Study shows: Taking on one kind of craving at a time may help you eat less.
Who knew: If you approach one craving at a time (salty, sweet, crunch, creamy), you're less likely to overeat. That's because we tend to take in more when we taste different flavors, compared to when we have a single one. So processed foods, which tend to combine lots of flavors (like sugar and salt) or textures, are essentially priming your brain to pig out. Our advice? Stick to healthy snacks that are about 100 to 200 calories with 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates, like the options on the next pages.
Sweet: Greek yogurt with berries
gsk2014/ShutterstockWhen you're looking for an energy-boosting snack that will also tame a sweet tooth, Greek yogurt is a sure and easy bet. "Greek yogurt offers a thicker and creamier texture with a tart taste, and has more protein compared to regular yogurt," says Kathryn Cottell, registered dietitian nutritionist for Stony Brook Medicine. "It also helps you stay full for longer, since it's packed with protein, and also contains probiotics, calcium, antioxidants, and fiber that are good for your gut." For an added antioxidant boost, toss in a cup of berries. "Blueberries contain less sugar than most berries, but packs 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of manganese, a mineral that helps regulate blood sugar, heal the skin, and maintain bone health," says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Feed the Belly and Eating in Color. Or try one of these ten healthy toppings for Greek yogurt.
Sweet: Dark chocolate
tanjichica/ShutterstockChocolate is everyone's favorite treat, but it also has some serious health benefits, especially darker chocolate. "Dark chocolate contains heart-protective flavonols, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke," explains Largeman-Roth. "It may also aid in keeping your skin hydrated and your brain sharp." Look for brands that contain at least 70 percent cacao, the bean-like seed from which cocoa, cocoa butter, and chocolate are made. Typically, the higher the percentage of cacao, the less added sugar. Stick to a 1-ounce (often 100 calorie) serving.
Sweet: Energy balls
Vladyslav Rasulov/ShutterstockIf you're into DIY-ing your favorite Pinterest recipes, this sweet fix is for you. Not only are energy balls the perfect healthy snack, but most recipes call for a nutritious combination of protein, carbs, and healthy fats. "Energy balls are a great way to pack plenty of nutrients into small, portioned packages" says Largeman-Roth. Her go-to recipe for the Ultimate Power Balls calls for dried plums, puffed millet, puffed rice, chocolate chips, sesame seeds, SunButter, and honey. "You just mix it all together, chill the mixture, then roll it into balls and coat with unsweetened shredded coconut," she says."Each one is plenty sweet, but has only 86 calories, one gram of fiber, and some calcium." Sounds like the perfect thing to grab before a morning run or power walk. Check out these tasty recipes for these homemade energy bars.
Sweet: Pomegranate juice
Haiduchyk Aliaksei/ShutterstockWhen you are craving a sip of something sweet, try your best to avoid the sodas and juice drinks that contain large amounts of added sugars and artificial ingredients. Instead, grab POM 100 percent Pomegranate juice, suggests Palinski-Wade. "In every 8-ounce bottle, POM contains the juice of two whole pomegranates without all of the work opening one." Plus, it provides a good source of potassium. Pour a splash into a glass of seltzer for a bubbly treat.
Salty: Roasted edamame
D Pimborough/ShutterstockThese green pods are packed with energy-boosting nutrients including protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and amino acids without a lot of fat or sugar. Edamame's vitamins and mineral list is even more impressive—calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, folate, riboflavin, vitamins C, E, and B6 to name a handful. It has a savory, nutty flavor, so when you add a sprinkle of salt it's a quite satiating, as well as filling. "A one-quarter cup serving of roasted edamame has only 130 calories and provides 8 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein," says Keri Gans, RD, New York City-based nutritionist and author of The Small Change Diet. "The combination of the fiber and protein will keep you full until your next meal."
volartman/ShutterstockNuts, including almonds and pistachios, not only satisfy your cravings for salt, but they're packed with heart-healthy fats and energy-boosting protein, which both keep you full for longer. "The potassium content in almonds goes a long way in helping offset the impact of the added sodium from the salt," says Palinski-Wade. Pistachios are another great choice. "You can eat one-fourth cup of shelled pistachios for just 160 calories and still get 6 grams protein, 3 grams fiber, and 310 milligrams of potassium, which is important for your heart and other muscles," says Largeman-Roth. And don't feel the need to stick to just one variety. Research shows that regularly eating a mix of nuts could help you live longer. Find out the other foods that help to naturally lower your cholesterol.
Air Images/ShutterstockWith a meaty texture, this fruit (yes, fruit!) really delivers savory satisfaction. "The fat in olives and olive oil is mostly heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which can help lower blood pressure and also lower LDL (bad) cholesterol," explains Largeman-Roth. "Olives also contain various phytonutrients, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties." However, you choose to enjoy them—as is or tossed on a salad—olives are the perfect salt fix in a snap because they're good for portion control. If you're looking for a pre-packaged variety, try Pearls Kalamata Olives to Go, suggests Gorin. "They come in little packs of about nine olives!"
marcin jucha/ShutterstockWith just 16 calories per cup, you just can't go wrong with enjoying a good old pickle as a quick snack. Pickles are essentially cucumbers that have been saturated and brined in vinegar. While the vinegar alone adds only one calorie per teaspoon, it packs a ton of flavor (in addition to some relatively high amounts of sodium). "Aside from their sodium count, pickles are great at stopping salt cravings in their tracks," says Gans. "And the beauty of a pickle is that there are practically no calories, so if you end up having more than one, no big deal." Plus they are loaded with probiotics.
Salty and sweet: Watermelon and feta cheese
Jan Wischnewski/ShutterstockJust one cup diced watermelon served with one to two ounces of feta cheese can seriously help satisfy the sweet and salty craving. "Not only does this snack contain vitamins, minerals, and protein, but the flavor combination of the crisp, fresh watermelon and the salty feta offers a nice balance of that salty-sweet mix," says Cottell. "Watermelon is a refreshing, low-calorie juicy fruit that provides a sweet flavor and is a good source of vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene." For an extra boost of flavor, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze and sprinkle with chopped basil or arugula.