Pop-tarts, candy bars and chips are some of the unhealthy snacks you might catch yourself reaching for when you're stressed. Try snacking on dried fruit or crackers for a healthier alternative.

Chips, ice cream and mac and cheese are just a few of the snacks you might catch yourself dreaming about during the day. Cravings can make us feel like we are animals with no self-control, but it turns out, there is more to it than that.

Paula Vandelicht, a Hy-Vee registered dietitian, says that cravings are associated with our hormones and moods such as being bored, stressed or frustrated. She also says that depending on the craving, it can mean you are lacking certain nutrients.

Healthy snacking always seems like something we strive to accomplish, but being healthy can take time. With busy schedules and high amounts of stress, we can’t always control the urge to grab a chocolate bar. This can make snacking hard when you just want something quick to lift your spirits.

Vandelicht says that working on time management can really help your snacking habits. “Planning ahead and prepping your snacks for trips or your day can make it easier to snack healthier,” Vandelicht says. Snacking can become a routine for people, and people get used to having their snack at the same time every day when they maybe aren’t hungry. She suggests waiting past your scheduled snack time to see if you are truly hungry and to drink an 8-ounce glass of water because sometimes thirst manifests as hunger.

Even if we wish there were a perfect solution for snacking habits, sadly, there isn’t. The best snacking routine varies from person to person, much like when you eat your meal, but Vandelicht usually recommends 2-3 snacks a day and always pairing a protein and healthy carb together for the perfect snack combo.

Protein and carb pairings:

  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Bananas and peanut butter
  • Cheese, dried fruit and nuts
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Beef jerky and nuts

When it comes to healthy snacking, Vandelicht recommends reevaluating your situation, checking your mood and planning ahead. Check out these alternatives to satisfy some of your cravings.

Craving something salty?

Try lightly salted nuts or a DIY trail mix. According to Reader's Digest, prepackaged trail mixes often contain added sugars, saturated fats and artificial ingredients. They suggest making your own at home with nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate chips.

Nuts contain fibers, omega-3’s and sometimes calcium. “Omega-3’s are good for your skin, joints and heart health so they carry more benefits than chips will,” Vandelicht says.

Craving something sweet?

To curb your sweet tooth, try some dried fruit or a chocolate granola bar. Frozen grapes are also a substitute for ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Vandelicht says these sweet cravings come from our desire for comfort foods. She suggests that you choose granola bars that contain few ingredients, such as KIND bars or Lärabars, for just a slightly sweet taste.

Craving something savory?

Vandelicht says this could mean you are lacking protein. Try snacks such as natural beef jerky or hummus to fill you up, she says. KIND also makes savory bars such as Sweet Cayenne BBQ and Caramel Almond Pumpkin Spice.

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