We’ve all been there, scouring the fridge for a treat between meals. The next time a craving hits, reach for one of these Paleo-friendly snacks.
Usually, the snacks we crave are less than healthy, but we can’t seem to stop eating them.
Luckily, there are several ways you can sate cravings and keep Paleo. Keep reading to learn what foods to eat to reduce cravings, what foods to avoid that make cravings worse, plus other tips to control your cravings once and for all.
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What Causes Cravings?
Cravings are encouraged by the endorphin rush we get from eating certain foods. For example, when we eat carbohydrates and/or sugars, our brains are flooded with serotonin and other feel-good hormones that give us an addictive “high”. (1)
Hormone fluctuations can also influence cravings. This may be due to a condition, or even an aftereffect of consuming certain foods. For instance, carbohydrates (or lack thereof) have a huge influence on thyroid function, which regulates your metabolism. (2) If you consume too many or too few carbs, you could start experiencing cravings for certain foods to help balance your hormones.
Once your hormones and the chemicals in your brain are stimulated by a taste or macronutrient (like carbs), it’s easy to get trapped in a cycle of dependency. This will trigger cravings for those foods.
6 Paleo Snacks That Fight Cravings
Fortunately, there are better-for-you foods you can swap in for trigger foods, like sweets and chips. These healthy substitutes will help fight cravings rather than continue the cycle of dependency.
1. Nuts and Seeds
Research shows that walnuts, in particular, can activate the area of the brain that regulates appetite and craving control. One study found that participants eating walnuts daily experienced less hunger than a control group and also exhibited more self-control when presented with photos of unhealthy foods. (4)
2. Beef Jerky
Beef jerky – provided it’s free from preservatives and made with grass-fed meat – is a fantastic, satiating snack that can help quell cravings. One study found that participants who had a high-protein breakfast like beef jerky experienced fewer cravings throughout the day compared to those who had a lower-protein breakfast. (5)
Grab a few slices of Paleo-friendly beef jerky the next time a salty craving strikes.
3. Raw Veggies
Raw veggies contain ample amounts of fiber, a nutrient that has been proven to help increase feelings of fullness and reduce cravings for sweets. One study found that a diet high in fiber, fat, and protein, with a reduced amount of carbs, led to significantly fewer cravings in participants. (6)
4. Fresh Fruit
Sometimes nothing can stand in for sugar or carbs other than, well, sugar and carbs. In this instance, it would be best to reach for a healthier source of sugar and carbs like fruit to satisfy your cravings.
5. Extra-Dark Chocolate
It may seem counterintuitive, but chocolate should be on the menu if you’re looking to control your cravings. Studies show that consuming dark chocolate leads to fewer cravings for sweet and fatty foods and also reduces hunger. (8)
We highly recommend a daily square of dark chocolate. Just make sure it’s sugar-free, with a 75 percent cacao content or higher.
Avocados are rich in healthy fats that help increase feelings of fullness and reduce cravings for carbs. One study found that participants who consumed a low-carb diet with unlimited protein and fat experienced significantly less hunger and cravings for sweet foods and sugar. (9)
Eat half an avocado for a quick snack, or mash up homemade guacamole for a veggie dip.
Avoid Foods That Just Make You Hungrier
Now that you know which snacks help decrease cravings, here are foods to avoid – they’ll just trigger your sweet or salty tooth.
Sugary foods tend to produce a huge rush of serotonin, the neurochemical that creates in us a sense of bliss and satisfaction. Because of this, we can easily become addicted to the rush, much like a drug addict. (10)
Fried foods tend to be salty, carb-rich, and fatty (and we’re not talking about healthy fats) – a combo that has been proven to trigger reward pathways in your brain that pushes you to seek out more. (11)
Avoid anything that’s been deep fried, including French fries, fried doughnuts, and fried chicken.
Both pure sugar and carbohydrates are broken down into the same molecule in your body: glucose. That means processed carbohydrates act just like sugar once you’ve broken them down. You’ll get an endorphin rush, which will have you craving more once you come down from the serotonin “high”. (12)
Avoid pasta, breads, cupcakes, crackers, and any other starchy food that is highly processed.
5 Other Tips to Fight Cravings
In addition to eating and avoiding certain foods, you can also try these tips below to help reduce your cravings.
1. Eat More Protein
Add more protein to your daily diet, perhaps starting your morning with scrambled eggs and avocado rather than granola, bread, or other starchy carbs.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Studies show that not getting enough zzz’s can lead to poor appetite regulation and cravings. (14) Studies show sleep-deprived people are up to 55 percent more likely to become obese compared to those who get enough sleep. (15)
The bottom line? Get your eight hours.
3. Avoid Sugar
As we’ve mentioned, it’s essential that you avoid sugar to reduce cravings for sweet foods. If you really need a sweet taste, reach for a bowl of berries and/or a square or two of 75 percent dark chocolate.
4. Drink More Water
Aside from helping you feel fuller, water has also been shown to play a role in regulating ghrelin, a hormone that helps regulate appetite. One study showed that drinking a lot of water can actually help reduce alcohol cravings due to its effect on ghrelin. (16)
5. Reduce Stress
Stress incites food cravings, which makes sense when you consider the feel-good hormone rush you get by indulging in sweets or junk food. (17) Studies show that people under stress – women especially – tend to eat more calories and experience more cravings. (18)
More Paleo Snack Ideas To Nix your Cravings
- Spaghetti Squash Donuts with Marinara Dipping Sauce
- Stuffed Keto Cucumber Bites
- Smoked Salmon Pinwheels with Creamy Cashew Chive Filling
- Grilled Balsamic Garlic Mushroom Skewers
- Baked Asparagus Fries Recipe
- Raw Strawberry Shortcake Bites
- Healthy Snack Ideas with 5 Net Carbs or Less
The Bottom Line
Cravings are something we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives. However, if you find you’re having consistent cravings for not-so-healthy snacks, you may need to take steps to help get them under control.
Try out some of the tips and snacks above to experience relief from constant cravings.
For more tips, check out The 10 Best Snacks to Curb Cravings, According to Health and Wellness Leaders