Every now and then we all get a hankering for something we just have to eat. Like an itch you have to scratch, if you don't have just a little bite of something, the urge will always be there. Once-in-a-while cravings are ok - and certainly won't destroy any healthy diet, but when you find yourself reaching for M & Ms, jelly beans, cookies, ice cream or other sugary snacks each and every day, it's time to take control and figure out what's going on.
Cravings are often a sign that you're missing something from your diet. Usually too little protein or too little fat play a role. But almost always too much carbohydrate is the primary culprit. Cereal + fat free milk, fat free yogurt + fruit or toast + jam are often the breakfast of choice among many of us. Unfortunately they're nearly all carbohydrate, full of sugar and set the stage for how our body feels the rest of the day.
Here are a few tips to help get you on track.
1) Eat fat with every meal: In no way am I suggesting that anyone sit down and slather a stick of butter onto their bread, but eating even a modest amount of fat with a meal can work miracles on cravings that would otherwise set in shortly after the plate has been pushed away. Add a little extra olive oil, coconut oil, butter, raw nuts, avocado, eggs (including yolk) or a little cheese to a meal and you might just find that you're craving for something sweet will disappear.
2) Eat protein with every meal: Eating an adequate amount of protein, like fat, plays a vital role in controlling blood glucose - and cravings - throughout the day. Adding lean meats, poultry, legumes, yogurt or raw nuts to your meal often do the trick. Many of these foods offer 2-for-1 benefits of having enough fat and protein to last you until the next meal.
3) Ease off carbs: Whether they're good or bad, overdosing on carbohydrates will be the kiss of death to your diet and your health. Sitting down to overeat any given amount of a food labeled as "low fat," "fat free," "light," or "diet" is almost certainly going to come back and bite you in the backside. Not only are most of those diet-marketed foods void of nutrition, but they're typically high in carbohydrates.
Instead, ease off of carbs, particularly the starchy variety (rice, potatoes, bread, pasta, some fruits). If you're really craving something, try to get in the habit of having healthier carbs on-hand, like fresh vegetables or some low glycemic fruits.
A diet that is primarily based in carbohydrates makes it very difficult to control blood glucose levels, which makes you hungrier soon than you should be, can make you feel shaky/jittery, and almost always kicks in cravings for the first type of food that will help bring blood sugar back up - sugar.
3) Add cinnamon to foods you eat: I mention cinnamon a lot when it comes to managing blood glucose levels. If you can control your blood glucose levels, it will be a lot easier to control your cravings. They often go hand in hand! Cinnamon does an amazing job controlling blood glucose levels, so add it to as much as you can. Sprinkle on plain yogurt, oatmeal, on cottage cheese as well as other savory dishes, too.
4) Get active: Sometimes cravings are hard to distinguish from boredom, or a behavior you're used to giving into just because it's a habit you've had for years. For instance, heading back into the kitchen after dinner or an hour after lunch for something...just because. If you're not truly hungry, try not to snack. And if you do, make it something protein-rich. Activity and exercise have been proven time and again to help maintain even blood glucose levels. As little as a brisk 10 minute walk can help stave off a nagging craving and help get your mind off food.
Want more tips like this? Traci D Mitchell is a healthy living and fitness expert. Follow Traci on Facebook. She’d love to see you there! Interested in working with Traci? She works privately with clients specializes in nutrition coaching and weight loss as well as functional fitness and personal training. All sessions are done via Skype or telephone if outside of Chicago. For more information, contact Traci here.
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