Some people have a sweet tooth, some people crave salty snacks and I am one of those lucky few that were blessed with both weaknesses. Chocolate cakes beckon me and I can scarcely drive by a McDonalds without thinking of their salty fries, but I have (thankfully!) found a way to both enjoy those treats on occasion and manage my sweet and salty cravings in an agreeable way on a daily basis…and you can too!
My salty craving substitute is simple – air-popped popcorn. With only 30 calories per popped cup, I can happily sit down with a huge bowl (4 cups) and snack away. I usually give it a spritz of Smart Balance butter spray and add a sprinkle of salt and it hits the spot. Parker and I probably share a bowl of popcorn 3 days a week.
Of course, anything in moderation is just fine (and don’t let any diet book tell you otherwise), so since I never keep potato chips in the house (and I so rarely go to parties), I allow myself to indulge in a handful or two when I do head out. Remember though, studies have shown that junk food ignites a chemical reaction in your brain similar to drug addiction, so the more you eat it, the more you want it. That’s the primary reason that I don’t keep it in the house.
Now to tackle that sweet tooth. I have kind of a 4 step approach to dealing with craving sweets. My sweet cravings are usually post-dinner cravings, so this is how I manage those late night munchies. (Of course, “late” in my world is like 7pm).
1. Eat enough healthy foods at dinner to be full. I know that this doesn’t deal directly with sweets, but I found that for me, I find myself wandering back to the kitchen if I’m still hungry after dinner…and reaching for sweets when I get there. So, I try to get full on salads and veggies to keep myself out of the kitchen entirely. Eating an additional 100 calories at dinner can prevent a 300 calorie snack later.
2. Chew a piece of fruit flavored gum. I picked this trick up from the blatant product promotion on The Biggest Loser, but you know what? It works! In fact, one piece of gum lasts a heck of a lot longer than a 300 calorie chocolate bar. go figure.
3. If the gum isn’t cutting it, go for a piece of hard candy. Cinnamon Jolly Ranchers are my favorite, but a caramel or butterscotch candy works just as well. At less than 30 calories per piece of candy, the key here is to let it dissolve in your mouth instead of chewing it so that it lasts. These little candies are full of flavor, so again, it’s triggering in your brain that you’re feeding the craving.
4. Brush your teeth. This one seems a bit odd, but I found that if I brushed my teeth immediately after dinner (flossing and all), I didn’t want to have to brush them a second time so I held off on eating anything post-brushing. Clever, huh? Or just lazy. But again, it seems to work.
Mind you, just like with the salty snacks, I generally don’t have anything more potent than Parker’s breakfast muffins in the house and since he can now count, I no longer can pilfer those without getting harassed. Of course, the same moderation rule applies here. Since I so rarely go out to dinner, I will happily and eagerly split a dessert with the Irishman after our meal (meaning that he gets a single bite and has to dodge my stabbing fork to even get that much).
So, the moral here is know your limits, keep junk out of your house and if you eat a healthy diet on most days (80% of the time is a good rule to follow), enjoy a sweet or salty snack guilt-free…and then go back to your good eating habits.