The smell of pizza, the sight of biscuits or the chocolate brownie in a cafe window - soon you can think of nothing but indulging in that food. Experts believe that a complicated web of stimuli, memories and hormones drive us to crave certain flavours and textures of food. When the brain detects sugar, protein or fat it releases reward signals. There was once fewer resources and less calories to eat so these cravings encouraged our ancestors to eat natural sugars, lean protein and healthy fats found in berries, fish and avocado. Unfortunately today's cravings lead to burgers, fries and chocolate that are readily available. Here are some healthy swaps you can make when the cravings strike!
When you want SUGAR from cakes, biscuits and chocolate to provide you an energy burst and feel good signals when you're stressed and tired try natural sugar sources such as greek yoghurt, berries and cacao nibs. You can also try a mug of boiling water with cinnamon and honey to curb sugar cravings when stressed as cinnamon keeps insulin levels in check or choose a spicy chai tea. Another good idea is to mindfully peel an orange because you engage both hands and the smell of citrus has been shown to promote calm which can help stop you from bingeing on those free biscuits in the kitchen at work.
When you want PROTEIN from burgers, steak and bacon because you feel like savoury meat, try chicken breast, hard boiled eggs or quinoa cooked in beef stock. Cottage cheese can also help in helping keep you full and if you add a dash of chilli flakes or curry powder to roasted chickpeas, these are also great little protein bombs. I also like to eat a dill pickle when I feel like a cheeseburger as it really gives you that Big Mac flavour you may be craving.
When you want FAT from chips, pizza, potato crisps because you're feeling stressed try eating a handful of nuts, peanut butter or avocado on grainy crackers. Healthy fats, protein and fibre in avocado keep you satiated, leaving you less likely to binge on something else plus the complex carbohydrates in a grainy cracker or sourdough seeded bread will help boost serotonin in the brain! Another good choice is veggie sticks like carrots, celery and cucumber with nut butters and hoummos.
Keep this in mind, the pleasure you get from eating comfort foods lasts only 3 minutes but it takes a lot longer to lose it with exercise and eating healthy. And the research backs up: if you eat less than 14 grams of chocolate or potato chips, you will have satisfied your cravings just as well as eating a portion 10 times bigger according to a Cornell University study.
Stress also plays a big part in how much we eat and what we eat as stress triggers cortisol, a hormone that stimulates appetite. Stressed women also have higher levels of insulin which contributes to the storage of fat around the belly, so managing stress with daily meditation and regular exercise such as walking can really help with cravings and weight loss as well.
Hope this helps
Lifestylist Health & Wellness