chocolate drop dessert-CC-Billy Wilson Photography

It’s an age-old question: how can we lose weight while winning the battle against cravings, and feel satisfied at the same time?

My answer is this: in order to keep that weight off sustainably, you have to find healthy and flavorful substitutes for your favorite treats.

That’s why including a healthy swap into each and every day of the week can prevent feelings of deprivation and that dreaded “I’m on a diet” feeling. These swaps should consist of any mix of these 3 things: protein, fiber and/or healthy fats, all of which are important for satiety, craving control, and balanced nutrition. You need them to actually fulfill that craving. Most people look to satisfy their sugar and fat cravings by eating more sugar and fat. And while occasionally indulging in something you want is a healthy thing to do, the pattern of continually cheating with these heavy foods will ultimately just fuel more cravings later.

So, what’s your craving? Crunchy chips? Creamy ice cream? Sweet Bakery Products? What substitutions are healthy that will work for you?

I’ve compiled a list below of your worst cravings along with my favorite healthy food swaps for a nutritious dose of deliciousness. Kiss those cravings goodbye, and kick them out for good! You got this.

Frozen Yogurt

free cone day 'thank you' cowRegular frozen yogurt is typically just a sugary ice cream treat posing as its healthy cousin. But really, it’s full of sugar and additives, with little protein, fiber or other nutrients.

Drizzle 1 Tablespoon melted peanut butter and 1 Tablespoon melted Nutella onto 1 cup chilled, unsweetened, whole milk Greek yogurt (e.g. Fage, Chobani, Siggi’s). This is a protein-rich, creamy swap that also provides healthy calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, B vitamins and healthy fat to support strong bones and a healthy cardiovascular system. It’s also lower in sugar because of the unsweetened Greek yogurt while providing just enough sweetness from the Nutella to satisfy cravings.

Microwave Popcorn

popcorn CC Toshiyuki IMAIInstead of popping a bag into the microwave, choose Skinny Pop, Indiana Popcorn FIT OR Boom Chicka Pop brands, all of which provide fewer calories and chemical ingredients than microwave popcorn varieties. They also boost fiber and polyphenol intake. Air-popped popcorn actually contains high amounts of antioxidants in the form of polyphenols. And at about 35 calories per cup, it’s a lean, filling, crunchy snack! You can even take this a step further and add some fun seasoning: Italian seasoning, cinnamon, turmeric/curcumin, sea salt and cocoa powder (any brand), sriracha or hot sauce.

Sugary Breakfast Yogurts

Yogurt by FageGreek yogurt is a good source of calcium, potassium, phosphorus, B vitamins and iron. Unsweetened, whole milk (4%) Greek yogurt sweetened with Stevia is a natural sugar alternative to standard sugary yogurt. It is derived from the South American Stevia plant, and it does not raise blood sugar. Add ½ cup berries or 1-2 Tablespoons cocoa powder (any brand is OK here) to add your preferred flavor. This cuts out added sugar grams by using Stevia in place of sugar, and it can also provide more protein—up to twice the amount of protein compared to most yogurts on the shelf.


This healthy swap cuts out refined flours and sugars, while adding fiber and antioxidants from the fruit and honey. Toss 1 chopped apple or 1 cup berries in 1 Tablespoon liquid Stevia or Manuka honey (add cinnamon to the apples, if desired) and 1 tsp organic butter. Pour onto baking pan and bake at 350 until fruit is soft but still holds it shape. Sprinkle 1/8 cup granola on top and enjoy!  Organic butter is also a great source of essential fatty acids that support healthy brain and metabolic function, including Omega 3s.

Soda Pop

Opt for Bai 5 sparkling fruit drinks: naturally sweetened with Stevia instead of sugar and contains natural tea and fruit extracts. It provides a healthy dose of vitamin C and antioxidant-rich polyphenols from the tea extract. Can also be found at Walgreens and some grocery stores. Zevia is also a great alternative, it has zero calories and is sweetened with Stevia.


Instead of cake, swap all that sugar and white flour for a yogurt-based pudding that increases your Omega 3 intake with flax seed: Stir 2 Tablespoons ground flax into 6 ounces unsweetened Greek yogurt and add 1 Tablespoon melted Nuts ‘n More in Toffee Crunch, Pumpkin Spice or Chocolate Peanut flavors. Additionally, that Greek yogurt will keep you satisfied with healthy protein.

Swedish Fish and Gummy Worms Gummies CC Cristina P.M.

RAP Protein Gummies have less sugar, fewer calories, 100% of your daily dose of vitamin C and 20 grams of protein per pouch. These are decent swaps for sugar-laden gummies, which provide no protein or vitamins and double-digit sugar numbers. You can find these at some 7 Eleven stores and online.


Emmy’s Organic Macaroons, any flavor, or Quest Bar Cookie Dough Protein Bars (available also at Vitamin Shoppe or GNC stores) are great options. Or, make homemade “overnight oats” using 6 ounces unsweetened Greek yogurt + 1/3 cup milk + ¼ cup dry oats. Soak overnight. Top with fresh berries or sprinkling of dark chocolate chips the next day. These options reduce added sugar grams, refined flour, and trans fats, while providing protein, fiber, and sweetness from Stevia and fruit. While the calories from these swaps may be comparable to eating a cookie, you will be left more satiated in the long run, rather than craving more later.

Lauren Minchen is a New York City-based registered dietitian and nutritionist. Visit her at Photos: (top) Billy Wilson Photography; Ciara McDonnell; Susanne Nilsson; Cristina P.M. – CC

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  1. Ah, well. I had hopes the article might be more “universal” than it turned out to be. I suspect all the brand names (and access to same) are not USA-based, but NYC-based. In other words, it’s all straightforward if a person lives in the same neighbourhood of the Big Apple as Ms. Minchen (and, by the tone of some of the recipes, with a rather healthy wallet).

    However, I can translate some of it to get a couple of ideas!

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