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Healthy Paleo Foods that Satisfy Cravings

Girl sneakily looking at a plate of cookies on a counter

Cravings. We all get them, and they can even strike when we’ve been on The Paleo Diet® for a while—though it happens less often!

Luckily, there are many easy ways to satisfy cravings without totally falling off the wagon of your diet. The key is to stick with whole foods that mimic the taste and texture of the treats you’re craving.

Before diving into the quick swaps you can turn to when a cravings strike, let’s first understand why we get them in the first place.

Why We Get Cravings

It turns out that there are two significant biological bases for persistent cravings. (So, don’t worry, it’s not all in your head!)

First, you could have a micronutrient deficiency. Many people can crave chocolate due to a lack of magnesium, and cacao is extremely rich in this nutrient. Salty potato chip cravings can also signal a mineral deficiency, as potatoes are very rich in an array of minerals (of course, the problem with potatoes is that they’re also a source of unfavorable antinutrients).

Another possible reason for cravings is hormonal. Many popular “craving” foods are high-fat and high-sugar/carbohydrate foods that, when consumed, release feel-good endorphins alongside a rush of serotonin, the mood-boosting hormone. This rush of good feelings, as you can imagine, can be highly addictive, leading to continuous cravings!

Finally, you might just get cravings for the nostalgia of it. Familiar foods from childhood can be attached to good memories, and eating those foods hits us with similar feelings.

Remember, there is more to cravings than simple desire. Our goal here is not to completely ignore the craving, but adapt it into The Paleo Diet framework. Here’s how to do it.

Paleo Swaps to Satisfy Cravings

If you’re like most people, you probably get cravings for something sweet, salty, crunchy, or sour (or a combination of those). During the winter months, you’re more likely to get comfort food cravings, which are usually heavy and more about filling you up than the taste itself. Here’s a quick guide to handling each type of craving.

1. Sweet

Usually, we want a combination of fat and sugar when we seek out something sweet. Here’s how to make healthier swaps instead of reaching for a pint of ice cream.

Instead of: Chocolate bars
Try: Homemade raw cacao bark

Mix raw cacao with coconut oil and a small amount of raw honey. Spread out on a baking sheet and allow it to harden into chocolate “bark” in your fridge. Alternatively, you can make some Paleo hot chocolate or Paleo-inspired cocoa cookies that fit in nicely with our 85/15 rule.

Instead of: Store-bought chocolate pudding
Try: Avocado pudding

Blend a whole avocado with a dash of raw honey and cacao until a pudding consistency forms. You can also satisfy this craving with no-sugar-added yogurt made from coconut milk.

Instead of: Ice cream
Try: Coconut milk ice cream

Make your own coconut milk ice cream at home with a recipe like this (just skip the maple syrup to make this PaleoFLEX recipe TRUEPALEO, unless you’re using it as part of the 85/15 rule). If you’re craving a milkshake, blend up this pumpkin pie smoothie and stick it in the freezer for several minutes to get it icy cold!

2. Salty/Crunchy

Often, we get salt cravings due to micronutrient deficiencies. This is why it’s good to get in extra nutrient and mineral-rich foods when this craving hits. Nuts in general are a good substitute for salty/crunchy cravings. If you own a dehydrator, you can also make your own kale, apple, plantain, or coconut chips.

Instead of: Granola
Try: Coconut granola

You don’t need oats for a satisfying bowl of granola. Get out a big mixing bowl and stir up this tried-and-true recipe with a hearty mix of nuts, seeds, and fruit to tackle your craving.

3. Sour

Believe it or not, sauerkraut or kimchi might help. If you like foods that are a bit spicy, even better! Try this low-sodium kimchi recipe if you’re up for a DIY project.

Instead of: Sour candy
Try: Kombucha

Kombucha or even kefir water has a similar sour flavor. These fermented foods are made with added sugar, though, so enjoy as part of the 85/15 rule.

Instead of: Sweet-and-sour candy
Try: Dates

Dried or fresh Medjool dates are sweet and gummy and can stand in for a candy craving in a pinch.

4. Comfort Foods

When we think of comfort foods, we typically imagine pasta, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, and other heavy, savory foods. Think outside the box with these swaps.

Instead of: Pasta
Try: Squash

Dress spaghetti squash in tomato sauce and olive oil for an Italian favorite, or try full-fat coconut milk to make it a curry. Zoodles are also a great stand-in for pasta dishes.

Instead of: Mashed potatoes
Try: Cauliflower mash

Mash up some Paleo-friendly cauliflower with unsweetened almond milk and black pepper for that whipped, creamy texture you crave, with a much lower glycemic index.

Instead of: Fried chicken
Try: Baked chicken

This is an easy one! Coat chicken breasts in a Paleo breading like coconut flour or almond meal, then bake ’til crispy.

Instead of: Bread
Try: Sweet potatoes

Cut thick rounds of sweet potatoes and bake them until soft, then add toppings and enjoy like you would toast!

Other Tips to Combat Cravings

Often, underlying issues like lack of sleep or nutrient deficiencies can be the root cause of constant cravings, so here are some other ways to mitigate them.

  1. Cover nutrient deficiencies. If your cravings for a specific food are persistent, look for the main nutrients and try to eat Paleo foods rich in those nutrients.
  2. Think texture. Sometimes we’re craving texture over taste, so try to look for Paleo Diet foods similar in texture to your craving, like zucchini noodles instead of pasta or nuts instead of chips.
  3. Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can cause us to crave more calories the next day to give us a lift, so make sure you’re getting your z’s.

The bottom line? Don’t let cravings stress you out. There are nearly endless Paleo Diet substitutes to satisfy any craving—it’s just a matter of finding them. Happy hunting!

Megan Patiry

Megan Patiry is a freelance writer specializing in ancestral nutrition. She has personally followed a Paleo-style, ancestral style of eating for over a decade.

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