We’ve all seen those blog posts and books  and magazines offering healthy substitutions intended to satisfy your worst food cravings without spoiling your diet.  In theory, these are pretty handy guides – it’s good to listen to your body and recognize what it wants, but also good to recognize a difference between what you want and what you need.  The bad news about those sorts of guides is that they’re all about calories and fats and sugars, and nothing exists (yet) that tells you how to satisfy your cravings for water-intensive foods with green foods.  Drought Diaries to the rescue!

So this week, we’re looking at four cravings for foods that are virtual-water intensive, and their best replacements.  All numbers below are in liters per kilogram unless otherwise noted.

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WHAT YOU’RE CRAVING: Pasta

ITS VIRTUAL WATER IMPACT: 1,849

ALTERNATIVES: Have you heard of vegetable noodles?  The concept is simple: get a long, stringy vegetable and shred it into spaghetti-shaped pieces to replace your grain-intensive favorite Italian dish with a virtual-water-friendly one.  Carrots (120), squash (353) and sweet potatoes (79) all make for water-friendly pasta ingredients.

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WHAT YOU’RE CRAVING: Chocolate

ITS VIRTUAL WATER IMPACT: 17,196

ALTERNATIVES: Ladies, you know what I’m talking about with the chocolate cravings.  And, no, that’s not a stereotype: chocolate contains magnesium, a nutrient that many women don’t eat enough of.  The upside is that low-virtual water foods high in magnesium include leafy greens like lettuce (237) and avocados (less than 1 liter)  – yum!

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WHAT YOU’RE CRAVING: Steak

ITS VIRTUAL WATER IMPACT: 15,500

ALTERNATIVES: If you’re just a standard Mid-Western steak and potato eater like my family, we’ve already got an entire blog post covering exactly this issue.  However, there are many reasons people crave steak: it’s a good source of nutrients like selenium, iron, and zinc.  Brazil nuts (2,782)  tomatoes (214), and whole grain bread (1,648) are each virtual-water-friendly sources for those other nutrients.

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WHAT YOU’RE CRAVING: French Fries

ITS VIRTUAL WATER IMPACT: 1,480

ALTERNATIVES: Fries are listed among the top unhealthy cravings for America, and it might come down to a craving for sodium or carbohydrates.  Nuts will also feed those cravings, with 2,782 liters  – which may seem like a lot more than the French fry water impact, but you can sate a craving with just two nuts, meaning you can eat a lot less for the same benefit.

Did we get your favorite guilty pleasure food, or do we need to write a follow up?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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