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This article was republished with permission from fitnessrepublic.com.

Want to beat the Hunger Beast? Your best defense comes in the form of tasty, healthy snacks that fill you up and satisfy those cravings without sabotaging your diet!

The best time to protect yourself against cravings is late afternoon. Researchers have found that this is the point in the day when you are most likely to be hit with stress-induced hunger. Why is this the crucial time for your cravings? It could be because the more decisions you make throughout the day, the more your willpower is depleted. The blood sugar roller coaster can tend to plummet and crash in the afternoon if you haven’t eaten a good breakfast and lunch, leaving you slumped at your desk and contemplating using your keyboard for a pillow. And when the cravings hit, it is almost impossible to say no the vending machine in the office, which is chock full of sweet, salty, and crunchy temptations.

Ready for the good news? You know the afternoon hunger cravings are coming, so you can be prepared to meet them head on.

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1. When you’re craving: Something Sweet

Fruit is the go-to healthy alternative for your sweet tooth. Try it fresh, dried, or even frozen for a sweet treat that also provides plenty of beneficial vitamins and antioxidants. Whole fruit also contains fiber, which can help slow the release of sugars into your bloodstream and keep you off the blood sugar roller coaster. Adding nuts or yogurt to your fruit will help fill you up for even longer, so add a few nuts to your banana, almond butter to your apple, bake some Fruit and Nut Squares, or dip some grapes in frozen yogurt before you freeze them.

2. When you’re craving: Something Salty

You can still indulge in a salty craving while snacking healthy. Opt for homemade, oven-baked vegetable chips or sweet potato fries over store-bought (or vending machine) potato chips. When you make a snack yourself, you can control the amount of salt you add to it. A piece of string cheese can also satisfy a salty craving.

3. When you’re craving: Something Crunchy

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Nuts and seeds are more than great salad toppings, they are also a healthy way to handle a craving for something crunchy. Nuts and seeds contain protein, heart-healthy fats, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. They can be high in calories, however, so portion out your snack size seeds or nuts at home and only bring a single serving to help you fight afternoon hunger without sabotaging your diet.

4. When you’re craving: Something Chocolate

Chocolate is not necessarily a “bad” thing. Real chocolate, known as cacao, is an antioxidant rich food that has plenty of beneficial nutrients. Chocolate takes a turn for the worse, however, when it is added to sugar and milk to become candy bars and other naughty treats. Pick up some cacao powder from a local health food store, and you can get all of the benefits of chocolate completely guilt-free. Add your cacao powder to your favorite protein shake recipe, or try a Raw Brownie recipe, such as this one from the Minimalist Baker.

5. When you’re craving: Something Cold and Creamy

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When the stress of a work day gets you hot under the collar, you may be craving something cold and creamy to help you calm down. But indulging in an ice cream treat isn’t the answer. Try plain frozen yogurt instead. You can top it with a few chopped nuts, some fresh fruit, or even a sprinkle of cacao powder. Read your labels carefully, because not all frozen yogurt is created equal; some may have just as much sugar and calories as the ice cream you’re trying to replace.

6. When you’re craving: Something Rich and Chewy

Cupcakes, cookies, donuts, and other baked goods lurk in the office break room, patiently waiting for your afternoon cravings to take over your willpower. You can avoid this temptation, however, if you come prepared with a healthy snack bar. Use some snack bar savvy when choosing your healthy alternative. Some bars may have healthy looking wrappers, but a quick glance at the label reveals their true nature: more sugar than a candy bar, and a long list of unpronounceable additives. Look for a bar that has minimal ingredients, such as nuts and dates, and no added sugar.

You can stand up against hunger cravings. By being prepared, and keeping a healthy alternative to the most common cravings within reach, you can survive the afternoon slump. Whether it’s something sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy, creamy, or you just have to have some chocolate, there is a healthy alternative that will satisfy your craving and keep you on track with your health goals.

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