18 healthy foods to eat when cravings strike
Many people get the urge to eat unhealthy foods, especially when they're on a diet.
In fact, it's thought that around 50% of people regularly experience food cravings, which can derail their attempts to eat healthy (1).
However, some healthy foods feel quite indulgent. This article details 18 healthy foods that can satisfy your urge to eat without sabotaging your diet (2).
1. Fresh Fruit
Fruit is naturally very sweet and a great choice when you get a sugar craving.
One 2015 review found that eating 300 grams (or 4 servings) of fruit per day reduced the risk of heart disease by 16% (7).
To make your fruit feel more like a treat, try dipping it in a little dark chocolate or making a mixed fruit bowl.
2. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt tastes creamy and indulgent, but it's also really healthy.
It's higher in protein and lower in sugar than regular yogurt, and it's a good source of calcium, B vitamins and beneficial bacteria.
Moreover, topping your Greek yogurt with fruit may provide additional health benefits and nutrients (10).
3. A Hot Drink
If you're trying to watch your calorie intake, try making yourself a hot drink.
Drinking a hot coffee, tea or espresso after a meal can help you avoid the temptation of dessert.
It can also satisfy the need to do something, further helping you distance yourself from a craving.
Coffee can even increase the amount of a fullness hormone called peptide YY (11).
4. Snack Bar
Although many snack bars are high-sugar junk foods, it's possible to find or make healthy ones that can add lots of beneficial nutrients to your diet.
When choosing a snack bar, look for one that's minimally processed and contains whole foods like fruit or oats.
Also, check the label to make sure it doesn't contain any added sugars like table sugar, coconut sugar or sugar syrups.
If you're confused by nutrition labels and aren't sure which bars are suitable, you could try making your own snack bar.
5. Dark Chocolate
If you are craving chocolate, you can try swapping your regular milk chocolate for a small amount of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate that is made with at least 70% cocoa is not only delicious, but it also contains a high amount of antioxidants.
However, you'll still need to watch your portion size. While small amounts have been linked to health benefits, larger amounts will add a lot of sugar to your diet and may not have the same protective effects (16).
Stick to a small square or two to satisfy your craving.
6. Fruit and Nut Butter
Fruit dipped in nut butter is a delicious snack that's popular among health conscious people.
Eating a small amount of nut butter with fruit can be the perfect way to satisfy a craving for a sweet and crunchy treat.
However, on its own, nut butter can be very easy to overeat.
To make sure your snack is as healthy as possible, watch your portion size and choose a nut butter that contains only nuts (and perhaps a bit of salt).
7. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a mild-flavored cheese product that's low in calories but very nutritious.
Despite containing only 163 calories per cup, it consists of about 70% protein and contains good amounts of calcium, vitamin B12 and riboflavin (B2) (18).
The high protein and low calorie content of cottage cheese can make it a really good snack choice, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
8. Banana Ice Cream
If you're craving sweet and creamy ice cream, you could try making yourself this healthy alternative.
Banana ice cream is made by blending ripe bananas in a food processor and freezing them for at least an hour.
If you want to make this treat more interesting, you can add other ingredients like milk, fruit or spices to mix up the flavor.
Popcorn can be a great snack to satisfy your salt craving without blowing your calorie budget, especially if you're prone to snacking on chips.
However, the preparation method, serving size and topping choice are key when choosing a healthy popcorn to snack on.
Additionally, homemade, air-popped popcorn is much lower in calories than popcorn that has been popped in hot oil. Avoid pre-packaged microwave varieties, which are full of unhealthy ingredients and calories.
You can keep your popcorn snack healthy by choosing air-popped, plain or slightly salted popcorn and watching your serving size.
10. Vegetable Chips
Vegetable chips are another choice for those who are prone to craving potato chips.
They are made like potato chips, but they're made from vegetables like seaweed, kale or parsnips instead of potatoes.
However, some commercial brands of these chips can be as high in calories, salt and fat as regular potato chips.
To be sure you're eating a low-calorie and healthy snack when you choose vegetable chips, try making your own at home.
If you're craving something to eat but need to watch your calorie intake, try snacking on some olives.
Olives are a small, pitted fruit that's often featured in the Mediterranean diet in the form of olive oil (26).
They're low in calories and contain a wide range of beneficial plant compounds.
Additionally, oleic acid, which is the main fat found in olives, has been linked to some health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved heart health (27).
Edamame are immature soybeans. People often boil them and then sprinkle them with salt before popping out the beans for a tasty snack.
If you're craving something a bit salty, edamame is a great choice.
This low-calorie snack is high in fiber, protein and a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin K and folate. 1 cup (155 grams) of edamame contains about 190 calories and 17 grams of protein (28).
It also contains 52% of the RDI for vitamin K and over 100% of the RDI for folate.
This makes edamame a really healthy snack and a great choice for halting your salty cravings in their tracks.
13. Miso Soup
Miso soup can also be an excellent choice for dealing with salty cravings.
Miso paste, its main ingredient, is made by fermenting soybeans with salt, grains and a type of fungus called koji.
This Japanese soup is not only tasty and low in calories, it's a good source of fiber, protein, beneficial plant compounds and quite a few vitamins and minerals (29).
It's also been linked to a few health benefits.
For example, one study found that Japanese women who regularly ate miso soup had a lower risk of breast cancer (30).
Another study found that Japanese women who ate a lot of plant compounds from soy-based foods like miso soup had a lower risk of stroke (31).
14. Trail Mix
Trail mix is a handy snack that's made up of dried fruit and nuts.
The exact recipe can vary, but the combination of nuts and fruits can make it a great choice if you're craving something sweet and salty.
Trail mix can also help you include some nuts in your diet.
Moreover, they may help reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your levels of dangerous, small LDL cholesterol particles (34).
However, watch your portion size. A cup of trail mix contains nearly 700 calories, so stick to a handful to avoid overeating.
Dates are a type of pitted fruit that's often consumed after being dried.
They are very sweet and contain a high amount of sugar.
However, they are a rich source of antioxidants and contain fiber, potassium, iron and a number of beneficial plant compounds (35).
If you're craving something sweet, a few dates can help satisfy your urge, while providing your body with other beneficial nutrients.
Additionally, if you're after a sweet and crunchy treat, try stuffing your dates with almonds.
16. Cold Drinks
If you're craving a sugary soda, it could just be that you're thirsty.
Try opting for a healthier alternative to quench your thirst and satisfy your need for something other than regular water.
You could try drinking iced tea or carbonated water.
To make it feel like more of a treat, try adding lots of ice and a slice of lemon.
If you're prone to sugar cravings, berries can quench your need for sugar, while adding some really beneficial nutrients to your diet.
As well as being very easy to prepare, berries are very nutritious.
They are sweet, low in calories, high in fiber and a rich source of vitamins and minerals.
18. Hummus With Vegetables
If you're hungry and craving a savory snack, try vegetables dipped in hummus.
Hummus is made with chickpeas, garlic and olive oil, all staples of the very healthy Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to better heart health (39).
Eating this snack with vegetables can increase your vegetable intake and add valuable nutrients to your diet.
The Bottom Line
Food cravings can be tricky to deal with.
Fortunately, the healthy snack options in this article can satisfy your cravings and serve as nutritious additions to your diet.
If you can, try planning ahead and having healthy snacks on hand to stop yourself from reaching for junk food.