Healthy food swaps for your junk food cravings

4:37 PM, Sep 05, 2019

The struggle is real: Cravings affect almost everyone, according to WebMD.

Researchers have found that, when you have a craving, the areas of your brain responsible for memory and pleasure-sensing are activated, making the urge to satisfy your craving almost impossible to resist.

The key word is “almost.”

When you know what foods you crave, you can head off temptation by having healthy food swaps on hand. Over time, you can train your brain to crave the nutritious alternative, making it easy to stay healthy in the long-term.

We’ve listed some helpful recommendations below to fight your urges; however, relying on these one-off substitutions isn’t the end all be all. For a true change, you need lifestyle improvements.

According to Healthline, tactics such as planning your meals, reducing stress, eating proper meals and avoiding extreme hunger can all help reduce cravings. That’s why Profile by Sanford is a plan that offers one-on-one coaching to create a tailored plan that focuses on more than just food recommendations. Visit online, call or visit one of the Arizona locations, in Chandler (480-646-4144) or Gilbert (602-833-1804).

Dark chocolate

Chocoholics know the difficulty of resisting the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of milk chocolate. However, if you’re trying to make healthy food choices, milk chocolate is not your friend. It is loaded with sugar, and its cocoa content is diluted with milk solids and cream.

Dark chocolate, on the other hand, is a powerful source of antioxidants, according to Healthline, with more polyphenols and flavanols than any fruit tested, including blueberries and acai. These compounds improve blood flow, lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation and insulin resistance. Dark chocolate is also a source of fiber, iron, magnesium, and manganese.

As with all treats, moderation is key. Ration yourself to a single dark chocolate treat each day, perhaps as a snack to stave off cravings before dinner.


Starting your day off with a nutritious breakfast gets your blood sugar and metabolism on track for a healthy day. Instead of reaching for a box of sugary cereal or a donut, stick to heart-healthy, fiber-rich foods like oatmeal.

The benefits of oatmeal include its high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and a soluble fiber known as beta-glucan, according to Medical News Today. Beta-glucan decreases bad cholesterol without affecting good cholesterol.

Spice up plain oatmeal with fresh fruit, cinnamon or chopped nuts. Avoid adding sugary ingredients except as a light dusting.

Meat-free (once a week)

You don’t have to cut meat out of your diet, but replacing it one day a week with beans, lentils, vegetables and whole grains offers a host of health benefits.

“Americans regularly eat more than enough protein,” the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics points out. “Adding beans or lentils to your meat-free meal also maintains an adequate protein intake. Providing about 16 grams of protein per cup cooked, beans and lentils also are a great source of fiber, folate, iron and potassium.”

A vegetarian chili full of veggies and beans will fill you up with fiber and protein, without the fat that meat normally adds.

Raw fruits and veggies

When you’re craving the crunch of chips or crackers, find satisfaction in the crunch of a raw apple or carrot, instead. The more fruits and vegetables you add to your diet, the better, especially if they’re replacing foods with higher fat or sodium content.

If plain fruits and vegetables are too boring, experiment with new ways of preparing them. For example, add a dab of a nut butter or throw together a salad with dark leafy greens and sprinkle on some rosemary balsamic vinaigrette.

When you’re looking for something with a longer shelf-life, choose snacks made from whole grains with low sodium. Crackers high in protein like Crunch O’s are a great choice.

More about Profile Plan

If fad diets keep failing you, it might be time to try a different approach to weight loss. Profile creates a personalized nutrition, activity and lifestyle coaching program designed to help members lose weight and keep it off. They guarantee you’ll lose 15% of your body weight after 12 months. Visit online, call or visit one of the Arizona locations, in Chandler (480-646-4144) or Gilbert (602-833-1804). For more information go to For more information about Sanford Health, go to

Don't miss the 93rd Academy Awards LIVE on ABC15 Arizona Sunday, April 25 at 5 p.m.