It's 2 a.m., and you've just scarfed down another chicken wing topped with Cheez Whiz. Embarrassed? Don't be. Plenty of people flock to their refrigerators to snack on strange, late-night food concoctions, reports a new study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.
Researchers had 507 students take a "concocting survey" that quizzed them on their eating behaviors and what types of foods they typically ate to satisfy their cravings. The results: One in four participants admitted to creating and indulging in crazy food combos. Think sugar-covered scrambled eggs and mayo-smothered vegetables -- and 41.2 percent chalked up their creations to cravings. (Guys, really? Cure your cravings without going crazy with these Easy Egg Recipes.)
"We were curious on how common concocting actually was," explains lead study author Mary Boggiano, Ph.D., an associate psychology professor at the University of Alabama. "And to differentiate it from regular snacking, we defined it as making strange food mixtures that you would be too embarrassed or ashamed to share with others."
Should serial snackers with a taste for the weird be ashamed? Not at all. "There's nothing wrong with concocting," Boggiano says. But you don't want your midnight snacks to wreak havoc on your waistline -- and that's where Alexandra Caspero, R.D., owner of weight-management and sports-nutrition service Delicious-Knowledge.com, comes in.
The next time your grumbling gut beckons you to the kitchen at night, trade in your high-calorie combos for these healthier alternatives:
If you're craving something sweet... Snack on Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. Less sugar, less fat, and more natural, this combination is perfect for solving your ice cream cravings, says Caspero. Your move: Grab 6 oz. of Greek yogurt and 1 cup of grapes or mixed berries.
If you're craving something salty... Grab a tortilla (a high-fiber one works best) and an ounce of sharp cheddar cheese, and create a low-fat cheese quesadilla on the fly. It's easy to make, and it'll prevent you from going overboard with the chips and queso, Caspero says. Just fold it in half, bake it, and top it off with a scoop of salsa. If you're craving a mix of sweet and salty... Reach for sliced apples and peanut butter. "A sweet, crispy apple paired with salty, all-natural peanut butter is one of the easiest and healthiest snacks to have on hand," says Caspero. One apple provides you with 5 grams of heart-healthy fiber, while all-natural peanut butter contains 4 grams of protein per tablespoon. The best part? The mixture of protein, fat, and fiber all aid in fullness, which means you won't be reaching for another snack an hour later, says Caspero.
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