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Healthy Fixes For Junk Food Cravings

It happens to the best of us: a handful of chips here, a cup of ice cream there and before you know it, you’ve fallen off the healthy eating wagon. Salty, sweet, crunchy snack foods are all around us and oh-so-tempting. And that temptation becomes even stronger when you’re trying to stick to a calorie-controlled menu. You simply can’t afford to waste calorie counts on calorie-dense foods that offer zero nutrition.
But not to worry, we’ve got some helpful suggestions for when those intense cravings strike. It’s time to update your shopping list – below are satisfying substitutions for the 5 most common junk food cravings:
When you Want a Slice of Pie / Cake / Pastry:

If baked confections are your calorie nemesis, try a few fruity swaps and sweet spices for similar texture and taste that you expect from a dessert.

  • Bake apples with cinnamon and instant oatmeal for a crispy apple pie fix.
  • Grill peaches coated with a sprinkle of brown sugar and vanilla extract, then serve with non-fat Greek yogurt or ricotta for a slimmer version of peaches and cream.
  • Broil grapefruit with grated ginger and a swirl of honey and add a crumbled graham cracker for crunch.

When You’re Screaming for Ice Cream:

Experiment with non-fat yogurts and fruit purees to find a sweet, frozen treat that quells the ice cream craze. Remember watch the sugar intake and use common-sense moderation.

  • Add a tablespoon of cocoa powder to a peeled & chopped frozen banana for an alternative to chocolate ice cream.
  • If you have an ice cream maker, try making avocado ice cream. You’ll still need to use milk or cream (plant or animal-sourced) and a small amount of sugar. (Note that avocados still pack a lot of calories, but they’re great for healthy fats.)
  • Freeze non-fat Greek yogurt and top with a drizzle of honey and fresh berries.

When You Just Want Something Fried:

The smell of fried foods can be hard to ignore, but you can re-create that flavor and crunchy drive at home.

  • Julienne or thinly slice sweet potatoes, carrots or green beans, then bake or air-fry them with a small amount of olive oil to make a more nutritious french fry. Experiment with seasonings to make them zesty (garlic powder, black pepper, parmesan cheese, cumin, etc.).
  • For chicken tenders, use whole-wheat flour, corn flakes or seed-bread crumbs with a small amount of milk or beer, and eggs with a light spray of oil to bake.
  • Air-fry kale or thinly-sliced brussels sprouts with light olive oil and spices.

When Cheese is Your Usual Go-To:

Oh, cheese. The downfall of many when the charcuterie plate goes around. But there are better and worse options if you’re looking to satisfy that craving.

  • Pair lower-calorie cheeses like parmesan, feta and goat cheese with fresh veggies.
  • Look to salsa, hummus or salad dressing for a cheese-like flavor for dipping veggies.
  • Try sprinkling nutritional yeast on pastas and salads for a similar flavor to parmesan toppings.

When A Crunchy Potato Chip is All You Can Think About:

Sometimes you just want something crunchy – potato crisps, crackers, tortilla chips. But you can get the same crunchy feel with some healthier substitutions.

  • Swap out tortilla chips for carrot chips or sticks, celery, or red pepper slices, etc. when serving salsa, guacamole or hummus for a mouth-happy crunch.
  • Air-fry or bake kale with olive oil and light salt for a green take on chips.
  • Seed crackers make a low-carb option for traditional crackers, and pack beneficial nutrients to boot.

Finally, give yourself some grace. You won’t wreck your diet or your body by indulging in a less nutritious snack every once in a while. Don’t deprive yourself of the food you love, but when you know you’ve had much too much, try one of the tips above to keep you from going overboard.

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