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20 Healthy Swaps So You Can Keep Losing Weight When You Have Cravings

Natalie
Stein
February 1, 2024
20 Healthy Swaps So You Can Keep Losing Weight When You Have Cravings
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In this article:

  • A nutritious and calorie-controlled meal plan can help with weight loss.
  • Cravings can lead to eating high-calorie foods that are fatty or high in sugar or carbs. Eating too much of these types of foods can lead to indigestion and slow weight loss. Eating low-nutrient foods can also lead to a less nutritious overall diet if they replace more nutritious foods.
  • Here are 20 ideas for healthier swaps when you have cravings. 
  • Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider whenever you have concerns about your weight or before starting any new eating plan.
  • Lark can help you on your weight loss journey as you establish healthy habits for lasting results.

Success with weight loss depends on your own diet choices. It’s common to crave high-calorie foods that are fatty or high in sugar or carbs, but these can interfere with weight loss or lead to indigestion or guilty feelings.

Here are some tips for handling cravings and 20 healthier foods to swap for when you do have cravings or are about to eat high-calorie, low-nutrient comfort food.

Tips for Handling Cravings

Here are some ways to make cravings weaker or to reduce negative effects on your health.

  • Ask yourself if you’re really hungry, and only eat if you have physiological hunger
  • Avoid triggers like driving by your favorite doughnut shop, walking past a candy bowl at your workplace, and going grocery shopping without a list or when you’re hungry
  • Drink a glass of water before eating 
  • Try eating something healthy first, like a cup of raw vegetables
  • Do anything you can to delay eating, such as phoning a friend, taking a walk, or reading a magazine
  • Get adequate sleep because sleep deprivation increases hunger and leads you to choose fatty and sugary foods
  • Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fiber and protein to keep blood sugar levels stable and to support fullness
  • Have just a small amount of the food you’re craving

Another tip is to have a healthier substitute to satisfy your craving. 

20 Healthier Swaps for When You Have Food Cravings

Aim to reduce calories, fat, sugar, and refined starches, while increasing fiber and protein. Here are some examples.

  1. Pizza

Order thin-crust pizza with light cheese, extra sauce, and extra vegetables. At home, you can make your own pizza on a portobello mushroom or whole-grain sliced bread, pita, or English muffin halves with marinara sauce, low-fat cheese, and chopped vegetables.

  1. Bacon cheeseburger

Use lean ground turkey or a veggie burger patty for a lower-fat source of protein. Add a slice of low-fat cheese and serve your burger on a whole-grain bun or a leaf of lettuce. Mustard is a low-fat, low-calorie condiment that you can use instead of mayo or ketchup. Instead of bacon, try meatless bacon or sauteed mushrooms for a meaty texture. 

A small portion can also help; try a slider if you really want a cheeseburger made with beef. A frozen slider has only 200 calories. 

  1. Mac and cheese

Use whole-wheat pasta instead of white, or substitute cauliflower for all or part of the noodles. Choose skim or unsweetened almond milk instead of cream, and use low-fat cheese. Then add vegetables, such as spinach or broccoli, to make it more nutritious and filling.

  1. Hot dog

Hot dogs are fatty and processed, which means they contain cancer-causing nitrates. Turkey hot dogs are lower in fat and calories, but they’re also processed. Consider meatless hot dogs as an alternative. Serve your hot dog on a whole-wheat bun with mustard and grilled onions. 

  1. Fried chicken

Make baked “fried” chicken for a lower-fat, healthier option. Dip skinless chicken breast in egg whites, and then coat them in whole-grain breadcrumbs or whole-grain panko mixed with spices such as black pepper, cumin, onion powder, and oregano. Bake the pieces of chicken on a sprayed cookie sheet until they are cooked through and crispy. 

  1. Grilled cheese and tomato soup

Use thinly sliced whole-wheat bread instead of white bread, and slices of low-fat cheese instead of full-fat cheese, and a brush of olive oil instead of butter spread on the bread. You can add tomato slices or spinach to make your sandwich more filling. Brown your sandwich in a pan with cooking spray. Serve it with low-sodium tomato or minestrone soup instead of cream of tomato soup. These swaps can cut calories and fat by over half, and add fiber and antioxidants.

  1. Chili

Vegetarian chili can be a comforting and filling alternative to fatty beef chili. Use vegetable or soy protein, your favorite kinds of beans, and tons of vegetables, such as canned tomatoes, onions, celery, bell peppers, and zucchini. Season your chili as usual, and serve it with low-fat cheese, nonfat yogurt, and shredded lettuce.

  1. Mashed potatoes

Swapping some or all of the potatoes for pureed cauliflower, parsnip, or turnip will reduce calories and carbs. You can cut fat by using buttermilk instead of cream, and by using light trans fat-free margarine instead of butter.

  1. Fried rice

Use ½ cup of cooked brown rice or ½-1 cup of riced cauliflower. Fry your rice in 2 teaspoons of olive or sesame oil and add ½-1 cup of cooked diced vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, and onions. Add some protein, such as egg whites or cooked chicken, fish, tofu, or shrimp. This fried rice dish is balanced and healthy.

  1. French fries

Baked sweet potato strips are more nutritious than French fries. You can also julienne zucchini or carrots, toss them in olive oil, and bake them for a delicious snack.

  1. Potato chips

Crunch on air-popped popcorn or roasted edamame or chickpeas. You can also bake shredded kale or thinly sliced radishes or carrots using a spritz of olive oil for a crunchy snack.

  1. Chips and dip

Make your own dip with plain nonfat Greek yogurt or reduced-fat cottage cheese instead of using full-fat cream cheese. Possible seasonings include fresh herbs, dried spices, hot sauce, and lemon or lime juice. Dip raw vegetables instead of chips to reduce calories, increase nutrients, and have a crunchy treat. 

  1. Nachos

Use bell pepper strips or toasted whole-wheat pita cut into triangles. For a low-fat, high-protein nacho cheese sauce, puree cottage cheese with shredded low-fat Mexican blend or low-fat cheddar cheese, plus seasonings such as chiles, cumin, and chili powder if desired. Swap ground beef for lean ground turkey or vegetable protein.

  1. Bagel and cream cheese

Try a whole-grain mini bagel with neufchatel or low-fat cream cheese or reduced-fat cottage cheese. You’ll cut carbs, calories, and fat by over 50%!

  1. Cereal

Choose unsweetened or lightly sweetened cereal with less than 3 grams of sugar per serving. Look for 100% whole-grain cereal instead of  cereal made with refined grains. Plain oat O’s, shredded wheat, and puffed brown rice are all good options. 

  1. Candy

Dark chocolate is a satisfying option for satisfying a sweet tooth. Try having an ounce of dark chocolate, or melting ½-1 ounce over ½ of a sliced banana. Another option is to have ½ cup of oatmeal with 1-2 tablespoons of mini chocolate chips.

  1. Ice cream

Choose regular or Greek yogurt that’s low-fat or nonfat and doesn’t have added sugars. You can look for plain or flavored varieties. Blend your yogurt with your choice of fruit. Add natural sweetener, such as stevia, to taste, and add vanilla, cinnamon, or cocoa powder if you like. Freeze the mixture and eat it in small portions like ice cream.

  1. Chocolate ice cream

Freeze slices of banana. While they are frozen, puree them with unsweetened cocoa powder or baking powder and unsweetened almond or skim milk to get the desired consistency.

  1. Vanilla latte

Make your own with black coffee, unsweetened almond milk or skim milk, and vanilla extract to taste. Use a low-calorie natural sweetener, such as monk fruit or stevia, to taste. At a coffee shop, cut calories, fat, and sugar by asking for almond milk, less vanilla syrup, and no whipped cream. Cafe au lait is another option.

  1. Soda

Sparkling water is a sugar-free, calorie-free swap for a sugar-sweetened soda. Add lemon or lime juice for flavor, or serve your sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime, a slice of cucumber or peach, or a strawberry. You can also add fresh mint or basil leaves. If you’re not a fan of carbonated beverages, try ice water instead.

How Lark Can Help

Your food choices affect your results and how you feel while you’re managing your weight. A smart meal plan can help you lose more weight and feel better. Lark can help with personalized coaching for weight loss. Your Lark coach is available 24/7 for food logging and feedback, as well as coaching around supportive behaviors like managing stress and being physically active.

Click here to see if you may be eligible to join Lark today!

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