Friday, November 14, 2014

Beat Those Cravings!

One of the hardest things for me when I’m trying to diet is finding satisfying snacks. I don’t like fruits or vegetables, so crunching on a carrot stick or munching on frozen grapes is not going to do it for me. I have discovered a number of snacks that do satisfy me when I’m craving something unhealthy, so here are my top five suggestions for beating the munchies!

Craving crunchy?

I’m not much of a sweets snacker; I’m not even really a salty snacker much of the time. What I crave is something with a satisfying, crunchy mouth feel. For most people, a crisp apple or some celery would be a good substitute. For me, a handful of Kix cereal meets that need for crunch without adding lots of calories, fat, or sugar. At 110 calories for 1-1/4 cups, I can make a bowl last a long time by eating each faintly sweet, deliciously crunchy nugget one happy little sphere at a time. It takes long enough that by the time I eat the last one, my stomach has registered that I’ve eaten and I’m satisfied and content.

Craving sweet?

Although I’m not generally a sweets eater, every now and then I do get a craving for something sweet – particularly now, when my house is still full of my kids’ Halloween candy. And here’s where built-in portion control comes into play: A tiny Dum Dum lollipop is just enough to soothe that craving for sweet. As long as you can force yourself to lick it or suck on it instead of chewing it off the stick, the sweetness lasts a surprisingly long time. And at 25 calories a pop, you can even have two if that first one didn’t quite do the trick.

Craving salty?
Don’t just grab whatever variety of popcorn you have in your pantry, but if you look for light-butter varieties of microwave popcorn, you can eat a ridiculous amount of popcorn for not a lot of calories. Pop Secret Light Butter has 100 calories in FIVE CUPS. FIVE CUPS, people!! It does still have 4 grams of fat, so don’t go crazy with it – but personally, two cups of popcorn is plenty to satisfy my salty cravings. One package makes about 12 cups, so portion it out into 2-cup packages in zip-lok baggies and tuck the extras away for next time. Zap it for just a few seconds in the microwave to freshen it up and get that satisfying popcorn smell going on. And, like the Kix, don’t just cram handfuls of it into your mouth. Eat it one single kernel at a time and really savor each salty, crunchy, delicious bite.

Craving spicy?

Salsa verde has only 10 calories in 2 tablespoons! And unless you have a REALLY high tolerance for heat, 2 tablespoons goes a really long way. The difficulty, of course, is figuring out what to dip in the salsa verde that doesn’t add hundreds of calories. A 4” pita is 75 calories; slice it into two circles and pop into the toaster to make pita chips, or cut it into wedges for dipping. If there are a few veggies you don’t mind (especially when hidden under a layer of spicy salsa), a single red bell pepper is about 15-24 calories, an entire head of cauliflower is under 150 calories, and a cup of cucumber slices is only 16 calories, so those are pretty generous amounts of snack.

Craving chocolate?
This is a tough one. If it’s a pretty mild craving, you might be able to get past it with a glass of chocolate milk (about 200 calories in one cup, so go easy) or hot cocoa (under 150 calories – BUT NO MARSHMALLOWS OR WHIPPED CREAM!!!), or you can munch on an entire cup of Cocoa Puffs cereal for 120 calories. But if what you’re dying for is real chocolate, nothing else will do. So the trick here is portion control. 28 M&Ms are 142 calories; Hershey’s Kisses are 22 calories each; ¼ cup of chocolate chips is 200 calories. Don’t just open the bag and start munching – get out those zip-lok baggies again and portion out your servings ahead of time. One more trick – keep the chocolate in the freezer. Chocolate tastes much better at room temperature, so it’s easier to force yourself to wait a bit before digging in. Either your craving will subside and you can convince yourself to throw them back in the freezer, or they’ll taste that much better for having had to wait.

And one more bonus craving:

Craving a cocktail? 

This is a tough one for me. What I like about cocktails is not so much the alcohol, but the interesting flavors and flavor combinations. So I find that I’m not satisfied by ordinary flavored seltzers, like cranberry-lime or mandarin orange – but Polar has just come out with a line of seasonal seltzers in unusual flavors like fudge cheesecake, butter rum, and champagne strawberry, that are interesting and unusual enough to fill the cocktail void. I find the hint of sweetness with a hint of bitter in the background very satisfying in small servings – although at zero calories, I can drink the entire bottle if I need to. And the added benefit is that the liquid fills me up and takes the edge of my hunger, so it’s a perfect pre-meal treat to help curb my appetite and keep me happy with healthier portions of my meal.

And the best part of all of these snacks is that if you go to them instead of the “real thing” often enough, every now and then you get to splurge with the ACTUAL “real thing”!!!

Well, within reason, of course. 

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