Photo: ThinkstockBy Corrie Pikul
The Ultimate: 1-ounce snack bag of potato chips and 1/4 cup onion dip (289 calories, 10g saturated fat)
The foods we find most difficult to turn down are almost always a high-calorie combo of fat and refined carbs, says Susan Roberts, PhD, a nutrition professor at Tufts University and the author of The "I" Diet. The craving is often triggered by proximity: You see it, you salivate. This is what makes potato chips, which are front and center in every vending machine, one of the most irresistible foods on the planet, Roberts says. And once dip gets involved, there's no turning back.
The Alternate: Roberts suggests 1-ounce bags of whole-wheat pita chips or the same amount of homemade chips made from whole-wheat wraps (cut into strips, spray with cooking spray, bake for 5 minutes and sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt). Both provide the same salty, satisfying crunch as chips, but without the fat. Pair with 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream (222 calories, 4.9g saturated fat for either type of chips plus dip).
Even Healthier: Kale chips are a surprisingly flavorful, crispy craving-killer. Dip them in 1/4 cup low-fat lemon yogurt (158 calories, 1.5g saturated fat for chips plus dip), says Tracy Gensler, RD, a Best Life nutritionist.
The Ultimate: A milk-chocolate bunny (half of a 3-ounce, 3-inch solid rabbit has 230 calories, 8g saturated fat)
The combination of fat and sugar in chocolate has been shown to have a mood-calming effect, which is why most of us reach for it when we're stressed. And chocolate has been linked to lower rates of stroke, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions. More recently, a sounds-too-awesome-to-be-true study published in Archives of Internal Medicine showed that those who ate about five servings of chocolate a week had lower BMI than those who ate none (researchers stressed that the key was frequency, not quantity, of chocolate consumption).
The Alternate: Three 3 Musketeers fun-size bars (190 calories, 4g saturated fat) or 1 York Peppermint Patty (140 calories, 1.5g saturated fat). A little chocolate goes a long way: Studies show that a small amount can act as a painkiller.
Even Healthier: 3 Dove dark-chocolate squares (132 calories, 4.8g saturated fat). Antioxidant-rich dark chocolate is high in flavonoids, which can improve vascular function, Gensler says.
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The Ultimate: A cafeteria-size chocolate chip cookie with walnuts (450 calories, 12g saturated fat)
We may be biologically predisposed to seek out high-fat foods when we're feeling down: One study showed that fatty acids helped participants feel better after they were shown sad faces and asked to listen to depressing music. Roberts says we create our own flavor-specific cravings by associating treats with emotional situations. Then when you're bummed out and eat your favorite snack, Roberts says, your brain rewards you by releasing endorphins and dopamine...and that's how Mrs. Fields becomes your therapist.
The Alternate: By downscaling to two 2 1/2-inch homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies, Gensler says, you'll have enough calories left over to spoon a half-cup vanilla frozen yogurt between them (226 calories, 1g saturated fat per sandwich; 131 calories, 1g saturated fat for just the two cookies).
Even Healthier: Gensler suggests Nilla wafers (8 cookies, 140 calories, 1.5g saturated fat) or low-calorie ginger snaps (4 cookies, 117 calories, 0.7g saturated fat). You'll feel less likely to keep eating if you wash them down with 1 cup of calcium-rich skim milk (83 calories, 0g saturated fat).
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The Ultimate: 12-ounce can of cola (140 calories, 39g sugar, 30-35mg caffeine)
You're really dragging, when suddenly you feel like you can practically hear a can pop open and the carbonated beverage fizz over the top. However, you're wary of soda: You know that the caffeine plus sugar can create a fattening addiction that will cause you to pack on pounds over time.
The Alternate: Get the sweet taste you crave, as well as a stronger jolt of energy, by pouring brewed coffee over ice cubes and adding 2 Tbsp. fat-free half-and-half and 1 packet sugar (31 calories, 4g sugar, 95-200mg caffeine).
Even Healthier: Gensler's all-natural ice tea spritzer refreshes with even fewer calories. Brew 1 cup of caffeinated tea and chill, then add 1 cup of unflavored seltzer, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 2 fresh mint leaves and 1/2 teaspoon honey (15 calories, 9g sugar, 14-61mg caffeine). The honey adds more calories than sugar does but also more antioxidants.
KEEP READING: 4 More Good-for-You Snacks That Taste Amazing
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