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Snacking, when it’s done right, serves several purposes. A nutritious, balanced snack can help keep you energised between meals.
Susan Bowerman, the senior director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, says 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” says Bowerman.
For most of us it’s too easy to find a corner store, a vending machine or even our own kitchen cupboards to satisfy our cravings with foods that are loaded with fat, salt or sugar.
Here are suggestions for nutritious snacks that can satisfy your cravings.
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 kilojoule cost, which is counterproductive if you’re trying to manage your weight or maintain a healthy weight.
Here are Bowerman’s tips on how 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 running grapefruit or orange halves under the broiler, roasting peaches or pineapple in the oven, or cooking sliced apples or plums with a spicy-sweet cinnamon or nutmeg until tender.
Adjusting your morning coffee
In today’s market, many coffee beverages include sugar, fat and kilojoules, which can offset the benefits of caffeine, such as alertness and a feeling of increased energy. If you have a sweet tooth or can’t stand black coffee, go with a latte but have it made with non-fat or low-fat milk. Add a 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 2g of sugar per serving.
Chocolate shake mix
If you’re on a weight loss journey, consider using chocolate-flavoured protein powder in your shake mix 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 non-fat yoghurt 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 savoury 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 relieves tension.
Here are some healthier alternatives that could satisfy that salt-fat craving:
Biltong is lean meat that is salted and dried into a chewy, high protein snack. It can also be made from poultry and there are vegetarian and vegan versions, too. Their chewy texture satisfies the craving for crunch, and the protein content can also help curb hunger.
Cottage cheese dip
Whirl non-fat 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 to 15 minutes at 180ºC, turning occasionally until the edges are brown.
After popping, dust with a little low-fat Parmesan cheese or chilli powder to satisfy that craving.