Sometimes hunger strikes with a vengeance, and dipping into that bag of salty chips in your pantry, or ordering a side of fries becomes difficult to resist.
“We all get cravings from time to time, but they usually occur when you skip a meal or eliminate a food group from your diet,” says Erica Eisenberg, Manhattan-based registered dietitian. No wonder your last attempt to eliminate carbs ended in a feast…of an entire loaf of bread.
But why do you crave salt, in particular? Scientists suggest that the desire for salt is instinctive: when you can’t keep your hand from diving into the Lays bag, your body may be telling you that it needs more sodium. Afterall, sodium plays a vital role in balancing fluids in your body. Plus, it facilitates proper nerve functioning and muscle contractions in your body.
That said, if you’re like most Americans, you probably consume more than enough sodium. While the recommended daily allowance for the mineral is between 1,500 to 2,300 mg a day, depending on your age and existing medical conditions, a single teaspoon of salt has a heaping 2,325 mg. Moreover, sodium is added to processed foods found in every aisle of the grocery store, even before they hit the shelves. Just check out the label of your favorite dairy products, deli meats, canned soups, breads, and condiments.
Still, there’s no place for reason when your mind is set on a salty snack. The thing is, salty foods are typically prepared with loads of excess fat. Meaning: while salt has no calories, indulging your salty craving could result in sucking down hundreds of calories from fat–a nutrient that’s not quite so satisfying when it ends up on your waist.
Luckily, there are plenty of guilt-free ways to trim the fat and still get the crunchy, salty flavor, no matter what food your taste buds are begging for.
You Crave: Potato chips
One serving of potato chips–just fifteen measly chips!–clocks in at around 160 calories and 10 grams of fat. But let’s get real. Once you pop open that bag–which typically holds ten servings–you’re probably going to finish it. (We’ve all been there.) Do the math — that’s 1,600 calories and 100 grams of fat!
Instead, try: Salted rice cakes. They weigh in at under 40 calories per cake with zero grams of fat. Unlike chips, they come in a clear sleeve. Meaning: it’s easier to see how much you’ve eaten, so you can stop yourself before you eat half the bag. The best way to avoid overeating a snack is to put your portion on a plate, and the the package away. But even if you do down half a package (not ideal, but slip-ups happen) you don’t have to beat yourself up: the snack will clock in at about 300 calories–that’s way less than that bag of greasy chips.
You Crave: Salted nuts
Admit it: salted nuts are completely addictive. Depending on the mix, about 25 pieces have nearly 170 calories. And while nuts are chock-full of the good kind of fat, they’re super-easy to overeat, which makes them a dangerous snack for most dieters.
Instead, try: Dry roasted wasabi edamame. One crunchy serving has 40 fewer calories than a serving of nuts, and more than twice as much fiber and protein, two nutrients known to fill you up and promote satiety. Measure out one serving (1/4 of a cup), and put the bag away before you begin munching. The spicy kick will prevent you from eating them by the handful, make the snack last longer, and put your salty tooth to rest.
You crave: Fast-food French fries
A medium order of McDonalds french fries has 390 calories and 19 grams of fat. And that doesn’t begin to account for the caloric damage done by the rest of your fast-food meal!
Instead, try: Homemade no-fry “fries”. A medium white potato has about 130 calories. (So yep, the rest of the calories in your fast-food fries come from fat used for deep frying.) Luckily, you can have your fries and eat ’em too–just make them yourself! Slice a potato into fry-shaped pieces (check out this instructional video to keep your fingers intact: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-6E-qv9oic). Then, lay the fries on a foil-covered cookie sheet with a little non-stick cooking spray and a sprinkle of salt, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20-30 minutes or until crisp and browned, shaking the pan to turn the fries every 10 minutes or so.
You Crave: Butter popcorn
Depending on the movie theater, a small bag of popcorn can range from 400 to 670 calories, according to 2009 data collected by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. And that’s without adding any butter.
Instead, try: Air-popped popcorn. At about 31 calories and less than half a gram of fat per cup, air-popped popcorn is a way better bargain, and guilt-free when you make it yourself. Pop five cups, top with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, butter sprinkles, salt, or a few spritzes of some spray butter. Voila: all the crunch, all the flavor, all for less than 200 calories. And if you don’t own an air-popper? Pick up a package of light snack-sized or 100-calorie microwave popcorn. You can doggie-bag either option to bring with you to the theater.
Author: The Editors of Fit Journey