Saturday, 2 August 2014

Coping with snack cravings: How to trick your tastebuds into satisfying that craving without blowing the energy budget

We've all felt the tug of a craving from that irresistible snack. "Just one", you tell yourself; "I've had a rough day- I need a pick-me-up", your emotions beckon, or; "but I've eaten so healthily all day!". We try to rationalise our cravings, but the truth is, there just really is no good reason to devour an entire block of chocolate or crunch through a whole bag of chips. But that doesn't make it any less difficult to stop ourselves when those thoughts sneak into our heads!

When it comes to weight loss, or following any kind of healthy eating habits, really, the difficult part is convincing your brain that it DOESN'T need another can of soft drink or handful of sticky, coated beer nuts. Because brains are powerful things. And willpower actually requires both will and power (who'd have thought?).

As a Dietitian, I always talk about eating in moderation. I would never tell anyone they must give up all of their treat foods, because a) that is not very realistic and b) who wants to live life without ever having a piece of birthday cake? Certainly not me. And, I mean, who is really going to be satisfied with a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit when it's chocolate they're craving? It's more about enjoying your favourite foods in smaller amounts and less often (hence the premise of 'treat'). But sometimes it isn't as easy as that. A lot of my clients tell me they'd rather cut it out altogether as they can't stop at one. So, for those of you who struggle with moderation, here are my top tips for coping with snack cravings, plus some snack alternatives to satisfy what you're really craving (salty? creamy? chocolatey?) without the guilt!

Jessie couldn't decide whether she felt like
salty, sweet, or both!
My top tips for coping with snack cravings:
  • Set mini goals for yourself, such as cutting back on having soft drink twice per day to once per day, then once every two days, etc.
  • Store ‘treat’ foods in an opaque container at the back of the pantry (out of sight, out of mind).
  • Make a decision to only buy your craved food once a month so it becomes a sometimes food. Or, if it works better for you, avoid buying it altogether and only eat it when out for a special occasion.
  • Have a drink, chew some gum, go for a walk, or make a phone call before committing to satisfying your craving. It will often go away if your mind is occupied with something else.
  • Practice mindful eating- eat slowly and savour your food and you’ll find you are satisfied with less.
  • Never sit down with a whole packet of biscuits or block of chocolate. Portion out a serve, and then put the packet away.
  •  If you’re a late night snacker, make it a habit that you don’t eat after 8pm, for example, and signal the end of food by brushing your teeth.

When you're resorting to the cooking chocolate,
you know times are desperate!

      Craving something sweet?
      Try: 1 slice wholegrain raisin toast (e.g. Burgen fruit & muesli bread) with a thin spread of table spread or small fruit based muffin made with wholemeal flour and added seeds

Craving something salty?
Try: 1 piece rye mountain bread or ½ cup thinly sliced potato, sweet potato, parsnip, carrot or beetroot, sprayed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with garlic and oregano, cut into squares and baked in the oven or 2 wholegrain crackers (such as Vita-Weats) topped with 1 slice of reduced fat cheddar cheese and ½ tomato, sliced

Craving something crunchy?
Try: 2 cups air-popped popcorn plain or sprinkled with Mexican chilli powder or 1 handful of bite-sized wholegrain crackers (such as Tucker’s Multifibre Snacks Quinoa) plain or dipped into a tomato salsa

Craving something chocolatey?
Try: 1 small glass of skim milk with 2 tsp drinking chocolate (such as Milo or Vitarium sugar-free) or 2 chocolate date balls made by processing dates, cocoa powder, LSA or almond meal, coconut and chopped nuts and coating in more cocoa powder

Craving something nutty?
Try: ½ sliced apple spread with 1 Tbsp natural (no added salt or sugar) peanut (or other nut) butter or 1 small handful trail mix made of raw unsalted mixed nuts, dried fruit and seeds

Craving something creamy?
Try: 100g reduced fat ricotta (sweetened with vanilla, cinnamon and a little icing sugar) with ½ punnet of strawberries or 200g tub reduced fat natural or Greek yoghurt (e.g. Yoplait Forme Greek)

Craving something refreshing?
Try: 1 glass of ice cold still or sparkling water with a slice of lemon and few leaves of mint or ¾ cup frozen grapes 

Craving something warm & comforting?
Try: 1 sachet plain quick oats with ½ a grated apple and ½ tsp cinnamon or 1 cup vegetable soup (e.g. Heinz classic creamy pumpkin) 

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