Food cravings are not limited to a particular age group, gender, religion, or ethnicity. We all crave different types of food, but there are some reasons behind food cravings that most of us are unaware of. You may think it is unreasonable, but before you reach the end of the article, you will be well aware of the 10 most common food cravings and their alternatives.
Food Craving Definition
An intense, uncontrollable desire for a specific food or flavor is known as a food craving. This desire is so strong that it feels like if you do not eat that food item, your hunger will not be satisfied. Though there are various cravings, the 10 items mentioned below are craved almost by everyone. The food you crave might not be healthy for you if consumed in excess. So it would be better to look out for healthy alternatives, which are also listed below.
1. Bread and Toast
If you are craving bread or toast, it is a signal that your body is low on nitrogen. The nitrogen is needed to recover from workouts and make yourself adapt to training. (See Busted! 27 Myths About Fitness Exercises and Workouts) If you leave them out, your body will crave these. To prevent yourself from eating carbs unnecessarily, you can try the following alternatives of bread and toast:
- Ezekiel bread is made from various sprouted grains and legumes like barley, millet, soybeans, wheat, and lentils.
- Corn tortillas are rich in fiber but low in gluten.
- Rye bread is rich in fiber.
- Green leafy vegetables like lettuce leaves are a good choice because you can make wraps and rolls with your favorite fillings.
- Cooked sweet potatoes and other vegetables can be used in recipes to substitute bread.
- Flatbread (butternut & squash) can be made at home.
2. Carbonated Drinks
According to Susan Bowerman, Registered Dietitian of Herbalife Nutrition, a simple glass of water hits only your taste or smell, but adding carbonation will hit your ears, eyes, and sense of touch. These sensations make you feel that your thirst can be quenched with a carbonated drink only. And thus, you crave it. It is one of the most desired items in the 10 most common food cravings and their alternatives list which can be replaced by:
- Lemonade is a good source of vitamin C, plus it will also satisfy your thirst. You can add agave nectar or a dash of honey to cut the excess tanginess.
- Kombucha is rich in probiotics that are good for your gut health. The sugar content is almost nil, which makes it a healthy substitute all the more.
- Maple water is the unprocessed sap from the maple tree that is free from preservatives and additives. There is a small amount of sugar in it.
- Coconut water has always been a suitable substitute for cold drinks. It is a natural source of electrolytes and potassium for you.
- Iced tea will satisfy your cravings for cold, caffeine, and flavors. It has no extra calories, and you can enjoy it in many flavors. (Also read 34 Brilliant Ways to Make Drinking Tea More Exciting and Flavorful)
- Sparkling water is a modern substitute for soda. It is a healthier and more exciting alternative to fizzy drinks. You can add sparkling water to the freshly squeezed fruit juices for some fizz.
- Herbs and fruit infusers are going to make the plain water flavored without any harmful preservatives.
Of the 10 most common food cravings and their alternatives, you crave coffee because you habitually drink it at your home, office, in restaurants, or wherever you go. When you are stressed or your body is low on iron, you crave a cup of joe. You want to keep the work going on, and consider coffee a way to give you relief from headaches and fatigue. And in the end, you are addicted to it, which makes you crave it even more. The alternatives might not give you the same hit, but they are surely healthier:
- Chicory coffee is almost similar to regular coffee, but it is caffeine-free because it is made from roasted, grounded, and brewed chicory roots.
- Matcha tea is a rich source of antioxidants. The leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are steamed, dried, grounded into a fine powder.
- Golden Milk is prepared with spices like turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon. You can also add vanilla, honey, or cardamom for more flavor and sweetness.
- Yerba Mate is made from the dried leaves of the ilex paraguariensis, a holly tree from South America. It is a naturally caffeinated herbal tea and a good source of minerals and vitamins.
- Tea, including chai, is a healthy substitute. They are caffeine-free, and rooibos tea enhances iron absorption in the body.
- Apple Cider Vinegar has a beneficial impact on your insulin sensitivity as it regulates blood sugar levels. It is yet another effective substitute for the 10 most common food cravings and their alternatives list. (See 75 Little Known Uses of Vinegar)
Yes, yet another craving that each age group & gender enjoys, be it day or night! But if you badly crave chocolates, that means your body needs magnesium. To maintain your blood sugar level, you may have to substitute your chocolate with the following food items:
- Fruits are a good option as they have natural sweetness along with many essential nutrients. (See 11 Health Benefits of Eating Ice Apple Fruit)
- Organic honey will also do the work while giving you several health benefits.
- Banana ice cream (home-made) can be made from frozen bananas at your home.
- Dark chocolate (more than 70% cocoa) will satisfy your cravings without shooting your blood sugar levels.
- Frozen berries such as strawberries are a good alternative and a nutritional snack.
- Organic Peanut butter does not contain added sugar or preservatives. Peanuts are rich in healthy fats and hence an excellent substitute for chocolate.
- Greek yogurt is a rich source of potassium and other essential nutrients that are needed by your body.
5. Fried Food
Your body craves fatty food or fried food because essential fats are needed as energy givers. This craving may also be a sign that your body requires calcium. Fried food or junk food may lead to numerous health problems that can deteriorate your health further. So, try out the following substitutes instead:
- Cheese crisps are better than cheese puffs because they are baked and low on carbs.
- Another of the 10 most common food cravings and their alternatives is fresh salsa, which is a good option for substituting guacamole.
- Seeded crackers are rich in healthy fats and fiber, which is good for you. Try them instead of bagels.
- Popcorn is a whole grain snack that can be a good substitute for pretzels. (Also read Legend of the Pretzel)
6. Ice Cream
When your body runs low on sugar, you may crave ice cream, but eating lots of ice cream will increase your blood glucose level. Sometimes, when you are tired, you crave it, and at other times, your body might be asking for vitamin D or calcium. The most common alternative for ice cream is frozen yogurt because it will give you the same feeling with the same texture.
- Yogurt popsicles are healthy and tasty when combined with fruit and granola.
- Fudge pops made from Greek yogurt will be a healthier option than traditional chocolate fudge pops.
- Chocolate-dipped frozen bananas will be a tastier treat with the goodness of the fruit. You can use dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate with bananas.
- Ice cream sandwich with bananas and strawberries is one of the most common food cravings and their alternatives. Frozen banana purée with strawberry placed between graham crackers is magical. (See How many Seeds does a Strawberry have?)
- A plain yogurt cone gives you the feel of a real ice cream cone when accompanied by fruits.
7. Potato Chips
Another of the most common food cravings and their alternatives list is potato chips. You crave these because your body may be low on chloride. But eating too many chips leads to a high sodium level in your body, causing a spike in blood pressure. To satisfy potato chip cravings, try out the following alternatives:
- Kale chips are delicious and much more nutritious than potato chips.
- Mixed nuts are rich in mono and polyunsaturated fats that help to increase good cholesterol in your body.
- Sweet potato chips (homemade) are a healthier option.
- Carrot and cucumber slices are rich in vitamin A and with their crunch, you will not miss the crunch of chips.
- Roasted chickpeas are a good substitute for your potato chips cravings. (See 270 Really Delicious National Food of the World)
8. Red Meat
You may also crave red meat, especially when you are on a vegan diet. It happens because your body lacks the iron content it derives from red meat. Iron is found in vegetables also, but it is non-heme iron, meaning it is less absorbable by the body. You need to combine iron-rich veggies with vitamin C-rich food items. Umami is the fifth basic taste that you feel through the taste buds. It is derived from meat broth and cheese products. Hence, a few alternatives for red meat are:
- Avocados and macadamia nuts are rich in fat can be a good alternative to the fat you eat with meat.
- Whole-grain bread or the healthy options of bread mentioned in this article can be toasted to eat to satisfy your bacon cravings.
- Umami-rich vegetables like mushrooms and tomatoes are great alternatives to red meat. (Also read 7 Recipes for Fresh Tomatoes from Garden)
You must have experienced this immense urge to eat something salty while working. Sometimes at midnight, you want to eat pizza, burger, or something with salt to stop the urge. It happens because your body is becoming addicted to it, and eating these things triggers dopamine. This hormone makes you feel that you are being rewarded after eating all this. This most common food cravings and their alternatives for salt are listed below:
- Nutritional yeast has a salty and cheesy flavor which you can use to sprinkle over popcorn, macaroni, pasta, potatoes, and cheese. It has no leavening agent, and it is deactivated.
- Onion, garlic, and leeks are from the allium genus that is known to regulate blood pressure and reduce the chances of growth of tumors. They have no sodium and can be added in the stir-frying step to enhance the flavors of the soups, casseroles, and pasta.
- Another substitute in the 10 most common food cravings and their alternatives is spices. They help to improve your metabolism, immunity and regulate your hunger. They will add flavor to the dish, plus some spice blends come with a bit of salty and tangy flavor.
- Vinegar can be used in marinades as a flavoring agent in pasta, soups, and sauces. You can also try using fruit-infused or garlic-infused vinegar. (See 38 Different Types of Salt You Didn’t Know Existed)
Like salt, sugar also triggers dopamine and opioids in our bodies. The sugar craving is mostly strong but it could turn fatal for diabetes patients if consumed in excess. To feed your mind with the satisfaction you get after eating something sweet, you can choose healthier options, such as:
- Applesauce can be used as a substitute for sugar in baking. Replace the amount of sugar with the same amount of apple sauce. Reduce other liquids in the recipe by about 1/4 cup while using the apple sauce.
- Fruit juice (freshly squeezed) can be used as a substitute for sugar in marinades, baking, sauces, and salad dressings. You have to substitute every cup of sugar with 3/4 cup of fruit juice.
- Honey should be up to 2/3 cup for every 1 cup of sugar.
- Maple Syrup can also be an alternative, and you can use 3/4 cup of maple syrup for every 1 cup of sugar. It is one of the desired cravings out of these 10 most common food cravings and their alternatives.
- Raisins, dates, and figs can be made into a smooth paste because they have a natural sweetness that will add a dense sweet flavor to your baking dish.
- Bananas can substitute sugar equally. All you have to do is to make a purée of bananas and water. You can use this as a spread or a sweetener.
- Zest of orange, lemon, or lime can be used to sweeten your drinks and baked goods. (See 40 Lesser Known Facts About Fast Food)
5 Ways to Reduce Cravings
To reduce your cravings to a substantial level, you can also try the following tips:
- Try to stay relaxed because stress triggers cravings.
- Water can help you satisfy your hunger to some level and keep you full for some time.
- You must maintain a consistent sleep schedule to keep you from untimely cravings.
- You can increase lean protein intake, which will help you feel less hungry.
- Chewing gum is very impactful because your mind is focused on chewing them rather than craving to eat something else.
Today, you learnt about the 10 most common food cravings and their alternatives along with the reasons behind such cravings. Share this information with your friends and family. Eat healthy and stay fit! (Also read 21 Healthiest Fish for Fishetarians)