Unhealthy Food Cravings and Their Healthier Alternatives

Whether it’s after a long day of work or week of healthy dieting — sometimes junk food cravings hit you, hard. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Cravings are a natural response since we’re constantly surrounded by high-calorie foods, says Men’s Fitness. So what should you do when the cravings kick in? Of course, the best reaction is to completely ignore that your stomach is begging you for a super-sized order of fries. But let’s face it, you’re only human, and sometimes willpower just doesn’t cut it. So instead of gorging on unhealthy junk food or depriving yourself completely, here are six ways to satisfy your cravings.

1. French fries

french fries

We all love French fries. | iStock.com

Would you like a side of fries with that? Yes please! Too bad French fries are filled with fat and calories, which can pose some serious health risks over time. Also, according to Livestrong, French fries contain a lot of salt and acrylamide, a chemical that has been associated with cancer.

Swap out: Snack on a bowl of edamame instead for a slightly salty but healthy option. Or if you really need your starchy fix, opt for a baked potato rather than fried, and skip all the unhealthy add-ons like bacon bits and sour cream.

2. Potato chips and dip

Homemade barbecue potato chips

Potato chips can totally throw your diet off. | iStock.com

A favorite snack at any party, potato chips and dip are a classic diet-buster. In fact, one ounce of potato chips (about 15 to 20) contains around 10 grams of fat and 150 calories. One study in the The New England Journal of Medicine found that daily consumption of a single ounce of potato chips led to an average weight gain of 1.69 pounds over four years. And that’s only one ounce. Plus, this doesn’t include the added fat and calories that come with our much loved chip dip.

Swap out: To get a similar carb and dip fix, go for multigrain pita chips with hummus! It’s just as tasty, but this snack will actually keep you satisfied longer than its high-cholesterol counterpart. If pita chips don’t quite satisfy your fried-spud craving, opt for a baked rather than fried version of potato chips. While still not the healthiest snack, baked chips contain significantly less calories and fat than the fried alternative.

3. Pizza

barbecue chicken pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza? | iStock.com

At the end of a hard day, how great does it sound to order a cheesy pizza? Unfortunately, even one slice of delivery pizza pumps you with 275 calories and 22% of your daily saturated fat. And, let’s be honest, when was the last time you ate a single slice?

Swap out: To get your quick and easy pizza fix without all the unhealthy drawbacks, go for a homemade option. Try out this healthy margherita pizza recipe from Cooking Light and use whole-wheat pizza crust for an even more nutritious, fiber-filled meal. If you’re feeling too lazy to play chef, go for a premade option from your local grocery store. Just check the nutrition facts and go for one that contains as many natural ingredients as possible.

4. Popcorn


Popcorn is a favorite snack. | iStock.com

Yes, we all know that movie theater popcorn is half the reason to go to the movies in the first place. Then the next best thing to our cinema treat is microwave popcorn, loaded with delicious fake butter. When it comes to this snack, there’s no such thing as moderation since you eat it like, well, popcorn. Unfortunately for your body, this indulgence is loaded with unwanted chemicals and nearly 24 grams of fat and 600 calories per pack.

Swap out: Go for a healthy version of this treat by selecting plain, air-popped popcorn. Feel free to add a bit of margarine or butter on top, but don’t overdo it!

5. Candy bars

candy bar

Stay far away from the candy bars. | iStock.com

Snickers contain peanuts, so that makes them sort of healthy, right? Not quite. One Snickers bar alone contains 280 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 35 grams of carbs. Needless to say, candy bars are also loaded with sugar. The American Heart Association says that men should consume no more than 150 calories of sugar per day, according to Livestrong. Since sugar contains 4 calories per gram, in a candy bar that contains 25 grams of sugar, that’s nearly your entire daily sugar allowance in one sitting.

Swap out: Rather than a classic candy bar, choose dark chocolate instead. One bar of 70% dark chocolate only has around 190 calories and 10 grams of sugar. Plus, it’s full of antioxidants and contains anti-inflammatory abilities. If you’re looking for something a bit heartier than simple chocolate, try a natural granola bar with dark chocolate, like Kind Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt bars. They should satisfy your cravings and only cost you 5 grams of sugar.

6. Cookies

chocolate chip cookies, packaged

Cookies have healthier alternatives. | iStock.com

When your sweet tooth kicks in, a nice chocolate chip cookie always hits the spot. But did you know just one of these cookies contains around 200 calories and 18 grams of sugar? And once again, let’s face it, when have you ever eaten just one cookie when a craving strikes?

Swap out: Instead of gorging on this baked good, go for something equally tasty like a granola bar. Even a chocolate-studded bar like Annie’s Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Chip Granola Bars are a much healthier option since they only contain 110 calories and 5 grams of sugar. Plus, since they’re made with whole-grain oats, they’ll keep you feeling full. But if you really won’t be satisfied without a true cookie in your stomach, consider whipping up a batch of cookies at home. By using an alternative cookie recipe like this one from Health, you can satisfy your craving without wrecking your healthy diet.