Let’s be honest. We all have been craving something badly at some point in our life. Women especially are more prone to have cravings than man, and this can be due to a lot of reasons. It is not easy to get rid of cravings, or to simply ignore one when it comes, as the root of the craving could be a deep one. Some research* now shows that cravings can actually be a mind game. And this can come from the time when we were children, and associated specific food as a reward for being good, or doing something right. This relationship between that specific food and the feeling of being rewarded can be deeply imprinted in our mind, and so, whenever we feel that we need to feel worthy or loved, the connection with this food will be automatically triggered. The notion that cravings are a sign that the body is lacking nutrients is not painting the complete picture. In fact cravings are related to feelings, such as a particular emotion and desire. For example, many of us may experience cravings when stressed and anxious. Foods, rich in carbohydrates increase the level of serotonin (the happy hormone) in our body, so carving something high in fat and sugar may have a calming effect on us.
Eating a balanced diet, that consists of a variety of products can help reduce cravings. So make sure you rotate your fruits and veggies, eat complete carbohydrates and protein rich foods, as well as nuts, seeds and sprouts. Here again I would like to make it clear that the carbs are not necessarily the bad guys. Think about your top cravings, whether it is chips, fries or cookies. The fact is that these foods are also very rich in fat! So it is the combination of two that you are craving. (For more information about how carbohydrates can actually help you lose weight check out this post.)
What to do to minimise cravings?
When you feel a craving coming, ask yourself the following questions:
Am I currently stressed out? If you find that you are, then find a way to pamper yourself, whether by going to a spa or getting a massage or doing something you enjoy. Also make sure you get enough sleep and feel well rested.
Have I been eating less than usual? You will find you cravings are at their highest when you are hungry, so make sure you eat nutritious and healthy food throughout the day.
Could I be dehydrated? We often mistake hunger with dehydration, so make it your habit to drink plenty of water throughout the day. This can help a lot with craving control.
Could I be lacking some nutrients? You might find yourself craving salty things if you are lacking specific minerals. So make sure you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds to get an adequate level of macro- and micronutrients.
Am I having any emotional issues? How you feel can greatly impact the level of your cravings. Feeling lonely, being in an unhappy relationship, stressed out, unfulfilled and uninspired can lead to emotional eating. In this case you are trying to fill the void with the foods you consume. So have a look at all areas of your life, and work on improving them, and this can help balance your cravings as well.
Healthy substitutes to cravings
The above questions are important in order to evaluate the reason for your craving and work towards minimising it. But what should you do, if a craving kicks in? Should you just completely ignore it, or surrender to it? I think there is a middle way here. And it is by satisfying the craving with a healthy substitute. Whenever I feel a craving coming, I prepare myself a healthy version of whatever it is I am craving, and this does two things for me – it satisfies the craving, so I do not feel deprived; and it also leaves me feel good knowing that I didn’t eat anything bad. What a win-win situation!
Below I would like to share with you what I do to beat the following top 5 cravings:
It is that fat and sugar that you are craving, and it can also be the texture, and need of having something rich and creamy. Thankfully you can make your own ice-cream that is guilt-free and nutritious. Here you will find some recipes of different ice-creams (because you might be craving something specific)
- Coco Mango Ice-cream or Strawberry Cashew Mousse for when you are craving something sweet and creamy
- Strawberry sorbet or Banana Nice-Cream for something light and refreshing
This is one of the cravings most people have. And while the store-bought chips can be literally addictive (think about all the preservatives and flavour-enhancers they add), there are some healthy and not so fatty alternatives as well. My favourite one is organic pop-corn. Simply get some organic corn, and pop it using some coconut oil. I add sweet paprika, nutritional yeast and salt. This makes the pop corn taste delicious, and gives an extra nutritional boost to your snack (Nutritional yeast gives a cheesy flavour, and is also super high in complex B-vitamins and protein). Another option is home made kale chips. You can get the recipe for my kale chips here.
3. French Fries
Instead of giving in to this craving, simply bake some sweet potatoes. Slice them in thin slices and bake them with a fan on, to get a more crispy texture.
4. Cake or cookies
The good news is that nowadays there are so many healthy cake and cookie recipes, you can make in under 30 minutes, that do not contain saturated fat, sugar or other nasty ingredients. I like to make my Banana Bread or these cookies whenever I feel I want something sweet.
Have some organic dark chocolate instead. It will satisfy that craving and also you will need just a few bites to feel much better! 🙂
I hope these tips will help you to lead a healthier and happier life! They always work for me, and if anything I find that now I am craving the healthy recipes, and not the unhealthy ones. Isn’t this a great way to turn things around?! 🙂
* Monell Chemical Senses Center