How many times have we eaten a couple bowls of ice cream all by ourselves or chowed down on chips until our stomachs felt a little off? It’s not that we’re weak or have no control–it’s that our bodies send us powerful cravings that we can’t always ignore. And sometimes, it seems that the more we feed into our junk food cravings, the worse we feel. It’s okay to eat junk once in a while, don’t get us wrong. But it’s also important to always understand that you have healthier options.
So instead of eating bad food and feeling a little more sleepy or bloated than usual, why not try replacing some of that junk with healthy food alternatives to beat your cravings?
The ladies of One World Kitchen (Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET), Vanessa Gianfrancesco, Pailin Chongchitnant, Hana Dethlefsen and Natalia Machado as well as the host of The Urban Vegetarian (Fridays at 6:30 a.m. ET), Desiree Nielsen, all had some wise intel on which snacks are most efficient at curbing junk food cravings.
“When you’re thinking about junk food, it’s all about textures. When you’re craving junk food, you’re craving something moist… or something salty or cripsy,” said Gianfrancesco. “So try to mimic those things.”
Here are a couple of healthy alternatives that’ll get you all the right textures and tastes you crave from junk food:
A Slice of Cheese
“If I want junk food, I don’t have the patience to cook something,” Chongchitnant explained. “My go-to is a few slices of good cheese. It’s salty, it’s fatty and it’s delicious. Have a few slices with healthy crackers.”
Cheese might be a fairly fatty food, but isn’t it better to get the fat from good, non-processed cheese than from an entire bag of chips?
As most of you probably know, there’s practically zero nutritional value in popcorn, considering it’s mostly air. Which means it can be a healthy snack (well, as long as it’s not slathered in butter) that’ll help you get over your craving for salt.
“I’ve been experimenting with a lot of different flavoured popcorn,” Dethlefsen said. “I’ll make different seasonings and put it on. It’s got a bit of saltiness, like wasabi and nori flakes.”
This is one movie snack we’ll never give up.
Jazzed Up Apple Sauce
According to Nielsen, upping your apple sauce game can go a long way in terms of crushing a pie craving.
“Warm apple sauce topped with cinnamon and chopped pecans is like an instant apple pie,” she said.
So grab some spices, nuts and a container of apple sauce to feel like you’re eating the real deal.
“I love frozen red grapes when you’re craving ice cream,” Nielsen confessed to us.
In fact, any time your sweet tooth interferes with your brain, eating frozen grapes will give you that intensely sweet and refreshing kick you need.
Gianfrancesco suggested a great way to carb load without actually eating any carbs: “When I’m craving spaghetti for the week, I’ll go to spaghetti squash. It looks like it, it tastes like it, but it isn’t.”
While fruit’s probably the last thing that you want to grab when you’re envisioning that picture-perfect slice of chocolate cake, Nielsen made a good point that may change your mind: “When you’re craving sweets, there are two likely culprits: low blood sugar and habit. If it’s habit, such as craving something sweet after a meal, try indulging that craving with fruit.”
“Salty cravings are easier…because you just need to replicate the salt and the crunch,” Nielsen explained. “Oven roasted chickpeas have changed my snacking life. Crunchy, salty and high in fibre and protein.”
They’re all you need to forget about those Ruffle chips you’ve been dreaming about.
Once again, a good way to give your tastebuds a bit of salt and crunch without gorging on junk food is to munch on some veggie chips.
“[There are] kale chips for when you want something crunchy and salty. You’ve got taro chips, too,” said Gianfrancesco.
Looks like there are quite a few snacking options to replace chips after all.
According to Machado, “When I feel like eating chips, I like to use toasted corn. There’s this dry corn you boil first and then saute in olive oil and garlic… from South America. It’s like Latin American popcorn. But it has very little fat and you use a lot of seasoning.” Why eat chips when you can have the next best thing: toasted corn?
The next time you can’t get that junk food craving out of your head, one of these healthy snacks are bound to do the job.