You are sitting at your desk when all of a sudden your body demands chocolate. You try and focus on your work, but you can't get chocolate off your mind. A voice in your head begins to chant, "I want chocolate!" forcing you to march over to the vending machine and buy yourself a chocolate bar.
Cravings like that are all too familiar for many of us. And when the craving is strong enough - words like "healthy" and "diet" go right out the window. So how do you tame your cravings without packing on the pounds?
The trick is not to ignore the craving - you'll just end up obsessing even more. Instead, give in to the craving, but make a smarter choice. Below are the five most popular cravings and my top picks for alternatives that won't sabotage your middle.
CRAVING WRONG FOOD HEALTHIER CHOICE
Salty Potato Chips Light Microwave Popcorn
Sweet Cookies Gnu Food's Flavor and Fiber Bar
Fat Hamburger Turkey burger with sliced avocado
Creamy Ice cream Low-Fat ice cream
Chocolate Snickers Bar 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate
1. SALTY:When you want something salty and crunchy, potato chips fit the bill. Unfortunately, a 2oz. bag of Lay's potato Chips has 300 calories and 20g of fat. WOW! Instead, opt for a bag of microwave popcorn. Try Orville Redenbacher's Smart Pop Butter Flavor. Seven cups have only 120 calories, and 2g of fat, plus a whopping 7g of fiber that will help to keep you full all afternoon long.
2. SWEET:Cookies are sweet and chewy but also loaded with fat and calories. Three Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies have 160 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 1 gram fiber. One oatmeal raisin cookie from Au Bon Pain contains 230 calories, 8 grams of fat and 2 grams of fiber. Instead, grab a Gnu Food's Flavor and Fiber Bar. These sweet and chewy bars not only taste amazing, they contain only 130-140 calories, less than 2 grams of fat and have a whopping 12 grams of fiber per bar!
3. FAT:Men love red meat. When you crave a burger, your body isn't just looking for protein, but fat too. Unfortunately, the fat found in chuck is saturated - the kind of fat that clogs your arteries and raises your cholesterol. So swap your beef burger for a turkey burger made from skinless breast, which has about 6 grams less fat per ounce (do the math - that will save you almost 24 grams of fat for a 4 oz. burger). To address the fat craving, add some sliced avocado to your turkey burger. Avocado is a monounsaturated (the good fat that lowers your cholesterol), so this is one burger you don't have to feel guilty eating.
4. CREAMY:When you crave something cold and creamy, nothing but ice cream will do. The problem is that premium ice cream is loaded with fat and calories! One cup of Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby contains 660 calories and 40 grams of fat! To put it into perspective, a Big Mac has 570 calories, and 32 grams of fat. The good news is that through advancements in processing, low fat ice cream now tastes as rich and creamy as regular. So swap the premium stuff for a cup of Edy's Slow Churned Light Ice Cream Peanut Butter Cup which has only 260 calories and 12 grams of fat.
5. CHOCOLATE:When your brain craves chocolate - there simply is no substitute. Only the real thing will do. To eat chocolate without gaining weight, the trick is to do it the way European's do. They go for the dark stuff. Instead of milk chocolate bars loaded with sugar, caramel and nuts, opt for a bar of premium dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa content. Dark chocolate contains less sugar than milk and because the flavor is so strong you don't need to eat as much to feel satisfied. Also, the darker the chocolate, the higher the antioxidant content. And the good thing about antioxidants is they help protect you against cancer.
is a nutritionist and the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.