We all have them, whether it’s because we are not eating properly, are addicted to sugar, before our periods, after a heavy night out or to comfort us.
Food cravings are usually a way of our bodies telling us something. That our cells are crying out for some nutrition or our brains want an emotional reward.
The problem is, cravings can really derail your efforts at weight management and can lead to binge eating or falling back into unwanted and unhealthy patterns.
There is some good news though! We really don’t have to give in to them. It won’t happen over night, but it’s possible to stop those cravings for good. It normally involves ensuring your body is getting the right nutrients, eating regularly, and consuming some protein at every meal.
Read on to find out more of the most common cravings, why they happen and what you can do to avoid them.
Food cravings and why we have them
The most common food cravings I hear about are for sugary foods, chocolate, salty foods such as crisps, fatty foods like cheese and fried foods and carbs like pasta and pizza.
Although it’s ok to indulge in these foods once in a while, I think we can all agree that giving into these cravings every time would not be good in the long term.
So what causes us to have these cravings?
There are many reasons we may crave certain foods. It can either be because of nutritional deficiencies, signs of hormonal imbalance, lack of sleep, or because of physical activity or stress levels.
Sugar cravings are the most common, and the one many of us find hard to resist! If you are anything like me, you will crave chocolate before your periods! But did you know, a craving for chocolate is normally a sign of low magnesium levels and cravings for meat or cheese are often seen as a sign of low iron or calcium levels.
It’s also true that many of us will reach for something sweet when stressed or low on energy. This is because sugar stimulates our brains, releasing serotonin, our ‘feel good’ hormone. When glucose levels are in short supply, our body will tell us we need to eat.
The problem is that eating sugary foods will only give us a quick fix. We will soon crash and look for more sugar to replace that high. You can see why sugar is addictive, in fact, it’s thought to be more addictive than heroin, and a short-term solution for energy production.
Here are some tips to help you with food cravings
Eat breakfast! These days there are so many diets around, including intermittent fasting. This can work for some people, but unless done consistently and planned, for many, skipping breakfast is not a good idea.
Do not skip any meal. When you skip a meal, your body goes into survival mode, sending stress signals and making you crave foods that are high in fat, carbs and sugar.
Eat a good quality protein at every meal, including breakfast. Foods such as eggs, legumes, beans, organic meat or oily fish are good. Protein with keep you satisfied and will stop cravings between meals.
Stay well hydrated. Often, thirst is mistaken for hunger, and this can lead to food cravings, so make sure you drink plenty of water and herbal teas throughout the day.
To keep your blood sugar balanced, eat every three hours.
Always have a few healthy snacks on hand in case you cannot prepare a meal. Things like boiled eggs, vegetable sticks and humus, sliced apple with almond butter or a handful of nuts, are good choices.
Avoid eating too much high-sugar foods and refined carbohydrates as they make you crave even more sugar. Go for slow releasing carbs. Low Glycemic index (GI) foods will give you a sustained energy release. Choose foods such as oats, sweet potatoes, millet and wholegrain rice.
Eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole foods. To get a range of nutrients, try to have a diverse range of different coloured fruit and vegetables.
Don’t be afraid of fats! Healthy fats are good for us and provide a substantial source of energy for your body, especially when your glucose levels are depleted. Excellent sources include avocado, nuts and seeds and good quality olive oil.
Another tip is to add cinnamon to your foods. I add it to my porridge. Not only does it add some sweetness and taste great – it helps to regulate your insulin levels and keep blood sugar levels balanced.
Chromium is so great for sugar levels, I give it to my clients. Chromium is a mineral that is needed for insulin, fat and carbohydrate metabolism. If you are constantly having sugar cravings, have your chromium levels checked and speak to a qualified nutritionist about getting a good supplement.
Get plenty of sleep. A lack of sleep means that your body will have to work harder in order to produce energy. This will then lead to sugar cravings.
Look at ways to reduce stress. If we are under a lot of stress, the adrenal glands release cortisol, which stimulates hunger and increases food cravings. Eating regularly will help, but try to add some meditation or yoga and breathing exercise into your day.
It’s important to exercise regularly. Along with eating healthy and keeping hydrated, physical activity should be a part of your everyday routine. If your work means you are sat at a screen during the day, make sure you get up every hour and move about. Try adding a lunchtime walk into your day and aim for 10,000 steps a day. Do what works for you!
Lastly, always listen to your body. Our bodies will often give us signs that something isn’t right. Learn to listen to your body and take note of what it is telling you so you can make healthier food choices.
I hope this blog has helped and given you some ideas on how to tackle those cravings. If you would like to take it one step further and take on your health and fitness then get in touch – I have a range of options of how you can work with me.