Whether you want something sweet, creamy or crunchy, try these nutritious snack alternatives to satisfy your craving.

Snacking – when it’s done right – serves a few purposes. A nutritious, balanced snack can help keep you energized between meals. Small, nutritious snacks can also help control your hunger at mealtimes, which means you might get by with a smaller portion. And, having an extra “eating opportunity” once or twice a day means that you can work in a few more servings of nutritious foods over the course of the day.

One problem with the way many of us snack, however, is that we tend to do it on the run. So, rather than pre-planning our snacks, we simply wait for the craving to strike. And, for most of us, it’s too easy to find a corner store, a vending machine – or even our own kitchen cupboards – to satisfy our cravings with foods that are loaded with fat, salt or sugar. So here are some suggestions for some nutritious snack alternatives that can satisfy whatever you’re craving.

If You’re Craving a Creamy Snack

Foods with a creamy, smooth texture are pleasurable to eat and many people associate them with comfort. But if you’re satisfying your craving by turning to rich ice cream or high-fat cheeses, you might want to try one of these alternatives.

Yogurt. Try plain nonfat yogurt mixed with a little honey or maple syrup and topped with fresh fruit.
Frozen banana. Peel bananas, wrap in waxed paper and freeze. Slice and eat, or buzz quickly in the blender for a “one ingredient” ice cream-like treat.
Lowfat ricotta cheese. Blend with a little fruit and a dash of sweetener for a pudding-like treat with some hunger-busting protein.
Quick cooking oats. Cook in a 50-50 mixture of lowfat milk and water, and cook for a few extra minutes for a smoother texture. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Chia pudding. Mix 1 Tablespoon chia seeds with ½ cup vanilla soy milk; let stand 10 minutes until starting to thicken, then top with fresh fruit. Or, try this recipe for chia berry pudding.
Frozen yogurt pop. Blend vanilla yogurt with fruit until smooth and pour into popsicle molds and freeze. Or, try this popsicle recipe.

If You’re Craving a Sweet Snack
Sometimes we crave sweets when our energy level is taking a dive, or we turn to sweets as a treat or a reward. But the calorie cost of many sweets can be really high. Here are some tips to satisfy the craving without breaking the bank.

Cooked fruit. The texture of cooked fruit makes it seem more “dessert-like”. Try running grapefruit or orange halves under the broiler, roasting peaches or pineapple in the oven, or cooking sliced apples or plums until tender with a spicy-sweet cinnamon or nutmeg.
Coffee latte. Have your latte made with nonfat or lowfat milk, and a little bit of sweetener and cocoa powder.
Chocolate protein shake. A protein shake made with milk and chocolate-flavored protein powder can satisfy your craving for chocolate and help control hunger, too.
Protein snack bar. When you’re craving a candy bar, a protein snack bar is a much better choice – it can satisfy your craving for something sweet and help control hunger.

If You’re Craving a Crunchy or Savory Snack

The craving for foods that are crunchy and salty are sometimes triggered by frustration or stress – that’s because the act of chewing and working the jaw muscles actually relieve tension.

Cottage cheese dip. Whirl nonfat or lowfat cottage cheese in the blender until smooth; stir in a little dark mustard and use as a dip for crunchy veggies.
Kale chips. Easy to make. Remove tough stems, break leaves into bite-sized pieces, wash and dry thoroughly. Toss leaves with a little olive oil and salt, spread on a baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4), turning occasionally, until edges are brown.
Simple miso and egg soup. Stir a spoonful of miso paste into boiling water and mix well; slowly pour in one beaten egg and allow egg to cook in the soup.
Popcorn. After popping, dust with a little low fat parmesan cheese or chili powder.
Baked tortilla chips with avocado. Look for baked chips made with beans or lentils to get a little protein boost. Dip into avocado mashed with prepared salsa.
Jerky. Jerky is lean meat that is salted and dried into a chewy, high protein snack. But it can also be made from poultry or fish, and there are vegetarian and vegan versions, too. Their chewy texture satisfies the craving for crunch, and the protein content can help curb hunger.
Pistachio nuts or sunflower seeds in the shell. Nuts and seeds contain healthy fats, but the calories can add up quickly. However, if you choose pistachios or sunflower seeds in their shells, it will take some time to crack them open, which can help you control the amount you eat.

Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., F.A.N.D. – Director, Worldwide Nutrition Trainingat Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.