you have a sweet tooth or simply can’t stand black coffee, go with a latte but have it made with nonfat or low-fat milk. Add a little bit of sweetener, cinnamon, or cocoa powder.
If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, try a glass of High Protein Iced Coffee – a protein and energy-packed refreshment, and with only two grams of sugar per serving.
Chocolate Meal Replacement Shake
If you’re on a weight loss journey, consider using chocolate-flavored protein powder in your meal replacement shake to satisfy your cravings for chocolate.
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:
Try plain nonfat yogurt mixed with a little honey or maple syrup and topped with fresh fruit.
Peel bananas, wrap in waxed paper, and freeze. Afterwards, you can slice and eat them, or throw them 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.
Mix 1 tablespoon of chia seeds with ½ cup of vanilla soymilk. Let stand for 10 minutes until it starts to thicken, then top with fresh fruit.
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 healthier alternatives that could satisfy that salt-fat craving:
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.
These are 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 for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, turning occasionally until edges are brown.
After popping, dust with a little low-fat Parmesan cheese or chili powder to satisfy that craving.