19 Healthiest Foods to Stop Your Cravings, According to RDs
If you find yourself battling food cravings, you're not alone. Food cravings are an everyday occurrence for many of us, and they can happen for multiple different reasons.
"There are a number of things that can influence cravings such as hormones, lack of sleep, and even hydration status," says Amber Pankonin MS, RD, LMNT, registered dietitian and owner of Stirlist. "I also have found that when people are super restrictive with their diets or cut out entire food groups, they tend to crave foods they miss. [As a result, they] then binge on high-calorie foods, which can lead to feelings of guilt and shame."
Another reason behind your cravings is stress. "The primary stress hormone is cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite. And while stress may go away (as it may be just temporary), your cortisol levels will then typically lower as well," says Amy Kimberlain, RDN, CDCES, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "However, if stress persists and is more of a long-term stress, the cortisol levels may stay elevated as well, again, playing a direct role in our appetite and the foods that we gravitate towards."
And this year especially, you might be experiencing more cravings than normal. "Another reason why people gravitate toward 'cravings/an appetite for junk' is because food can satisfy an emotional need – we find comfort in food at times (hello, pandemic!) The key is finding other ways to find comfort and not rely on food as our sole source," adds Kimberlain.
By eating certain foods, you can help yourself fend off cravings and ultimately achieve your health and weight loss goals. Here are 19 foods to help you. Read on, and for more on how to lose weight, you won't want to miss The Best Ways to Lose Belly Fat for Good, Say Doctors.
"Fats in general play a role in keeping us fuller longer (satiation). They're also satisfying because they give flavor to food and ultimately make food taste good. Avocados are great by themselves (and combined with other foods too), but because they are high in fat (healthy plant-based fats) they help to sustain you by keeping you fuller longer as well as having minimal effect on blood sugar," says Kimberlain. "Avocados also are high in fiber. Fiber additionally can help people be satiated for a longer period of time as well as stabilizing blood sugar levels."
"There's nothing more satisfying on a cold morning than eating a warm bowl of oatmeal. A bowl of oats can help sap cravings thanks to it being high in fiber and protein. Fiber and protein together are very filling," says Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a Las Vegas based Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Foods containing fiber are typically digested slowly over time, slowly providing our body with energy over time and a person likely will not experience high or lows to their blood sugar which may cause cravings as well. Protein-rich foods contribute to feelings of satiety thanks to it reducing your hunger hormone ghrelin. Oats can be prepared in many different ways: warm oatmeal, overnight oats, granola. Oats can also be used instead of breadcrumbs in recipes or added to smoothies, used in baked goods or thrown into batters." For more, don't miss What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Oatmeal.
Trail mix blends
"Trail mix can be a healthy snack that can make you feel full, keep your appetite at bay until the next meal, and satisfy your sweet snack cravings. The main ingredients to look for in trail mix blends are the ones with a variety of nuts and fruits which are good sources of fiber!" says registered dietitian Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition, and spokesperson for New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Creating your own trail mix blend allows you to control the amount of sodium and calories to put into it. You can also use this time to include your favorite chocolate or sweet pieces (but to a lesser portion) which is a great way to blend your cravings in a controlled and healthier way! Who said you can't have your sweets/junk food cravings at all?" If you're more into buy than DIY, Valdez recommends Planters NUT-rition (Omega-3 Mix), Seed and Fruit Mix Mountain Mambo by Enjoy Life, and Harvest Blend by Back to Nature Plat Based Snacks.
"I love grapes because they're naturally sweet without being a source of added sugar. They are also a source of hydration and fiber, making them more filling compared to other snacks," says Pankonin. "And freezing them makes a great treat to enjoy when it's hot outside and they take a bit of effort to enjoy due to the cold temperature."
Dark leafy greens (kale or spinach)
"Dark leafy greens are loaded with nutrition! They contain vitamin A (needed for eye health), vitamin K (helps protect bone health and promotes blood flow), vitamin C (a powerful antioxidant that supports a healthy and strong immune system), vitamin E (a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant), folate (B vitamin important for blow flow and prevent birth defects), potassium (more potassium than a banana), fiber (fill you up and important for healthy gut function) and contain a few grams of protein too!" says Ehsani. (What dont' they have?!)
"Although there is little evidence to support the idea that when a person experiences a craving it must mean they are deficient in that nutrient, incorporating dark leafy greens into a person's diet guarantees a person is nourishing their body with nutrient-dense foods. Greens are so versatile; you can eat them in any form to get the nutrition from: fresh, frozen, cooked, or eat them raw. You can add them to smoothies, you can add them to any dish, soups, stews, chili, stir-fry, stuff the greens into a sandwich or quesadilla." How about trying them in any of the 53 Best-Ever Breakfast Smoothies For Weight Loss?
"We can't forget the simple and classic snack, popcorn! Popcorn when done right, can help you with cravings and make you feel full. Like the food items above, popcorn is a good source of fiber, which helps with making you feel full and control that appetite until the next meal. Additionally, popcorn can also be revamped for a more satisfying snack, like trail mix to help you with cravings," says Genki. "To help with sweet cravings, you can try a light coating of cinnamon sugar powder, or add some pieces of sweet treats such as roughly chopped Twix, M&Ms, dark chocolate chips, Snow Caps, Raisinets, or your favorite sweet snacks. The most important thing to remember when adding these food items is to try keeping it at a minimum, and not let it be the main ingredient of your snack! A serving of plain popcorn provides about 3.6 grams of fiber. A serving is about 3 cups of air-popped popcorn or 1 ounce-equivalent."
Fruit and Nut/Nut Butters
"I love this combo, carbs and protein/healthy fats, because there are so many different combinations, i.e., peanut butter and apple, almond butter and banana, mixed berries and mixed nuts, cherries and pistachios, and so on," says Kimberlain. "By combining the carbs with the protein, it helps to sustain and keep energy levels up – whereas if you only had the fruit you'd be hungry sooner as well as possibly have that feeling of a 'craving' – you had the fruit and that elevated your blood sugar, so it wants that same response. Whereas if we combine the carbs with the protein and fats this helps to stabilize the blood sugar and help offset any spikes in blood sugar, which ultimately helps to alleviate any possible 'cravings'." For more ideas, check out 15 Best Snack Combos That Double Weight Loss.
Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and peanuts
"Nuts are packed with nutrients including monounsaturated fats which are great for heart health and can help contribute to fullness," says Pankonin. "They're also a good source of fiber, which can keep you fuller longer. Plus, they're an easy snack for busy people."
"I like to call chia seeds 'nutrition sprinkles,' because they are loading with nutrition and you can sprinkle them on just about anything! A bag may run you $5; however, you only need to incorporate 1-2 tablespoon a day to get its health benefits. Chia seeds contain omega-3s, a fat most people don't get in enough of. Omega 3s can help reduce inflammation in the body and help support brain health," says Ehsani. "They also contain a few grams of fiber and protein, which both contribute to filling you up for longer. They are super versatile, you can add them to beverages, smoothies, salads, soups, stir-fries, on top of toast. You can even use them to make chia seed pudding or chia jam. Chia seeds may help curb cravings thanks to its nutrient-dense profile and containing both fiber and protein which are filling."
"Are you looking for the perfect savory snack but a healthier one? The Crunchy Chickpeas Chipotle by Saffron Road is a great way to satisfy this craving, and it may also satisfy your appetite with its high-fiber and good protein source! One serving (¼ cup) has 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, with only 170 mg of sodium and 0 trans and saturated fat!" says Genki. "In addition to the fiber's ability to help with appetite control and feelings of fullness, snacks higher in protein have satiety effects better than snacks with higher fat and carbohydrate. The next time you grab a snack to satisfy your hunger and keep your cravings at bay, look for the protein content on the food label, and you can try this snack as an alternative to potato chips!" For more ideas, check out 25 Best Store-Bought High-Protein Snacks.
"Dates are a high fiber snack and can be combined with different foods like peanut butter or cheese, which are also filling foods," says Pankonin. "They are a tasty sweet snack, high in fiber, and pack a punch of antioxidants."
Veggies (non-starchy) and hummus
"Fiber, fiber, fiber! Fiber plays such a critical role in our bodies (bowel movements, reducing cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, keeping blood sugar levels stable, etc.) and we need to eat more! By increasing our fiber in our overall diet, this helps to keep us fuller longer," says Kimberlain. "Vegetables by themselves won't fill you up but combine them with a lean protein and healthy fat by way of the beans (in a hummus form) and this is a perfect combo! Additionally, this combo doesn't elevate a blood sugar level—so there's no issue with a sudden spike (and then quick fall) that can affect one's food choices."
"Raspberries are high in fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants! One cup of raspberries provides 8 grams of fiber! It also contains a high amount of vitamin C (antioxidant supports a healthy and strong immune system) and smaller amounts of potassium, iron, and calcium," says Ehsani. "While typically only a summer fruit, you can still enjoy raspberries during the winter months by getting them frozen and adding them to your smoothies, yogurt, oats. They are deliciously sweet!"
Low Sodium Cottage Cheese
"Cottage cheese combined with fruit or served with crackers can be a really satisfying snack especially if you're craving something salty without being high in fat and calories. Cottage cheese is also a good source of protein, which can help with satiety," shares Pankonin.
"Beans are filled with protein and fiber. Sometimes I'll combine beans and make a three-bean salad, sometimes I'll roast chickpeas, and sometimes I have beans as a bean 'burger' so there are different ways that you can consume beans," says Kimberlain. "Beans contain lean protein, carbs, and fiber. This combo goes back to stable blood sugar levels – which is important to offset any sudden surges and falls – and this truly helps by maintaining a stable blood sugar to help offset any 'cravings' that can occur."
"Most people struggle to meet their fluid needs each day. When this happens, we may think we are hungry when in reality we might just be thirsty. Watermelon is 92% water. Thanks to watermelon being so high in water, it not only can help us meet our daily fluid needs but also is a deliciously refreshing and sweet fruit that may help curb any type of sweet craving we are experiencing," says Ehsani. "Watermelon is low in calories and high in nutrition. For 2 cups of watermelon, it provides 80 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrates,1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein. It also contains vitamin A, C, and lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. High water foods like watermelon also tend to fill up our gut, which helps with satiety and may prevent us from experiencing cravings as well."
"Even though portion size matters, enjoying a small portion of dark chocolate can be really satisfying," says Pankonin. "Not only is the flavor and texture super satisfying, but it also provides nutrients like magnesium and iron which can impact energy levels."
Whole grain crackers with nut butter
"Whole grain (carb with fiber) and lean protein and healthy fat – the ultimate combination of all the nutrients," says Kimberlain. "This again keeps you fuller longer, sustains you as well as maintains your blood sugar level – all things we want in helping to offset possible 'cravings'."
"Incorporating healthy fats like olive oil, into your diet can help keep you full for longer and more satisfied. Fats promote satiety because they take longer to digest so will help keep you full for hours. Adding fats to your salad will also help you absorb those fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin D, E, K, and A) found in those vegetables," says Ehsani. "When you pour fat-free salad dressing onto your greens and veggies you miss out on absorbing all the nutrients found in those veggies, so don't skip out on the fats!" You'll especially be sure to stock up on this oil when you read What Happens To Your Body When You Eat Olive Oil.