Salty or sweet? Nutritionist explains food cravings, suggests healthy alternatives
10/28/2017 // Zoey Sky // Views

We often give in to our cravings for sweet or salty snacks, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself why you're getting the munchies? It could be because your body needs nutrients, says Jessica Crandall, a registered dietitian in Denver, Colorado.

You might not think much of a random hankering for a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate, but Crandall, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic, warns that this could mean that our body is signaling a lack of nutrients. But it could also mean that you just want to eat something particular right this second.

Still, it's better to know that you don't always have to give in to these food cravings. Consider some healthier food options so you can satisfy your cravings without foregoing a meticulously planned diet. (Related: Stave off unhealthy food cravings naturally.)

Something salty, sweet, or starchy

You might have a mineral imbalance if you're craving a salty snack like potato chips or a pretzel. In a study published on Physiology and Behavior, researchers analyzed salt cravings. Results revealed that it is connected to the mineral levels of individuals and that among participants, women who were recorded to have the highest amount of salt cravings were more likely to show signs of having calcium and magnesium deficiencies.

However, Crandall stated that a Western diet often consists of too much salt. She added that we could also have an “imbalance of electrolytes,” but that is a rare occurrence. While Crandall noted that cravings aren't always bad, the important thing to remember is how we deal with them. A craving for salty snacks could sometimes mean that we want to eat something just because. It could also mean that an individual is simply thirsty, stressed, or tired.


Crandall shared that she usually pairs a protein with produce, and she suggested that one snack you can eat to deal with a salty food craving is cottage cheese with some tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. If you have some pumpkin seeds left over from Halloween, roast them in the oven and add some flavor by using a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

Meanwhile, our cravings for sweets might be caused by either our habit of ending meals with dessert or a more serious reason like a deficiency in blood sugar levels. After meals, our palate might still have remnants of the dishes we ate and the craving for sweets stems from a need to cancel the residue. Crandall says that some fruit is a standard recommendation from dietitians.

She adds that frozen grapes are the perfect snack because they're a low-calorie alternative when you really need dessert after a meal. Since they're frozen, you won't eat them quickly like other snacks and your body can easily register a feeling of fullness.

If you love baking, make cookies but save the dough for later. Crandall herself makes cookie dough at home, but she will only bake one cookie at a time so she won't binge eat. Another dessert that's perfect for fall includes some vanilla Greek yogurt and pumpkin puree. Add apples to the yogurt to increase your fruit consumption for the day.

When it comes to carb cravings, you might end up struggling to maintain your diet because of a constant desire to eat pasta or garlic bread. Carbohydrates contain sugar that help raise glucose levels, but we often experience carb cravings because we just feel like eating spaghetti. The desire to eat doesn't signal that the body needs carbohydrates.

Crandall noted that even though you're dieting, you don't need to deprive yourself of your favorite snacks. She shared, “Keep your plate balanced with proteins and vegetables.” If you feel a carb craving coming on, snack on some spaghetti squash and zucchini noodle instead since both are healthier pasta options.

Regardless of your specific diet, Crandall suggests either moderating the serving sizes, recipes, or minimizing your snacking time. She concluded, “'If you can keep a balance in your routine and find healthy modifications, then I think that's an improvement.”

Other snack options

If you're curious about other healthy snack options, check out this article that lists 49 “sweet, salty, crunchy, and creamy” options that you can choose from. They include:

Sweet snacks:

  • Dark chocolate
  • Energy balls
  • Pomegranate juice

Salty snacks:

  • Nuts
  • Olives
  • Pickles
  • Roasted edamame

You can read more news about healthier food ingredients at

Sources include:

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