Since the quarantine, we have all hit a bump in the road with our wellness. Not having outdoor space, no gym, and being taken out of our normal routine has done some damage. But just because we have one flat tire, that doesn’t mean we slash the other three. If constant cravings are a struggle and it is something you want to experience less, here is how you can address those urges in a way that is nutritious and freeing:
- Eat frequent, substantial and well-balanced meals. Frequent means multiple times a day. Substantial means at least 300-500 Calories. Balanced means that there are multiple food groups in your dish (vegetables, lean proteins, grains, fruits, healthy fats). This is CRUCIAL to help your body stabilize blood sugar, neurotransmitters, and hormones that regulate your hunger and cravings signals.
- Do not buy highly processed foods. When you go to the grocery store, shop the outside perimeter first. Save the aisles for last. Why? The outside perimeter is where the fresh food is! The aisles is where the ultra-processed foods are stocked (chips, candies, boxed cookies, etc.). Highly processed foods are not “bad” (no food is). BUT, these foods are neither satisfying nor will they reduce your cravings. The more processed a food is, the less the food resembles its original, nutritious, state. (For example, a corn tortilla chip no longer resembles actual corn or corn’s benefits). Processed carbohydrates stimulate the pleasure centers of the brain, but only briefly. The more food is processed, the lower is satiety potential is, and the more likely you are to continue snacking.
- Choose snacks high in fiber and protein. When you ARE ready for the aisles, try to get snacks high in protein and fiber (examples: nuts, roasted edamame, popcorn, rice cakes, raisins, etc.). Protein is highly satisfying and provides amino acids needed for proper digestion. Fiber also slows digestion, helping you extract nutrients and stay fuller longer. Women and men should get 30g and 40g of fiber per day, respectively.
- Make well-balanced snacks. Just like your meals, snacks should be well-balanced. Having quality protein, fat, and carbs in your snack stabilizes your blood sugar. This helps you feel more satisfied and calm, so you are less inclined to snack further. Adding seasoning, spices, crunchy textures, or a hint of sweetness to your snacks can also add some of those flavors or textures you might be craving.
5. Stay hydrated! This one is underrated, but it can really help. Your body needs water for every metabolic process. Adequate hydration optimizes how your body uses energy and can help you feel fuller. In addition to getting water from foods, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends drinking 72 fluid oz per day for women, and 100 fluid oz per day for men. Jazz up your water with some fruit, mint, a sugar-free flavor enhancer, BCAA powder, make it fizzy, etc.
6. Clean out your pantry and fridge. Get rid of any foods that are expired, unsatisfying, or that distract you from your goals. This activity is not about labeling food as “good or bad”. But it will help you make space for the new, nutritious, foods that you might want to try!
There is no silver bullet to stop your cravings all the time. Cravings are not bad. They may simply be an indicator that your body is yearning for something nutritious. So next time you are having uncontrollable cravings, try these steps and see what works for you. Taking steps to care for your health and body today will make it all the more easy for you when it is time to get back in the gym!
Gordon RDN LD, G. (2020). How Much Water Do You Need? https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/healthy-eating/how-much-water-do-you-need
Fardet, A. (2016). Minimally processed foods are more satiating and less hyperglycemic than ultra-processed foods: a preliminary study with 98 ready-to-eat foods. Food Funct. 7(5):2338-46. doi: 10.1039/c6fo00107f.
Njike, V. Y., Smith, T. M., Shuval, O., Shuval, K., Edshteyn, I., Kalantari, V., & Yaroch, A. L. (2016). Snack Food, Satiety, and Weight. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 7(5), 866–878. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.115.009340