We all have days when we want to grab something to eat, but we’re not hungry. Cravings happen just about anytime of day, provoked by more than just a menstrual cycle. Stress, hormones and what ate earlier in the day or even the day before can trigger cravings. It’s common!
So if you know you’re going to indulge in something – make it good, and don’t feel bad and about it. If you want to prioritize your diet – and I hope you do – the 16 healthy snacks I laid out – whether you’re craving sweet, salt or straight up protein!
I gotcha covered.
You might be able to guess that I’m not going to suggest that you eat a big bag of chips or down a pint of ice cream tonight, but all of these foods will hit the spot when it comes to cravings.
Before you dig in, here are a few starter tips:
- Drink water the second you feel cravings set in. Having a glass of water will not only do you body good in the hydration department, but you’ll also help to dial down cravings a little bit.
- Wait 10 minutes. Sometimes we want to eat something out of an emotional reaction. If you’ve been triggered to eat something, have that glass of water, walk out of the kitchen or away from the vending machine for a few minutes.
- Set your limits. Snacks are not the enemy. But if your craving for chocolate suddenly put you not the path to eating two candy bars on your way home from work, you’ll regret it.
When You’re Not Hungry But Want to Eat
Over the years I’ve had many, many clients who ate because they were stressed, bored or triggered by something else. Money, relationships and bad habits you’ve never been able to kick all play a part in cravings.
Another factor that causes cravings is your diet!
If you find that you’re craving food at the same time everyday, regardless of where you are (work, home, traveling), do a diet rewind on what you ate earlier that day.
Cravings earlier in the day, especially before lunch, are sometimes a sign that what you ate the night before was either a) too much food, or b) too sugary!
We all think we can erase a bad day of eating with a good night of sleep. But our body, especially our hormones, have a great memory! If you eat something super high in sugar the night before you go to sleep and wake up with uncontrollable cravings, diet is definitely a factor.
Crazy Cravings vs Normal Hunger
Before you dig into one of these healthy and delicious snacks, let’s get a couple things straight:
1 – Everyone has crazy cravings, including me.
Every once in a while, I have to have chocolate. Sometimes a big triangle of brie just sits there calling my name. I’m not really hungry when I get these cravings, but they’re infrequent enough that I let myself eat them.
Crazy cravings don’t make me crazy. And they don’t make you crazy.
But if you have crazy cravings every single day – it’s a problem, and there is no way around that.
What you need to do is figure out why you’re experiencing cravings.
- Are you craving sugar?
- Are your blood sugar levels out of control?
- Are you sleeping enough?
- Are you drinking too much caffeine?
- Did you eat a breakfast with too much refined carbohydrates or sugar?
- Did you eat too heavy or too much sugar before bedtime?
All of these things can trigger crazy cravings and lead to belly fat.
2 – Crazy cravings are not true hunger
I remember a simple statement a nutrition professor gave to our class years ago. He said, “If you find that you have a client that’s going to the kitchen after dinner – and opening then closing the refrigerator door again and again because they just want something to eat – their diet is lacking healthy fat and protein.”
Now, this isn’t rocket science, and the statement is really basic. But sometimes the greatest mysteries and the things that bother us most are solved by looking at the most basic things.
Usually when people want to eat when they’re not hungry, it’s because they’re lacking something in their diet.
- Your meals may not be getting enough protein – different people have different requirements
- You may be lacking healthier forms of fat – a lack of healthy fat affects hunger, and so much more through our body
It’s going to be up to you to get your arms around your cravings if they happen daily or a few times a week. BUT if your cravings are only once every great while – don’t worry about it! Eat the fries, enjoy that cookie, have a scoop of ice cream.
If you want to stay true to your awesome body, then here are 15 tried and true snacks.
Snacks for When You Crave Something Sweet
If you love dark chocolate, dark chocolate will love you back. Filled with antioxidants and phytonutrients, dark chocolate can help boost your mood and keep your body healthy.
It’s also no coincidence that chocolate falls in the #1 spot on the list of foods for when you’re not hungry but want to eat. Who doesn’t love chocolate?
- Have 2 squares a day
- Make sure it’s at least 60% cocoa. The darker, the better!
- Avoid milk chocolate. It’s loaded with sugar and really has no body benefits
Hot Cocoa (TDM-style)
Sometimes you don’t want to eat something, but drinking a hot chocolatey drink sounds good! This is my take on a healthy hot chocolate. Pick up a really good cocoa powder and follow the recipe below.
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Guittard), + 1 1/2 c. milk (unsweetened cow, almond, rice, hemp) + 1 packet of stevia
- Heat over the stove, stirring constantly
- Adding an artificial sweetener drops this drink from healthy to unhealthy. So try to avoid them!
Frozen Banana Nut Butter Sandwiches
Pop this prepared snack into your freezer and come back to it anytime you feel like you want something kind of sweet. One bite goes a long way!
- 1 sliced banana + 2 tbsp nut butter
- Add too a freezer-friendly container
- Pull out three or four to enjoy when you have a craving!
Dressed Up Plain Yogurt
If you’re an Apple Type Body Shape, this should be your go-to snack. Make sure you pick up full fat plain yogurt with no sugar added, the just dress it up on your own with cinnamon, nutmeg, a few berries or a little bit of stevia.
Plain full fat yogurt is a great source of fat and protein. Not to mention some brands are still a good source of beneficial bacteria to keep your gut healthy and happy.
An Apple + Almond Butter Mash Up
Apple and nut butter are kind of a match made in heaven. You get fiber, protein, fat, healthy carbs…what could be better? Always opt for a no-sugar added nut butter.
- 1/2 apple + 1 tbsp almond butter
- Option to douse in cinnamon
What do do with the other half of the apple? Pour a little lemon juice over it to keep it from browning and stick in the fridge.
Berries – Any kind. Anytime.
If you’ve read The Belly Burn Plan, you’ll see I’ve included berries quite generously in all four of the 6-week meal plans…because they’re so good for you. Sometimes a big cup of berries, with all the nutrients, including fiber and vitamin C, are all you need until it’s time for you next meal.
Snacks for When You Crave Something Salty
Air Popped Popcorn with Coconut Oil + a Dash of Sea Salt
True story – I’ve owned 2 air poppers in my life. The first I bought when I was a sophomore in college and used until it died. And the second I’ve used since that one died a few years ago. The moral of the story: popcorn poppers are tanks.
And since we’re being honest about our crazy cravings, there was a point in my life not so long ago that I ate this style of popcorn after dinner for probably 2 years. It started when I was very pregnant while my first child and ended when I was pregnant with my second child. That’s a lot of popcorn.
- Add a little popcorn to the air popper (this is the air popper I have)
- Drizzle with coconut oil and sprinkle sea salt
- Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils for your body
- If you’re on a grain-free diet, popcorn may not be right for you
Refried Beans + 1 Corn Tortilla
Sometimes you just have to snack on something that feels more like a mini-meal. This little concoction is just that. Refried beans are a great source of fiber and a decent source of protein.
- Slather 1 – 2 tablespoons of refried beans onto a corn tortilla
- Pop into the microwave for 20 – 30 seconds
- Enjoy just about any time of the day
Lettuce wraps are always great when you want to eat something fresh without eating too much. You don’t have to make anything fancy with a lettuce wrap, but treat it like you would a tortilla, adding anything you’d like. Here are a few suggestions:
- Lettuce wraps + a couple piece of roasted chicken
- Lettuce wrap + cucumber + hummus
- Lettuce wrap + cheese + sliced turkey
- Lettuce wrap + mayo + sliced hard boiled egg
- Lettuce wrap + leftover ground turkey
Hummus and Veggies
Don’t bother with the store-bought hummus, when you can make your own at home with a few simple pantry ingredients. I swear, this is the best hummus recipe…and quite possibly the easiest, clocking a cool 5 minutes to make. Get your blender ready, because here’s my recipe for homemade hummus.
Before you reach for the crackers or pita, start by paring your hummus with any of the following veggies:
Olives are a great snack on their own. A little on the salty side and full of healthy monounsaturated fats you heart loves, just about any variety of olives works.
One serving is about 10 olives and about 145 calories.
Olives contains one of my favorite nutrients called quercetin. Quercetin-rich foods have been shown to help your heart out by lowering blood pressure!
Snacks for When You Just Need Protein
Did you read that I mentioned one of the reasons people have cravings is because of a lack healthy fat? Well, fortunately you’ve got pumpkin seeds to help you out in that department.
Snack on a handful of pumpkin seeds the next time you want something salty, crunchy and portable. Keep a bag in your car, office or cupboard for a quick fix of healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, a little bit of fiber and plenty of protein (7 grams per ounce!)
If you’ve got chickpeas, olive oil and a little sea salt at home, you can whip up your own roasted chickpeas and store them in your refrigerator or on your countertop the next time you want a high fiber snack with a decent amount of protein.
Here’s my recipe for slightly spicy crispy chickpeas. Feel free to leave the spice out to suit your flavor.
One can of chickpeas yields about six servings, so you’ve got enough to last you for a couple days of healthy snacking!
Hard Boiled Eggs
Hard boiled eggs are always a great stand by for any snack list. Boil a half dozen or so when you’re doing your meal prep over the weekend. Do yourself a favor and peel them right away so you save yourself the burden of having to do it when you need to eat something ASAP.
Try adding one of these to your next hard boiled egg snack:
- Sea salt
- Cayenne pepper
- Black pepper
- A little mayo
- Dehydrated onion powder
A Snack-Size Protein Shake
This is the more processed of the recommendations, but definitely on the healthier side and one you should have as an option if you like to gran a quick protein shake, but don’t have time to pull out the blender or find a blender bottle.
My favorite protein mix is Orgain. I like the chocolate variety and prefer this over other brands because I like the flavor and that it doesn’t contain any whey protein, which doesn’t always digest well for people, and it doesn’t contain any soy – which is horrendous all around.
A Big Tablespoon of Nut Butter
Finally, rounding out the list of “what you should eat when you’re not hungry but you want to eat” is nut butter.
Take no shame in pulling out a spoon and getting a big dollop of nut butter. My preference is always almond butter, but if you’re more of a peanut, cashew or sun butter kinda gal or guy, go for it.
Take note of any added sugars and buy a brand that has as few ingredients as possible.
This list could grow! What about you? Do you have any suggestions of healthy snacks to eat – especially when you know you’re not hungry but just need to eat something?
I’d love to hear from you so, please leave a comment below.
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